As winter drags on in Michigan, I find myself looking at the thermometer wondering if the mercury will ever make it above freezing. Many United Ways use thermometers, except instead of measuring the temperature, United Ways use thermometers to measure progress toward their campaign goal. A thermometer that measures campaign progress reinforces the image of United Ways as fundraisers and not as community impact organizations.
One United Way that is using a thermometer to communicate their impact instead of dollars is United Way of South Central Illinois (Mount Vernon, Illinois).
On the Campaign page of their Web site, United Way of South Central Illinois answers the question “What is your goal for the 2013 campaign?” by stating they want to impact the community. Their reason is simple: “Instead of showing a monetary goal on our thermometer, we want to show the most important part of that goal. We want to show you what your dollars can do in this community.”
What are they doing right?
First, right across the top of their thermometer, they state their goal is to impact lives in their community. This makes it clear to donors and the community that giving to United Way of South Central Illinois means you are supporting the goal of impacting lives in the community. By putting this goal at the top of the thermometer, community members will see United Way of South Central Illinois as more than a fundraiser, even if they don’t read the rest of the thermometer.
Second, they have communicated both their issues and their actions. If someone is unfamiliar with what exactly United Way of South Central Illinois does, the list to the right of the thermometer explains both their issues and their actions. For example, one of their issues is that children start school ready to succeed. Right underneath “children start school ready to succeed” on the thermometer are three actions they are taking to address that issue: children receive free books each month, hungry kids are fed, and students are matched with a grandparent mentor. Donors want to know what issues you are addressing and what actions you are taking to address those issues, both of which are included on their thermometer.
Third, the thermometer makes it clear how to donate. While this may seem like an obvious thing to do, nearly every United Way that uses a thermometer to measure campaign progress does not provide any clue how to donate to United Way. At the bottom right corner of the thermometer, United Way of South Central Illinois states “To donate visit www.uwsci.org.” This provides the information people need to make a contribution without taking away from the purpose of the thermometer.
Thermometers can communicate the temperature, progress toward your campaign goal, or your community impact. United Way of South Central Illinois has used their thermometer to effectively communicate their goal of impacting lives in the community. The next time anyone at your United Way wants to use a thermometer, ask what the thermometer should be measuring, and consider how United Way of South Central Illinois has used their thermometer. United Way of South Central Illinois, you are Doing It Right!