Kicking Out Hunger

Does your United Way hold a special event? If so, is your United Way promoting a specific issue tied to this event?

Many United Ways hold special events, but they are solely focused on fundraising. However, it’s important to remember that donors want to know how they are making an impact – whether they are contributing to your United Way through a workplace campaign, via text-to-give, or at an event. Therefore, it is essential to tie a specific issue to all of your events and explain how people will help to make an impact on the issue by attending your events.

United Way of Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach, FL) has tied an issue to their corporate kickball tournament, inviting people to "Kick Out Hunger." Fans, players, and teams are being encouraged to bring food items to the event to help kick out hunger, and donations will support their Holiday Hunger Drive. This is a great example of connecting a specific issue to a special event.


Whether you choose to focus on hunger, poverty, or school readiness, remember to not only communicate the issue, but the impact of attending your event, as well. For example, we love how United Way of Tri-County (Framingham, MA) simply communicated the impact of attending their "Flashback to End Hunger" event on Twitter by saying one $25 ticket to their event gets five bags of groceries for someone in need.

Simplify & Diversify With an Issue Focus

As workplace campaigns continue to remain flat or decline across the country, United Ways are looking for new ways to diversify their resources. Holding special events tied to a specific issue is just one way your United Way can raise additional resources outside of campaign.

Adopting an issue focus will make your United Way’s marketing message much simpler, but more importantly, it will open the door to additional resources outside of campaign. With an issue focus, our United Way clients have been amazed at the additional funds they have received that they didn’t even know existed before adopting an issue focus – from foundation grants to large gifts from individual donors. For example, Julie Capaldi, President at United Way of Pickens County, explained "We are a little United Way, and focusing on the issue of early childhood education and summer learning loss has resulted in raising more money from grants and campaigns, attracting new donors, and reduced designations."

You can learn more about the benefits of an issue focus and find out why United Ways like United Way of Pickens County are transforming to an issue focus at If you are interested in learning more about an issue focus and/or would like to share information about an issue focus with your board and staff, contact me at for more information and a complimentary handout.


P.S. Our thoughts and prayers are with United Way of Palm Beach County and all of our United Way friends in the South who have been affected by the recent hurricanes. We also want to thank all of you who are helping out during this difficult time.

Quote of the Month: August 2017

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Our August Quote of the Month comes from Russell Ackoff, an American organizational theorist that taught at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania:

The righter we do the wrong thing, the wronger we become. Therefore, when we correct a mistake doing the wrong thing we become wronger. It is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right.

– Russell Ackoff

Here is a question for you to ponder with your staff and board: "Is your United Way doing the right thing, or the wrong thing?" Related to that question, you would have to ask yourself "How would you know?" Any United Way that is doing the same things they did 30, 20, 10, or even five years ago must carefully consider how dramatically society, technology, and charitable giving have changed during that time. Doing the wrong thing, for many United Ways, is continuing to do the same thing without adapting and responding to change. If your number of donors has decreased, and the amount you raise every year is flat or shrinking, that may be a sign that you are doing the wrong things. Go to the source and talk to your donors about what your United Way is doing currently, and what your United Way could do differently in the future, for guidance on doing the right things. Finally, identifying possibilities of what your United Way could do differently in the future is not easy. You might want to consider looking at an issue focus as one thing your United Way could do differently – and it might be the right thing for your United Way.

If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at


Does Your United Way Have Vision?

A quick Google search easily finds hundreds of United Ways have a vision statement posted on their website, and each vision statement is unique. Some vision statements are all about the United Way:

United Way of ______ is the premier organization for charitable giving in __________.

To be the most effective United Way in the most caring community.

Some vision statements talk about how the United Way will get things done:

United Way of _________ will be the leader in bringing partners and resources together to address priority needs and provide solutions that strengthen our community.

To meet current and emerging needs in _____ County that are best met through voluntarism by uniting contributors, providers and users of human services in a voluntary and cooperative effort through fund raising campaigns, programs, planning and evaluation, and distribution of funds to participating agencies.

And some vision statements express great hope for everyone in the community:

A _____ County where everyone can succeed in school, work and life.

United Way of _________ envisions a community where all individuals and families achieve their full potential.

To build a caring community of neighbors helping neighbors which empowers people to improve the quality and dignity of life.

Since there is such diversity in vision statements, it is worth taking a moment to examine the definition of a vision statement. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a vision statement is defined as “A statement of what a company or organization would like to achieve in the future.” The Business Dictionary defines a vision statement as “An aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future.” I will concede that there are other definitions for vision statements, which primarily come from the corporate world. A vision statement for a United Way should not be based on corporate norms, which is why I chose these definitions of a vision statement as examples.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of vision statements from United Ways, and most probably meet these definitions. However, just because a vision statement meets the definition does not make it useful or beneficial. This begs the question “Why would a United Way want a vision statement?”

Donors have always struggled to understand how their contribution makes a difference, which can be resolved with a carefully crafted vision statement. Notice how I qualified this benefit of a vision statement with the words “carefully crafted.” Looking at the vision statement examples listed earlier, you will find that several of them are not written for the donor – they are written for the United Way board and staff. A donor is never going to give to a United Way because they want United Way to be the “premier organization for charitable giving.” What donors will support is a United Way with a vision like “To end chronic and veteran homelessness in ____” because they can clearly understand the impact of their contribution.

Your vision must appeal to the donor, and be written for the donor. Donors care about the results of their contribution, and not the particular details of how the United Way achieves those results. A vision statement like “_____ United Way inspires a community of participation that identifies, evaluates and provides funding for community needs” talks about how this United Way works through identifying, evaluating, and funding. The donor just wants to know the results – what did the identifying, evaluating, and funding accomplish? Who was helped? How is the community better?

Another reason why your United Way needs a carefully crafted vision statement is to focus the work of your staff and volunteers. I am not suggesting that United Way staff are unfocused, but with a vision statement like “We will be champions of our community, empowering individuals and improving lives, while striving for ideals that facilitate lasting, positive change” staff would be doing absolutely anything and everything. Contrast that with a vision statement like “Help 5,000 ____ County residents develop a pathway to financial success by 2025” and you can see how the staff at this United Way know precisely what they are trying to accomplish each and every day.

Furthermore, when you have a carefully crafted vision statement, your impact or investment volunteers can make informed funding decisions. With a vision statement like “To be the primary community solutions leader for human services,” investment volunteers could choose to fund nearly any requested program. On the other hand, a vision statement like “Our vision is to end poverty in _____ one family at a time” tells investment volunteers they should be funding programs that end poverty at the family level in their community.

At an issue-focused United Way, their vision is their bold goal. For example, the vision of United Way of Wayne & Holmes Counties (Wooster, Ohio) is their bold goal of “10,000 out of poverty by 2025.” Everyone who donates to United Way of Wayne & Holmes Counties understands clearly from their vision that their contribution is helping move people out of poverty. This clarity not only motivates donors, it also guides the work of the staff. The entire staff of United Way of Wayne & Holmes Counties comes to work every day to move people out of poverty. Their programmatic investments and initiatives are solely focused on moving people out of poverty.

Issue-focused United Ways always have a clear vision, as they are focused on only addressing a single issue with a single bold goal. The challenge for many United Ways is that they are trying to be many things to many people, which results in a broad and general mission statement, such as “To be the primary community solutions leader for human services,” which does not inspire a donor to support United Way. Clarity in focus and message is just one of the many benefits of becoming issue-focused. For more information on how your United Way could become issue-focused, check out:

A vision statement that clearly and concisely explains what your United Way would like to achieve in the future is essential to your success. As you think about your vision statement, consider this biblical passage:

Where there is no vision, the people perish” - Proverbs 29:18


Quote of the Month: July 2017

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Our July Quote of the Month comes from Norton Juster:

Just because you can never reach it, doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking for.

Norton Juster

When we work with United Ways to become issue-focused, we ask them to select a bold goal related to their issue. For example, we recently worked with United Way of Skagit County (Burlington, WA) and they selected the bold goal of “By 2025, all Skagit children entering kindergarten are ready to learn.” Although I have tremendous faith and confidence in the staff and board of United Way of Skagit County to do incredible things (because they already have), it is highly likely they will never achieve their bold goal. However, if you were eavesdropping on the passionate discussion among the board and staff of United Way of Skagit County when selecting their bold goal, you would realize that they are absolutely committed to doing everything that can be done to achieve their bold goal. The board and staff of United Way of Skagit County realized they could have set a goal of 75%, 80%, or even 90% of Skagit children entering kindergarten ready to learn by 2025, and could have achieved that goal. But, their board and staff agreed that “By 2025, all Skagit children entering kindergarten are ready to learn” was a goal worth looking for.

If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at


Celebrating Our 30th Anniversary

At Perspectives, we are proud to be celebrating our 30th anniversary!

Founded on July 1, 1987, we worked with our first United Way, Heart of West Michigan United Way, in 1989. Since that time, we have enjoyed providing planning, research, training, and guidance to United Ways across the country. We are passionate about working with United Ways and believe in the good work you are doing. We know every United Way has the potential to make a significant impact in their community, which is why we focus on maximizing your impact, resources, and communication.

In honor of our 30th anniversary, we would like to offer YOU (our blog readers!) a special 30% discount on our "Positioning Your United Way for 2020: What You Must Plan & Start Doing Today" webinar, which received outstanding ratings when we presented it at the 2017 Great Rivers Conference.

During our "Positioning Your United Way for 2020: What You Must Plan & Start Doing Today" webinar, we will share with you the leading-edge strategies your board and staff must implement soon to ensure your United Way’s success in 2020. We will use real examples from United Ways of all sizes to show you how best to take on critical challenges and opportunities, such as: amplifying your United Way’s impact within your community, obtaining sustainable sources of revenue for your United Way, and engaging donors, volunteers, and community members in the work your United Way is doing.

We invite your United Way to join us for a live viewing of this 90-minute webinar on August 2nd or October 12th at 2 p.m. EDT. If you are unable to attend on either of these dates, we can either send you a recording of the webinar or invite you to a future live viewing of the webinar. To register, for more information, and to see what Great Rivers attendees said about this webinar, visit

Once we receive your webinar registration, we will send you a link to pay for the webinar online where you can enter the promo code PCG30 to save 30% during checkout. This promo code is good through July 31, 2017.

Don’t miss this opportunity – register for our "Positioning Your United Way for 2020: What You Must Plan & Start Doing Today" webinar at