The Best United Ways are . . .

Good United Ways are functional.

Every donor expects that their United Way will be functional, that it will collect contributions and allocate contributions in an efficient and effective manner. Being able to function effectively and efficiently is the minimum standard donors expect not only of United Ways, but of all charitable organizations.

Based on our research with United Way donors, nearly every donor considers their local United Way to be functional. This is hardly a surprise, as most United Ways spend a lot of time and effort telling donors about their workplace campaigns – how to give and how to volunteer. United Ways go to great lengths detailing how dozens of volunteers sit on allocation panels tasked with the process of determining which programs are funded. Workplace campaigns and allocations are merely processes that make a United Way function, but our research finds donors have little interest in the processes of charitable organizations.

The best United Ways are meaningful – meaningful to donors.

The best United Ways connect the passion, caring, and commitment of the donor to address the needs of the community. The best United Ways are meaningful to donors because they enable donors to be able to make a difference in their community. The best United Ways provide donors an opportunity to impact the community that no other charitable organization offers.

Regretfully, most donors do not have a meaningful relationship with their United Way. Our research has found that more than half of donors to most United Ways do not know the impact of their contribution, and they do not see how United Way is different from other charities. When donors do not have a meaningful relationship with their United Way, they designate their contributions to other charities, they do not recommend United Way to others, and they do not increase their contributions to United Way.

Next week, I’ll share the secret of how to make your United Way meaningful to donors.