Lessons Learned in 25 Years

This year marks the 25th year Perspectives has worked with United Ways throughout the United States. We worked with our first United Way in 1989, and since then, we have worked with dozens of United Ways, providing training, research, and planning services to empower the mission and focus the vision of United Ways. Throughout this year, we’ll share some of the lessons we have learned from working with United Ways.

Lesson Two: Donors do not follow United Way’s schedule

One of the things we have learned from donors, over the past 25 years of conducting donor surveys, is when they decide how much to contribute to United Way. Nearly half of all donors decide how much they are going to give to United Way before the workplace campaign. While donors may fill out their pledge form when asked, they have made their decision about how much to give long before you ask. Quite simply, donors follow their own schedule when making their charitable giving decisions.

Providing donors opportunities to contribute to United Way by making a donation or volunteering on a year-round basis is essential in this day and age. It is not good enough to put a “Donate Now” button on your Web site or a link to your volunteer center. United Ways must reach out to donors and invite them to contribute or volunteer throughout the year to meet donors’ schedules and desires.

Donors also want information from United Way on their own schedule. Only one-quarter of all donors want information from United Way once a year – during workplace campaign. The remaining three-quarters of all donors want information from United Way more often – throughout the year and not just during workplace campaign. When a United Way communicates primarily during the workplace campaign, they are communicating on their schedule and not their donors’ schedules.

Donors expect a timely and responsive thank-you and acknowledgement of their gift, which can occur during the workplace campaign. The information that donors desire throughout the year is what United Way is doing with their contribution. Specifically, what issues United Way is addressing with donors’ contributions, what actions they are taking to address those issues, and what results are being achieved with donors’ contributions.

Check out our free webinar about communicating your issues, actions, and results: http://perspectives4uw.com/iar-webinar

Even some companies and organizations that hold workplace campaigns are making it clear they do not want to hold a workplace campaign on United Way’s schedule. Many United Ways we have worked with tell stories of how they allow some companies to hold workplace campaigns either before or after the traditional workplace campaign season – to accommodate the companies’ schedules.

To learn from this lesson, United Ways must provide opportunities for donors to support United Way when they want to, and provide the information donors want when they want it.  

Make it your goal to set your United Way’s schedule based on your donors’ needs.