2013 Midwinter Institute

For all of you who did not make the trek to cold and snowy Madison, Wisconsin last week, you missed all of the fun and festivities of the 2013 Midwinter Institute.

Instead of trying to share with you everything that went on at the 2013 Midwinter Institute in a concise and meaningful way, here are several things that stuck with me:

At the workshop session I presented (Keeping It Fresh After 125 Years), I learned as much, if not more, than I taught from the discussion and people in the room. The commitment to getting the work done at United Way of Eastern LaSalle County (Ottawa, Illinois) reinforced for me the idea that a few people can move mountains. In this case, the community-changing work of Shelli Ocepek and Kathy Morrissey at United Way of Eastern LaSalle County probably means they don’t get a lot of sleep, but their efforts are awe-inspiring.

A lot of the discussion in the workshops I attended revolved around how we do things better or more efficiently/effectively, rather than looking at a lot of new ideas or new ways of doing things. New ideas or new ways of doing things can seem more exciting or glamorous, but the reality is United Ways must be as good as they can possibly be at their core functions and processes. The United Ways that attended the 2013 Midwinter Institute will be getting better at resource development, allocation, and marketing and communication, due to all of the best practices that were shared.

Many of the attendees had worked at their United Way for less than a year. When people who worked for United Way for less than a year were asked to stand up at breakfast Wednesday morning, more than half of the people in the room stood up. One of the people attending my workshop session had only worked for United Way for three days! I sure hope that after my workshop, he is still working for United Way. The importance of a conference like the 2013 Midwinter Institute is clear when so many people are new to the United Way system. The workshops provided an opportunity for the new people to gain some of the real-world experience and saved them from having to learn everything by trial and error.

A big thank you and congratulations on a great conference goes out to co-chairs Teresa Kmetz (Capital Area United Way, Lansing, Michigan) and Scot Quintel (United Way Whitewater Valley, Richmond, Indiana) and to the incredible behind the scenes work of Emily Cusic Putnam and Steve Webster from United Way of Wisconsin. Hopefully all of these people get this week off – they deserve it!

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