In this day and age, every United Way needs to communicate their financial accountability to their donors and the community. In many cases, United Ways have a financial accountability Web page stuffed full of language that sounds like it comes straight from the small print of a financial institution Web site. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. One United Way that has figured out how to communicate financial accountability in an effective and efficient manner is United Way of Snohomish County (Everett, Washington).
On the Financial Information page of their Web site, United Way of Snohomish County includes information about why people should support United Way of Snohomish County, and how much money was raised to achieve their vision. Links within the page lead to their vision, annual report, and their code of ethics. Related links on the right side of the Web page lead to a simple explanation of where the money comes from and goes, as well as their 990 and audit report.
What are they doing right?
First, all of the financial information a donor might want is available from this page. When donors seek financial information, often all they are looking for is what United Way did with their contribution. By starting with the vision of United Way of Snohomish County, this question is answered, with additional information available in the annual report. If a donor truly wants more information, the links to “Where the Money Comes From” and “Where Your Contribution Goes” provide even more detail. Finally, seriously concerned donors will find links to the audit report and 990 filings, should they need to know every last financial detail. Most importantly, United Way of Snohomish County provides all of the information a donor might need right from this page.
Second, their trust is based on their people. Perhaps most obvious is the picture of Andrew Ballard, chairman of their board of directors. If United Way of Snohomish County was a bank, perhaps they could build a big brick or marble building so solid it conveys a trust that comes from the permanence of the building. In this case, trust is conveyed by Mr. Ballard’s picture as the person looking after the financial accountability of United Way of Snohomish County. This makes United Way of Snohomish County personal, an organization overseen by someone you know and can trust from your community.
The personal aspect of their financial accountability continues with the link for Jeri Wilkes, the chief financial officer, and her phone number, on the right side of the Web page. This screams out “If you have a question about our finances, contact Jeri.” And it doesn’t stop with just Jeri – you can also contact Ethics Officer Becky Mackenstadt, whose phone number and e-mail are listed at the bottom of the Web page. United Way of Snohomish County actually connects their staff to many pages on their Web site, not just this page. Making United Way personal, by connecting board members, volunteers, and staff, builds trust and accountability.
Not only do we recognize how United Way of Snohomish County communicated financial accountability as being worthy of emulation by other United Ways, but last year, Jeri Wilkes, chief financial officer of United Way of Snohomish County, was named Finance Officer of the Year by United Way Worldwide. This recognition is bestowed upon a financial officer in the United Way system that exhibits outstanding leadership in financial management, and is seen as a role model inside and outside of their organization. Congratulations to Jeri!
Demonstrating financial accountability is a must for all United Ways, but for many United Ways it is merely an afterthought. At United Way of Snohomish County, financial accountability is clearly demonstrated in an effective and efficient manner. If you haven’t visited the financial accountability page of your Web site recently, you might want to take a look and see how some of the ideas used by United Way of Snohomish County might improve how you communicate financial accountability to your donors and community. United Way of Snohomish County, you are Doing It Right!