Success Story Guidance
About Partnership Success Stories
HED enjoys highlighting partnership success stories and photographs to educate the public about our programs, explain how U.S. development assistance works, and demonstrate the impact U.S. Agency for International Development-funded projects have on peoples' lives around the world. We want to convey information that the everyday reader can care about and understand. A Success Story does this by describing how an individual or community benefited from our projects or programs, illustrated by a powerful photograph. The story should introduce the challenge, character, or opportunity, briefly explain the HED partnership and describe the end result or benefit.
Good headlines or titles are simple, jargon-free, and have impact; they summarize the story in a nutshell; and include action verbs that bring the story to life. Your headline should include few words.
If you wish to provide a subhead, it should expand on the headline, humanize the story, or highlight a key fact.
Success stories will vary depending on the details of specific projects. Stories will resonate if they are personalized to show the impact of programs for specific individuals or groups affected by the project and relates to greater community, regional, or global needs. They should highlight how challenges were resolved or make explicit and illustrative the results of our programs. Depending on the specifics of a project, the success stories can be crafted to highlight our impact with a few different styles.
HED success stories online can be as brief as 150-200 words, but longer formats of up to 1,000 words coincide with USAID’s word limit and would be useful for information kits and other promotional purposes as well. HED maintains an online PDF library of these longer-format success stories.
General Success Stories
The introduction should showcase the challenge a person or group encountered and the context of the partnership. Presenting a conflict or sharing a first person account are two good ways to grab the reader's attention. Continue by describing what action was taken to improve the situation and briefly describe the project, highlighting HED’s role (as well as other stakeholders like USAID and/or university partners). Finally, describe the end result or benefit. What changed for the person or community? What was learned? What was received? What was the impact? How did this make a difference in the community or country overall? (350-500 words)
The case study is a more succinct snapshot of a partnership’s success that highlights three aspects, the challenge, initiative, and results.
- Challenge: states the problem, issue or opportunity. (Up to 150 words.)
- Initiative: The initiative should be strategic in nature and explain what partnership programs addressed the challenge and how they responded to host country needs. (Up to 150 words.)
- Results: This last paragraph represents the end result or benefit — what changed, what was learned, what was received.
Before and After
A Before and After comparison can also highlight partnership impacts visually and in narrative form This example should broadly explain why the partnership initiative was needed and how it helped or affected the community. (Up to 250 words.) Graphic depictions of the contrast will strengthen the piece.
First-person stories should be told from the viewpoint of the beneficiaries of HED’s partnerships. This type of success story focuses on one person who benefited from the project or worked to create change in the community and should provide a compelling account of how partnerships make a difference. These stories should include a quote and photo. (Up to 350 words.)
Photos & Quotes: Accompanying the Story
Strong images and interesting quotes grab readers and pique their curiosity to read a story. Provide a quote that represents and summarizes the story. This 10-20 word quote should capture the success of the program and will be highlighted in the piece. Please be sure to identify the source of the quote (name, title, affiliation). Your photograph will bring the story to life. The photo should be colorful, depict action, capture people's attention, and feature a main character prominently if possible.
The preferred format for photos are .jpg, .tif or .png file, with at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). Digital photos should be shot with at least a 3-megapixel resolution. The larger the file, the better the quality and final result.
Please also include with photos:
- Permission to use photograph
- Photographer's name and organization
- Caption: A sentence of about 15 words that briefly summarizes what is occurring in the photograph. Please specify who is in the image, what they are doing, when (if relevant), and where they are.
- For archival purposes: date, HED partnership title, country (and region/city) of photo.
For more information on creating success stories, please visit USAID’s “Telling Our Story” section at http://transition.usaid.gov/stories/submit.html.