One Prediction for 2012

There are plenty of predictions floating around this time of year. Economists are predicting whether or not the economy will improve in 2012. Political pundits are predicting who will survive the Republican primary process, or at least make it to New Hampshire. Sportscasters are predicting who will win the Super Bowl and who will be the MVP. Daily meteorologists predict that tomorrow will be snowy, sunny, or rainy, or perhaps all three. All of these predictions have inspired a prediction of my own.

Over the past four or five years, our research for United Ways has found a dramatic decrease in the number of donors seeing a United Way workplace campaign presentation, hearing a partner agency speaker, or watching a campaign video. The “traditional” workplace campaign employee meeting or presentation is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, as employers tell us they can no longer spare the time. At some organizations, employees receive a United Way pledge card with no explanation or expectation. I have heard the frustration in the voices of campaign staff when they talk about boxes of campaign brochures that go unopened and undistributed at organizations that say they are running a workplace campaign.

In 2012, I predict that only one out of every three of your United Way’s donors will be exposed to the “traditional” workplace campaign meeting or presentation. This means that two-thirds of all donors will not get the complete message you intended when you carefully planned your campaign brochure, campaign video, and workplace campaign presentations. Two-thirds of your donors will be missing out on some, or most, of the information you are providing during your workplace campaign.

This has two huge implications for United Ways. First, we need to be sure that our marketing and communication efforts are as effective and efficient as possible. If only one-third of our donors will experience a “traditional” workplace campaign, we need to carefully consider how much of our marketing and communication budget should be allocated to workplace campaigns, and how much should be allocated to marketing and communication that reaches donors outside of the workplace campaign.

Second, the workplace campaign will continue to erode as the bedrock of fundraising for United Ways. As fewer employers allow or support the “traditional” workplace campaign, it is essential for United Ways to be proactive in establishing new fundraising methods to reach donors who will become increasingly unreachable through the workplace. While I am predicting that only one out of every three of your United Way’s donors will be exposed to the “traditional” workplace campaign this year, I fully expect even less next year, and less each following year.

The beauty of predictions is that rarely people go back and see if the predictions were accurate. We will keep track of our United Way donor research this year and let you know what we find.