Communicating an Issue Focus

Are you communicating about a specific issue your United Way is addressing in the community?

Whether your United Way focuses on addressing education, income, and health, or is focused on poverty and basic needs, it is important to communicate your issue to your donors and community members. People choose to give to an organization because of the issue you address – not because they want to give money to an organization. United Ways across the country struggle with communicating a concise and consistent message because they address so many issues, fund so many programs, and lead so many initiatives.

In our research, we have found that one of the top three things donors want to know from your United Way is what issue you are addressing in the community. If your United Way is not issue-focused* on a specific issue like poverty or hunger, consider selecting a specific issue within one of your categories that you can focus on communicating about in your messaging. Remember, it is better to be known for addressing one issue, than for people to have no idea what your United Way addresses at all.

United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra (Reno, Nevada) has moved toward an issue focus and is communicating a concise and consistent message about their issue of children reading at grade level by 3rd grade. Let’s take a look at how they have communicated their message using marketing and communication materials commonly used by United Ways:



Their banners grab your attention with the vibrant-colored images at the top, which are focused on their issue. They also engage people by inviting them to give, volunteer, or read, and inform people about the issue they are addressing and the result that will be achieved in the community.


Business Cards

Their business cards also grab your attention because of their unique appearance. They are two-sided, vertical cards with the same images/messages as those on the top of the banners, which are focused on their issue.


Signature Line

Their signature line also communicates their issue and bold goal. They engage people by inviting them to share their story and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Again, you can see consistency in their imaging and messaging.


Homepage of Web site

At the top of their homepage, they share the same image and message, and include their bold goal of doubling the number of children in northern Nevada reading at grade level by 3rd grade before 2020.


It is essential for your United Way to focus your messaging just as United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra has done, so your donors and community members understand what you do in the community.

In our research with United Ways, we have found that half of community members and over 40% of donors have no idea what issues their local United Way addresses. Let’s change those percentages by communicating about specific issues. Inform your donors and community members of the impact your United Way is making on a specific issue in your local community.

Thank you to Karen Barsell, CEO and President at United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra, for sharing these materials with us! We would love to see your United Way’s materials, as well. Send them to and we may highlight your United Way in a future blog post or e-newsletter.


*Are you ready to adopt an issue focus at your United Way? Adopting an issue focus involves a lot more than updating your messaging. Contact us at and we will help you move forward. We will bring your board, staff, volunteers, donors, partner agencies, and top campaigns along and together, we will take your United Way’s community impact to the next level.