1870, "act or fact of reaching out," from the verbal phrase reach out "to extend or profer;" see out (adv.) + reach (v.). Now, especially, "an organization's involvement in the community" (by 1967). The verb outreach (c. 1400) tends to be used in literal senses: originally "to hand out to," later "to reach or extend beyond" (1560s); in 17c. it could mean "to cheat, deceive."