The Colors of Fall

Fall may well be the most beautiful season of the year here in Michigan. Every year about this time, nature paints the sky with trees ablaze in a palette of reds, yellows, oranges, and greens. As the leaves fall, the ground becomes covered by a quilt of leaves, which crackle joyfully when stepped on or jumped into. There is a comforting certainty that you know the leaves will all eventually change colors and drop from the trees, which is slowly replaced by the uncomfortable uncertainty of when Mother Nature will choose to dust the landscape with the first snowfall.

Perhaps fall is like campaign time at your United Way. You know it is coming every year and everything looks more colorful and exciting during workplace campaigns. But the excitement fades when most of the workplace campaigns are finished and the cold reality of achieving your campaign goal, or not achieving your campaign goal, becomes clear. It can be especially cold when the campaign goal is not achieved, as everyone feels like United Way has not been successful.

There is more than one way to judge the success of a United Way. Most common, perhaps, is whether or not the United Way met their campaign goal – did they raise the amount of money expected from the workplace campaign? Another way to judge the success of a United Way is how many lives United Way impacted through their work – how many people are better off today than they were yesterday, due to United Way?

The challenge for many United Ways is that the amount of money raised from the workplace campaign is their only goal, the only measure they have for success or failure. This is unique to United Ways as every other nonprofit organization measures their success by the lives they have impacted through their work. You never hear Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or the Girl Scouts saying they were successful or not successful based on the sales of their retail stores, their red kettle campaigns, or their cookie sales.

This will never change if United Ways do not take the time to examine why they exist and set goals that are based on impacting lives in their community instead of workplace campaign goals. I know that all of you are extremely busy with your workplace campaigns, but the time to examine and set those goals is NOW. If you do not take the time to set goals based on impacting lives now, you will be starting the planning for next year’s workplace campaign before you know it with yet another workplace campaign goal.

Every day we help United Ways to set these new goals. We have been helping United Ways to understand why they exist, explore the good they can and should be doing in the community, and set goals for positive, life-changing community impact. We help United Ways change their story from the workplace campaign goal to reducing poverty, ending homelessness, or increasing the graduation rate, as just a few examples.

This is not easy, but we have worked with dozens of United Ways to move forward with meaningful community impact through our Direction-Setting Process. If your United Way is ready to transform your community impact work, contact us at (269) 657-5400 or Let’s talk about how next fall can be beautiful, with a new focus on the impact of your United Way.