United Ways Where Everyone Is A Fundraiser


In the past couple of months, I have noticed an increasing number of local United Way presidents/CPOs proudly proclaiming that their United Way has adopted community impact. I heard it again several times last week at the 2013 United Way Southern Institute conference in Asheville, North Carolina. The five steps to adopting community impact have been clear for over 10 years, unchanged since community impact was first introduced in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, some of these United Way staff members are either unfamiliar with these steps, or have an entirely different definition of community impact, as their proclamations of being a community impact United Way do not match the reality of their situation.

For years, I have always been on the lookout for some easy, undeniable signs that a United Way has successfully adopted community impact – or has not successfully adopted community impact. It is idealistic to think that there is a black and white indicator of community impact with no shades of gray, but I think I have found an indicator that comes pretty close.

For the past six to eight months, whenever I talk with a United Way, the first thing I do is look at the titles and responsibilities of their staff. One of my favorite examples is a United Way that will tell you that they focus on five areas of community impact, that they achieve community impact, and that they show positive results in community impact. When I look at their staff of 21 on their Web site, there are 15 staff members with fundraising job titles or responsibilities. Of the remaining six staff, three are clerical or administrative, one is the President, and one is marketing/communication. That leaves exactly one staff person out of a staff of 21 with a job title and responsibilities related to community impact.

This fundraising staff to community impact staff ratio of 15-to-1 is pretty extreme, but it is not a rare or isolated occurrence. There are actually multiple United Ways with staff entirely made up of people with fundraising job titles or responsibilities and not a single community impact person – but yet they will proclaim their community impact focus.

I do not believe it is possible to effectively and efficiently adopt community impact if no one on your staff is responsible for community impact, or if there are 15 fundraisers and one community impact person. Looking at the job titles and responsibilities of the staff make it very clear whether or not the community impact talk of a United Way is real, or if the United Way is still a fundraiser. A staff full of fundraisers means the United Way is a fundraiser; it is that simple.

To be fair, I want to make it clear that there are many United Ways that proclaim they have adopted community impact and their staff reflects their dedication to efficient and effective community impact. I have seen United Ways with a community impact staff that outnumbers fundraisers by two-to-one. The best examples of United Ways who have successfully adopted community impact have a staff that reflects their community impact orientation.

What would someone think if they took a look at the job titles and responsibilities of the staff at your United Way? Would they say your United Way has adopted community impact OR would they say your United Way is a fundraiser because everyone on your staff is a fundraiser?

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