Six Simple Sayings Every United Way Should Know

Over the course of working with United Ways for the past 27 years, I have come up with a variety of different sayings which find their way into my speech on a fairly regular basis. I have selected six of the sayings I use most frequently for your consideration:

Why comes before how. You need to decide first why your United Way exists, and then you should decide how your United Way is going to achieve your why.

It is better to be known for one thing than to be known for nothing. If trying to explain everything your United Way does is nearly impossible for your staff and board, then don’t expect your donors to “get it.”

Your issue is the issue. Our donor research finds that between 40-60% of local United Way donors do not know what issues their local United Way addresses, and the number one thing donors want to know from your United Way is the issues you are addressing.

Measuring the right thing imprecisely is better than precisely measuring the wrong thing. United Ways using workplace campaign thermometers are precisely measuring the wrong thing.

Some donors who designate do so because they don’t know the alternative. When a donor does not know what United Way does, they will designate their contribution to a charity they know.

More fundraising staff results in more fundraising. More impact staff results in more impact. Your United Way is not a community impact organization if you are staffed for fundraising.

Do you agree with these simple sayings? Do you disagree? Feel free to post a comment, or shoot me an e-mail at