There are many advantages to being associated with a name and brand as well-known as United Way. Our community research has found there is great awareness of United Way and most people have a positive perception of United Way whether they donate or not. But, one of the challenges of being associated with United Way is how to demonstrate that the local United Way is indeed local. Middlesex United Way has come up with a creative way to demonstrate the local impact of their United Way with their Town-by-Town Impact map.
Under the tab “Impact” on their Web site, Middlesex United Way has a single-page map of the 15 towns in their service area, with each town labeled on the map and all of the towns listed down the left side of the page. Whether you click on the map, or on the name of the town, you will see a new page that highlights the outcomes of the initiatives and programs in that town.
What are they doing right?
First, although Middlesex United Way serves just one county, Middlesex County, they have recognized that people living within the 15 towns in Middlesex County are very connected to their town, and not necessarily to other towns or the larger county. When we work with United Ways that serve a single county, we often find, through our donor and community research, that people have very different perceptions of the problems and challenges in their town, compared to other towns or cities within their county. It is highly unlikely anyone would take the time to click on all of the towns to check out what Middlesex United Way is accomplishing in each town, but showing a map with all the towns, and listing all of the towns, clearly demonstrates that Middlesex United Way is having a unique impact in every town in Middlesex County.
Second, their Town-by-Town Impact allows anyone to see what Middlesex United Way is accomplishing in their town. Our research has found that sometimes donors think that their contribution to United Way is going to address issues in other communities, and not in their town. This is especially true in counties where the offices of the partner agencies are located in one city, and there are other cities and towns in the county which do not have offices of partner agencies. By clicking on their town, donors can see the impact of their contribution on residents of their own town. In some cases, Middlesex United Way has a program that serves every town in the Middlesex County, like United Way 2-1-1, while in other cases there are specific programs, like the Community Health Center’s Mobile Dental Program, which primarily serves people who live in the town of Clinton.
Third, Middlesex United Way does not overwhelm people with a lot of information or data. There are no more than six or eight examples of local impact for each town, although they probably could have listed more if they wanted. Very few donors would expect, nor appreciate, a comprehensive catalog of every outcome from their contribution. The simple format of the Town-by-Town Impact, and the reasonable number of examples provided, are more than sufficient to convince donors that their contribution has an impact in their town.
By using a map of all of the towns in Middlesex County, Middlesex United Way has found a great way to demonstrate their impact locally. Our research has found that it is essential for United Ways to demonstrate that a contribution to your local United Way does indeed stay local. Just as national car dealerships like Ford, Chrysler, or Chevrolet support local Little League teams and local festivals and events, United Ways need to visibly demonstrate their impact in the local community. The next time you are looking for a way to make giving local for your donors, consider how Middlesex United Way brings impact home to the donor’s town. Middlesex United Way, you are Doing It Right!