United Way Pizza

Several weeks ago, I happened to catch an interview on National Public Radio (NPR) with a gentleman who had written a book about pizza. The interviewer asked the author a variety of questions about the book, finally concluding with this question: “What is the perfect pizza?”

The author paused for a moment and then responded that the perfect pizza is one where all the ingredients blend together equally, where no one ingredient overpowers the others, and where the pizza would no longer be perfect if one ingredient was taken away.

The interviewer was surprised by this response, convinced that the author would say the crust makes the perfect pizza, and challenged the author to explain how crust was not the key to the perfect pizza. The author replied that crust is indeed essential to the perfect pizza, but too much crust makes the pizza too bready, and too little crust can result in a pizza overwhelmed with sauce, spices, and cheese. The author said there is not one recipe for the perfect pizza, and that the beauty of pizza is the opportunity to blend together a variety of ingredients which, when ideally blended and balanced, results in the perfect pizza.

The perfect United Way could in many ways be compared to the perfect pizza. The ability to blend workplace campaigns with community impact that results in meaningful change in a balanced way is like blending the ingredients of a pizza. It is as much a challenge to create the perfect United Way as it is to create the perfect pizza. All too often, we see United Ways that rely heavily on one ingredient or another, losing sight of the perfection that comes from blending all of the ingredients appropriately.

Just as there are many ingredients that could go into the perfect pizza, there are many ingredients that could go into the perfect United Way. Some United Ways rely on a lot of workplace campaigns, while others sprinkle affinity groups and special events into the mix. There are United Ways that fund a variety of programs and partner agencies, while other United Ways’ work is flavored by programs like 2-1-1 or volunteer centers. Every United Way has a cornucopia of potential ingredients that should be carefully selected and blended to create the perfect United Way.

As subjective as taste may be, the determination of whether or not a pizza is perfect comes down to the taste buds of each person who eats the pizza. The same holds true for United Way. The determination of whether or not a United Way is perfect lies with the donor. Perhaps asking your donors if your United Way is perfect is not quite the right question, but if your donors think of your United Way as a fundraising organization, it is as if they think your pizza is all crust.

As both a pizza aficionado and a United Way aficionado, I am always looking for the perfect pizza and the perfect United Way. Although I have yet to find perfection in either pizza or United Ways, trying to find perfection is a lot of fun!