Recently, we have spent far too many hours driving from United Way to United Way, in every state from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin. One of the things that caught our eye was the yellow electronic message boards that are found along the highways. In most cases, these message boards display pithy little sayings like “Don’t Text and Drive” or “Drive Safely.” The transportation officials in Chicago take their messaging to a whole new level.
We know that it is the transportation people who are putting these messages up because the marketing people in Chicago would never ever put a message up that says “471 traffic deaths on Chicago highways this year.” Kasey and I have debated what the appropriate response should be from a driver who reads this message. Is the point of the message that people in Chicago should stop driving immediately because there have been 471 traffic deaths on Chicago highways? Or, should people drive on Chicago side-streets because they are safer than highways? Perhaps drivers should start bicycling to work? If the transportation people had at least added the phrase “Slow Down” to their signs, there would then be some meaning to this otherwise morbid statistic.
Unfortunately, the transportation officials in Chicago are not the only people who have put up a message without a clear call to action. United Ways are prone to listing statistics like “19,000 children in ____ County are living in poverty” and then providing no call to action for the reader to act upon this information.
Fortunately, there is a logical call to action for every United Way. The call to action that has been used by most every United Way is “Give, Advocate, Volunteer.” The statistic “19,000 children in ____ County are living in poverty” can be very powerful if connected to a call to action like “Your donation to United Way will help reduce the number of children living in poverty in ___ County.” Or, “By volunteering to collect food and clothing, you are helping to reduce the number of children living in poverty in ____ County.”
Statistics are important for letting donors and the community know how significant and prevalent an issue is in their community. But, using a statistic without a call to action is like putting a yellow electronic message sign up that says “471 traffic deaths on Chicago highways this year.” Don’t become a statistic – be sure to include a call to action at your United Way!