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Investors are buying what Extension is selling

In public value workshops, we emphasize that Extension programs' impacts create value for people who have no contact with the programs. We argue that creating value for these stakeholders--the greater community--helps us make the case for public sector funding for Extension programs.

VT.jpgToday at the 2012 Virginia Cooperative Extension Professional Development Conference, I heard Jill Bramble, Chief Development Officer for the National 4-H Council, make a case for private sector investments in Extension programs. Jill suggested that Extension organizations view private businesses as potential investors who have a stake in the impacts that our programs generate. When a local 4H program increases the supply of prepared workers in a community, local employers benefit. When a nutrition education program increases demand for farmer's market produce, local farmers benefit. By highlighting these kinds of impacts, we can help private businesses see how they will reap rewards by investing in Extension programs. As Jill put it, our programs generate the impacts, and businesses "want to buy that impact." Jill said that businesses are eager to engage in "impact investing," but we need to know and tell our programs' impact story.

Whether we want to make a case for public investments or private investments in Extension programs, it seems to all come down to measuring impacts.

Have you generated private funding for Extension programs? Were program impacts an important part of the case for that funding? What approaches have worked for you?