How do we measure impact?

For those of us who work to create and share messages, we tend to think a lot about impact. Will this call to action move people? Does this commercial speak to you? We think about impact because we want to know if we are getting it right. Does our message stick? Whether you are looking to inspire social action or convince people to purchase a product, impact is your first opportunity to move your audience.

I've been thinking a lot about this word: IMPACT. Synonyms: shock, collision, clash, effect. 
Measuring impact can be elusive. It can mean surveys and other data collection. It can be measured in products sold, links clicked, and donations received. Although these measurements can direct us, my brain looks for a little something different.  In many ways impact is an event, which means it is part of a story. Storytelling is what moves me. Tell me a story, bring my thoughts and imagination along for the ride, and I will be able to hear, see and feel impact. If I can feel impact, I'll also be able to share those words, images and emotions.
Over the past week, I have felt impact. In the wake of hurricane Sandy, I have felt fear for myself and loved ones, grief for those who lost everything, and immense thankfulness to have electricity, warmth, security and safety. Although my life resumed relative normalcy on the Wednesday after the storm, as I continue to hear stories from those lives and areas affected by the storm, I know there is still an impact.
The first stories I heard about the impact of Sandy were the images of the tremendous flooding and damage in Manhattan that were being shared on social networking. Then came the mixture of news reports: floods, fires, power loss, injury. Texts and updates from friends and family members in north New Jersey and New York who lost power further captured the impact. 
Many are still without power, heat or sufficient shelter. Others are now without a method of transportation or with limited access to gas. The nature of oppression is that this impact is felt most by those already under economic stress, and we also know these conditions put individuals at greater risk of sexual violence. I continue to hear stories from family and friends that bring the impact of Sandy to life. Stories of impact: grocery stores smelling of rancid meat, the many hours waiting for gas and inaccessibility of public transport, the people who go to bed each night hoping to wake up with power. There are also the stories of thankfulness and resilience, community and neighbors coming together with a sense of pride and hope to rebuild and restore.  
These stories have moved and shaped me. For the first time in my life, the impact of a disaster is very close to home. The impact is something I can hear, see and feel. The impact moves me to gratefulness, and I am thankful to be able to support disaster relief efforts. I know there will continue to be stories of impact and recovery, and I know disasters have an added impact on those who have experienced sexual violence and the programs serving these individuals. The increased needs of sexual assault coalitions and programs affected by disasters is why NSVRC and national partners created the disaster relief fund for sexual assault victims. If you are looking for a way to support those that have been impacted by Sandy, the relief fund is a way that you can lend a hand and heal a heart.
Has Hurricane Sandy or another disaster impacted your life, community or region? Share a comment below.
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