Quote of the Month: June 2017

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Our June Quote of the Month comes from Jimmy Dean:

I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

Jimmy Dean

Over the past decade or two, the winds have certainly changed direction for United Ways. With the internet came the ability for donors to understand and contribute to charities of their choice more easily than ever before. The economic recession of 2008 has resulted in fewer large employers and fewer donors. These challenging changes in the winds have made it difficult for United Ways to succeed doing what they have always done. The quote speaks of adjusting sails to reach your destination, which for United Ways means doing things differently.

At the 2017 Great Rivers Conference, we presented a session called “Positioning Your United Way for 2020: What You Must Plan & Start Doing Today.” The underlying theme of this session was how United Ways must be doing things differently, or adjusting their sails, to succeed in 2020. The comments from people who attended this session, and the nearly perfect ratings we received for the session, have prompted us to offer this session as a webinar. If your United Way is trying to figure out how to adjust your sails, we would encourage you to consider joining us for the webinar. You can find more information at www.perspectives4uw.com/webinars

If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at kasey@perspectives4uw.com


What We’ve Got Here is a Failure to Communicate


Does your community really understand the work you do?

After more than twenty years of conducting public opinion polls and surveys for United Ways across the country, we can say that most of the time the answer is no.

When we ask community members about the words they associate with United Way, we commonly receive responses like: community, helpful, charity, and giving.

Although those words are all positive, they are unfortunately vague. This is because, in our experience, saying that United Way addresses education, income, and health isn’t enough. It is extremely uncommon for community members to be able to name any specific issues their United Way addresses or associate any specific accomplishments with their local United Way.

This is a problem not only because you are unlikely to attract new donors when the community at large does not understand what you do, but when understanding is lacking, negative opinions - based on rumors or misunderstandings - can tarnish your organization’s reputation.

Do not let your reputation and attractiveness to donors suffer at the hands of a poorly informed public. Learn how to communicate a simple call to action that will attract community members and donors alike to your cause in our upcoming webinar Positioning Your United Way for 2020: What You Must Plan & Start Doing Today.

Kasey and I have created this 90-minute webinar to help you tackle this and other common challenges, and we will teach you how to position your United Way for success in 2020. To learn more about the other topics our webinar will cover, to read reviews, or to register for this event, visit http://www.perspectives4uw.com/webinars/.


Quote of the Month: May 2017

Our May Quote of the Month comes from our good friend Pamela Beckford at United Way of Wells County. Pamela has used this quote for years:

If you try to be everything to everybody, you're nothing to anybody.

– Pamela Beckford, Executive Director, United Way of Wells County

There are plenty of United Ways that try to be everything to everybody. For example, “everything” is funding dozens of programs, while “everybody” is trying to fund every nonprofit organization in the community. “Everything” is also trying to address education, income, health, safety net, etc., while “everybody” is trying to appeal to every possible donor. As Pamela notes, when a United Way tries to be everything to everybody, the results are quite the opposite. Our donor research for United Ways finds that upwards of half of all United Way donors do not know what issues their United Way addresses, and over one-third of United Way donors do not know the results of their contribution. We know from our donor research that the vast majority of donors do not want United Way to be everything to everybody. It is far better for your United Way to do one thing, and be known for doing one thing, than trying to be everything to everybody.

A big thank you to Pamela for sharing her quote this month! If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at: Gary@perspectives4uw.com.


Make an Impact in Honor of Your Mom This Mother’s Day

Is your United Way offering opportunities for people to give outside of campaign? Are you giving your donors and community members the opportunity to make an impact on a specific issue?

United Way of Pickens County (Easley, SC) encouraged people in their community to give the gift of reading this Mother’s Day with their Women United Camp iRock Honor Card Program. By making a $25 donation to Camp iRock, you could send a Mother’s Day card to your mom, letting her know you made a gift in her honor.

In addition to the Mother’s Day card explaining that you gave the gift of reading to a child in honor of your mom, it also explained Camp iRock, which is United Way of Pickens County’s summer program for struggling readers in rising 1st through 4th grades that helps students improve their reading skills over the summer. Each Mother’s Day card donation went toward funding a child to attend Camp iRock.

United Way of Pickens County promoted this opportunity to give and make an impact in honor of your mom on their website and social media.


This is a great example of an opportunity for people to give outside of campaign and I love how United Way of Pickens County tied this opportunity to Mother’s Day. It also communicates the impact of donors’ contributions in a simple and powerful way – for only $25, both you and your mom will know you helped a child learn to read. Note that United Way of Pickens County highlighted one of their own programs rather than a partner agency’s program. In order to encourage donors and community members to give to your United Way, it is essential to communicate how your United Way is making a difference in the community, and how their donations will make an impact by giving to your United Way.

United Ways who have transformed to an issue focus find it easier to communicate their message, engage their donors and community members, diversify their resources, and maximize their impact. At Perspectives, we are the creators of the Issue-Focused Model and have helped successfully guide United Ways of all sizes to an issue focus. Click here for more information about an issue focus, or contact me for information about how we can guide your United Way in the transformation to an issue focus.

Happy Mother’s Day!


P.S. Check out my blog post from May 2016 to see what United Way of the Bay Area did last Mother’s Day.

Quote of the Month: April 2017

Everyone has their favorite quotes. You might find one in a good book, on a bumper sticker or T-shirt, or even on the internet. Over the years, Kasey and I have accumulated some favorite quotes, including some of our own, which we will share monthly on our blog. Here is our April 2017 Quote of the Month, which comes from yours truly:

Change which is known is manageable. Change which is unknown is paralyzing.

–  Gary Goscenski

How often does your United Way change? For many United Ways, change does not happen very often, but when it does, it is significant. To successfully change, it is essential to carefully plan and communicate the change to your stakeholders. Frequently, United Ways get into trouble when they change their partner agency funding. Partner agencies tend to feel a sense of entitlement when United Ways have funded their programs for 10, 15, or even 20 or more years. To successfully change your partner agency funding, you need to let your partner agencies know exactly what will change, how it will change, and when it will change – far in advance. When partner agencies know about the change, they can prepare for it and manage it. If you simply tell partner agencies change is coming, without specifying what will change, how it will change, and when it will change, it will paralyze your partner agencies. This paralysis manifests itself when your partner agency directors feel they need to adopt a fighting attitude to ensure the survival of their organization. This is one of those lessons I have learned more than once, always make sure change is known so that it can be managed.

If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at: Gary@perspectives4uw.com.