Doing It Right! Valley of the Sun United Way (Phoenix, AZ)

What is your United Way’s goal? What are you trying to accomplish? For many United Ways, the campaign goal is their goal – to raise a certain amount of money from the workplace campaign. Other United Ways have set goals related to their community impact, like reducing poverty or teen pregnancy. Setting a goal is important because it focuses your efforts, and donors can more easily understand what United Way is trying to accomplish in the community. One United Way that has really embraced the idea of setting a goal is Valley of the Sun United Way (Phoenix, Arizona).

On their Community Objectives page, which is the first tab on their menu bar, Valley of the Sun United Way lists their three key community objectives: ensure children and youth succeed, end hunger and homelessness, and increase the financial stability of families and individuals. There are tabs on this page for each of the objectives, as well as buttons to click to give, advocate, volunteer, or join a group.

What are they doing right?

First, the goal of ending hunger and homelessness makes it clear what Valley of the Sun United Way is trying to accomplish. Instead of talking about broad categories, like education, income, and health, Valley of the Sun United Way has narrowed their focus and increased donor understanding by setting goals that are more specific. On the surface, the other two goals are a little less specific; however, when you dig a little deeper and look at the more detailed information found by clicking the button “Ensure Kids Succeed,” you will see that “Ensure Children and Youth Succeed” refers to children entering school ready to succeed and increasing the high school graduation rate.

Second, it is possible to measure progress toward their goals. For example, there are two measures of ending hunger – reduce chronic hunger by 33 percent in Maricopa County by 2016, and reduce chronic hunger by 66 percent in Maricopa County by 2020. Valley of the Sun United Way will be able to measure their progress toward these goals and report that progress to donors. Some United Ways have adopted goals which cannot be measured, such as “helping kids read at grade level,” which does not include a goal or completion date. In the case of Valley of the Sun United Way, they further quantify their goal by listing there are 82,000 households in Maricopa County which struggle with chronic hunger, and that their 2016 goal is to eliminate chronic hunger from 27,000 of those households.

Third, Valley of the Sun United Way is committed to these goals – they are more than just statements or marketing messages. For example, under Resources on their Web site, there is information about each of the goals, such as their publication “A Path to End Homelessness.” Another example is their Volunteer Opportunities Calendar, which can be sorted by each of the goals to identify opportunities that may be of interest to a volunteer. Even their online pledge form  asks donors which goal they want to invest their gift to, or to have their gift support all of the goals equally.

Setting a goal is not necessarily a difficult thing to do, but many United Ways have not set a goal related to their community impact. In order for donors and the community to see United Way as anything other than a fundraiser, it is essential to set a community impact goal to replace the campaign goal. If your United Way is considering setting a goal or goals for your community impact, take a look at how Valley of the Sun United Way has set three goals which drive all of their work. Valley of the Sun United Way, you are Doing It Right!