Quote of the Month: April 2018

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Our April Quote of the Month comes from American novelist Ellen Glasgow:

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” – Ellen Glasgow

Recently, I was talking with the president/CEO of a United Way that was going through some challenging times. He told me his board knew that the circumstances required change and that they could not keep doing what they had always done. We spent the majority of our conversation talking about making positive change to move his United Way forward, and not just changing for the sake of change. Many United Ways are changing, but it is not always change that results in growth or movement forward. If your United Way is facing the need to change, take a look at how an issue focus could move your United Way forward. Recognizing the need for change is important, but determining how to change is critical to long-term success. If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at gary@perspectives4uw.com

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Why United Way?


In the past couple of weeks, several articles and editorials with ominous titles like “Do we still need the United Way?” have once again questioned the relevance of United Ways.

These articles reference all the challenges facing United Ways, such as: declining workplace campaigns, changing demographics, increasing competition, tax law changes, donor advised funds, technological opportunities for charitable giving, lack of understanding of United Way’s work, etc. Several decades ago, United Ways played an integral role in the charitable giving landscape but, with all of these new challenges, it is a role that is no longer needed if you believe these articles.

There is no question in my mind that United Ways are needed now more than ever before. But, the answer to the existential question of why United Ways are needed is dramatically different today. The role United Ways must play now is one of uniting communities to make change.

The goal can no longer be how much money is raised. The goal now must be community change such as increasing the number of high school graduates, reducing the number of homeless, or halting hunger. United Ways have the unique capability to convene their community, donors, volunteers, nonprofits, workplaces, governments, schools, and religious organizations to make measurable change.

We refer to the new role for United Ways as issue-focused. Issue-focused United Ways address a single issue, with a long-term bold goal for how they will change the issue. For example, a United Way focusing on the issue of early childhood education may have a bold goal such as “All children enter kindergarten ready to learn.”

For most United Ways, change is inevitable. It is not a question of if your United Way will need to change, but how your United Way will change. The challenges facing United Ways cannot be overcome by doing more of what United Ways have always done. Organizing more workplace campaigns will not mitigate the fact that workplace campaigns are declining – they will continue to decline. The change must start with a transformation of the role of United Way.

Our communities still need United Way to bring us together, to focus our time and money on addressing a critical community issue, and making measurable and long-lasting change. When United Ways unite communities to make change, no one will question the need for United Ways.

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Quote of the Month: March 2018

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Our March Quote of the Month comes from educator and journalist Helen Keller:

“Worse than being blind would be to be able to see but not have any vision.” – Helen Keller

Every United Way can clearly see what they want to do, but not every United Way has vision. A fundraising-focused United Way raises money for their partner agencies or to fund programs, and their vision is achieving their campaign goal. In recent years, as workplace campaigns have become more challenging, some fundraising-focused United Ways have stopped publicizing their campaign goals, making their vision invisible. Issue-focused United Ways address a single issue in their community, such as high school graduation or homelessness. The vision at issue-focused United Ways is achieving their bold goal – halting hunger, reducing poverty, or all children entering kindergarten ready to learn as examples. A bold goal is a crystal-clear vision that anyone in the community can understand and appreciate. Whether your United Way is fundraising-focused or issue-focused, seeing what you do is not enough – you must have vision to engage your community and donors. If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at gary@perspectives4uw.com

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Who Cares?


Your donors do NOT care about . . .

  •  The number of partner agencies that receive funding from your United Way
  •  The number of programs funded by your United Way
  •  The number of hours spent by volunteers to determine your allocations
  •  Your number of Facebook likes or Twitter followers
  •  The number of priority areas of investment or targeted goals at your United Way
  •  How many of your workplace campaigns had 100% participation
  •  Your total number of donors and the average amount contributed by your donors
  •  How much donors designated to other nonprofit organizations
  •  How many people used your volunteer connection website
  •  The number of people in your leadership giving society and how much they contributed
  •  How much money was invested in each of your priority areas of investment
  •  How much money was raised at your social fundraising event
  •  The amounts contributed by your top 20 workplace campaigns
  •  How many people are on your board of directors
  •  Your campaign goal

. . . because none of these things tell a donor why they should give to your United Way.

Your donors care about . . .

1)  What issue does your United Way address?

2)  What is your United Way doing to impact your issue?

3)  What results has your United Way achieved to impact your issue?

. . . because when your donors know these three things, they will know why they should contribute to your United Way. Learn more about the power of one issue and one bold goal to attract donors by becoming issue-focused on our website here.

Successful United Ways tell donors what they want and need to know.

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Quote of the Month: February 2018

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Our February Quote of the Month comes from author John C. Maxwell:

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John C. Maxwell

It is all too easy to fall into the comfortable pattern of doing the same things every day, or in the case of United Ways, doing the same things year after year. Personally, we are not doing the same things every day we did as teenagers, nor will we be doing the same things every day when we are retired. Today’s social, cultural, technological, and economic environment demands that United Ways change from the ways of the past. Growth for United Ways should no longer be measured by the campaign goal. If a United Way is going to grow in today’s world, that growth will be measured by how a United Way impacts their community, such as reducing poverty, ending homelessness, or increasing the graduation rate. Issue-focused United Ways impact a single issue in their community, and their impact grows every year. When the time comes for your United Way to change, carefully consider how your United Way’s impact can grow in your community. If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at gary@perspectives4uw.com

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