Recently, a friend of mine was told by his doctor that he needed to live a little healthier. According to the routine blood tests and measurements that accompany a physical, his doctor determined that his lifestyle was not quite as healthy as it should be. The doctor was quick to suggest a variety of lifestyle changes that would make my friend healthier – the typical things like eating healthier foods, exercising, and stopping smoking. My friend certainly has his work cut-out for him. It will take incredible energy, effort, and determination for him to change his diet AND start exercising AND stop smoking.
But, what if my friend only manages to accomplish one of these things – say he starts exercising, but he does not change his diet or stop smoking. If he just starts exercising, will he be healthy? What would the doctor say when he goes in for his next physical a year from now and tells the doctor that although he is exercising, he is not eating healthy and he has not stopped smoking? We both know the doctor is going to get on his case once again, because exercising alone will not have made my friend healthy.
Is your United Way healthy – completely healthy? There are a lot of United Ways that have improved their health in one area, perhaps increasing the amount of money raised from the workplace campaign, but their community impact efforts are nearly paralyzed and their marketing and communication efforts are on life-support. The total health of your United Way cannot be measured by one measure, such as the amount of money raised, just as your doctor would not assess your health solely on the basis of weight or blood pressure. A lot of United Ways measure their health very narrowly, as if to suggest that doing one thing well means the organization is healthy.
At a minimum, your United Way should have a healthy community impact or investment process that makes measurable, meaningful change in the community on specific issues. Your United Way should also have a healthy resource development process that secures resources not only from your donors and the workplace campaign, but through a variety of diversified methods. Finally, your United Way should have healthy marketing and communication efforts that clearly communicate with, and actively engage, your donors, volunteers, and community in the work of your United Way.
Your United Way is healthy only when your impact/investment, resource development, and marketing/communication are all functioning at the highest levels and all of the tests come back positive. If your United Way has started exercising, but you are still smoking, then you are not yet healthy. Or to put it another way, one good test result does not mean the doctor will say you are healthy if you have not changed your diet or if you are still smoking.
The way to get your United Way healthy is to adopt an issue focus, something we have been helping United Ways do for years. An issue focus will maximize your impact, resources, and communication – all at the same time. Check out the benefits of an issue focus and be sure to request our handout about an issue focus to share with your board and staff. We want every United Way to Live Healthy!