Every United Way, no matter what size, has three resources: money, people, and information, and most United Ways spend a lot of their time and energy focused on these three questions:
How do we raise money?
How do we recruit people?
How do we find information?
Money, people, and information are critical to the successful operation of a United Way, making the answers to these questions very important. For financial resources, a United Way might use a combination of methods, like the workplace campaign, corporate support, local foundations, and government funding, to raise or secure financial resources. The human resources of a United Way include staff, as well as volunteers, like those who serve on the board or allocation panels, or perhaps additional volunteers recruited from operating a volunteer center. Information resources come from a variety of information that a United Way collects and maintains about the community, information from partner agencies and funded programs, or information learned from operating a 2-1-1 call center.
The focus on answering these questions about raising money, recruiting people, or finding information can become all consuming for a United Way. So much so, that some United Ways think their role in the community is to attract and secure resources. There are plenty of examples of United Ways that exist for the purpose of raising money, talking about their campaign goal and how many donors gave how much money, with just a passing mention about the programs they funded. The discussion is focused on the amount of financial resources raised, and not what issue is being addressed, or what results are being achieved.
Our research with United Way donors finds that donors do not care about resources. They do not care about how much money was raised, how many volunteers served on the community investment committee, or the number of calls that were made to the 2-1-1 call center. Donors want to know the answers to these three questions:
What will be accomplished with the money that was raised?
What will be accomplished by the staff and volunteers?
What will be accomplished with the information that was collected?
Donors want to know “what” will be accomplished, not “how” United Ways raise money, recruit people, or find information. Tell your donors about the issue you are addressing and what their contribution will do to address the issue. Tell your volunteers about the issue you are addressing and what their volunteering will do to address the issue. Publicize information about the issue you are addressing and what that information will do to address the issue.
The three questions about raising money, recruiting people, and finding information are good questions for United Way staff. However, the three questions about what will be accomplished with the money that was raised, what will be accomplished by the staff and volunteers, and what will be accomplished with the information that was collected are great questions for everyone. Answer these three questions first, and you will be able to clearly tell donors why they should contribute, clearly tell volunteers why they should volunteer, and why this information is important to addressing the issue.