Doing It Right! United Way of Central Iowa (Des Moines, Iowa)

Over the course of writing nearly three dozen Doing It Right! posts for our blog, we have highlighted many examples of United Ways that have done a good job communicating impact. The challenge of communicating impact is one that every United Way faces, so anytime we see a great example of communicating impact we want to share it because every United Way can benefit from improving how they communicate impact. One United Way that has raised the bar for communicating impact is United Way of Central Iowa (Des Moines, Iowa).

United Way of Central Iowa recently released their 2014 Community Impact Report entitled “Strength in Numbers.” It shows their progress toward community goals for 2020 in education, income, and health. The report can be found on their Web site as a Web page, and is also available as a two-page PDF. These pictures show the Web page version of the report.

This is the second year of the “Strength in Numbers” report, which is more robust in both data and infographics, according to Don Honnold, Marketing Officer at United Way of Central Iowa. He said the report was a team effort, including President Mary Sellers, community impact staff, and marketing staff, with the design work being contributed pro bono by Lexicon Content Marketing, a local marketing firm.

What are they doing right?

First, the report provides as much information as the reader wants to know. At the basic level, the online version of the report includes a story about someone impacted in each category, along with the goal for the issue within that category. If you click on the expand section icon, the report opens up to show more detailed information about the goal, such as the percentage of students who graduate high school, an explanation of why this is important, and information about what United Way of Central Iowa is doing to address the issue, such as 783 individuals participated in financial coaching. Finally, you can click on the little plus signs, which open up additional documents that provide even greater detail about the focus area and the progress being made. In a brief form, or in great depth, this report communicates what every donor wants to know – what are the issues United Way of Central Iowa is addressing, how is United Way of Central Iowa addressing these issues, and what are the results.


Second, not only is there sufficient information, but there is information that will appeal to everyone. For the number-crunchers, there are statistics about each of the issues that show how prevalent the issue is in central Iowa. For people who like a good story, there are stories about people whose lives have been positively impacted by the programs funded by United Way of Central Iowa. And for people who wonder what to do next, the report shares how people can give, advocate, and volunteer to address these issues through United Way of Central Iowa.

Third, the report tells it like it is. You will see that the goal of 75% of central Iowans being financially self-sufficient has not yet been achieved and the percentage of financially self-sufficient Iowans has actually decreased over the past five years. According to Honnold, people understand that the economy has been challenging and the recession has created headwinds toward reaching that goal. But Honnold says there is a lot of good news to report in the income category like jobs skills training that allows people to get better jobs. He said he is not aware of any negative feedback from donors or the community because progress has not yet been made toward the goal of increasing financial self-sufficiency. By reporting results like these, United Way of Central Iowa recognizes people realize significant change in a community takes time.

Don Honnold said United Way of Central Iowa believes a focus on community results makes United Way’s message more compelling and he is right. By setting goals in each of the categories of education, income, and health, United Way of Central Iowa has been able to show donors how their contribution will make a difference in central Iowa. Their “Strength in Numbers” report is a great example of how a compelling message can be communicated in an effective and efficient way. When the time comes for your United Way to communicate impact, take a look at how United Way of Central Iowa provided all of the information a donor would want to know, in a manner that will appeal to everyone. United Way of Central Iowa, you are Doing It Right!