The Dog Days of Summer

The weather this summer has been nothing short of spectacular here in southwest Michigan! There have been a couple of days where the temperature shot up into the 90s, but not so many that anyone would complain loudly. Today, the high temperature will be a mere 71 degrees, which is lower than normal, but again no one is complaining.

Like this summer, every United Way goes through periods of warmer and cooler temperatures. When the temperature is hot at a United Way, like during workplace campaign time, there is a lot to do and feverish activity. During the cold spells, there are fewer daily demands and things move at a more deliberate pace as United Ways address more long-term issues.

I can normally tell how hot or cold it is at a United Way in the first 90 seconds of a conversation with the president or CEO. If the president tells me they just came back from vacation, it is probably pretty cool at their United Way. Conversely, when the president says they have not taken a vacation in nearly a year, it is probably much too warm at their United Way.

Every United Way needs to have hot and cold periods in order to succeed and grow. The hot periods are when your United Way is actively raising money or up to your neck in the allocation process, while the cold periods are when you plan your community impact initiatives, redo your Web site, or explore starting an affinity group. A United Way that is always running hot will continue to do the same things year after year with little change because there is not a cool season to evaluate and refocus their efforts. A United Way that has cooled off too much is likely to see their resources and impact diminish over time because there is not a concentrated energy on making things happen.

If your United Way is running hot much of the time, perhaps it is necessary to deliberately plan a cool period. At Perspectives, we have identified four weeks of the year when we make sure it is cool enough that we can evaluate and refocus our efforts. These weeks are essential for us to move forward with our services to address the needs of United Ways. Scheduling these cool weeks at the beginning of the year was essential – otherwise, they never would have happened.

Take a moment today and think about the hot and cold spells at your United Way. The goal isn’t to even out the hot and cold spells, but rather to make sure you have enough hot and cold spells to be effective as an organization. The seasons serve a purpose in nature, just like they serve a purpose for your United Way. I hope you are having terrific weather wherever you are today!