Encouraging Supporters to Share Their Story

Is your United Way sharing stories on your website? If so, are they stories about your United Way or your partner agencies?

Many United Ways struggle with finding and sharing stories about their United Way. Most commonly, United Ways share stories about how community members have been helped by their partner agencies’ programs or about how those organizations are making an impact in the community. However, the problem with only sharing partner agencies’ stories is that your donors and community members will learn about what your partner agencies are doing, but not what your United Way is doing, and may therefore choose to contribute directly to your partner agencies instead of your United Way. This is why it is absolutely essential that you share stories about your United Way.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "I would share a story about our United Way if we had one, but we only have partner agency stories to share because we don’t offer any direct services." Or you may be thinking, "We already are sharing one really great story about someone who was helped by one of our United Way programs, but it is really difficult to find more stories we are able to share."

In our work with United Ways across the country, I have heard United Way staff members make comments like these, and I completely understand the struggle to tell your own story. However, the advice I give to these staff members is to share stories of people who "Live United" (people who give, advocate, volunteer, or serve on your board). Even if you don’t have stories to share of people who have been helped by your United Way, you should be able to share stories of donors, volunteers, or board members who have helped people in your community through their involvement with your United Way.

United Way of Greater Portland (Portland, ME) does a great job telling stories and they share stories of people who "Live United" on their website and on social media. Check out their amazing "LIVE UNITED storytelling library (LUbrary)" here and a previous blog post I wrote about them here.

One United Way that is promoting storytelling this month is United Way of Genesee County (Flint, MI). They have a webpage called "Love What Matters" on their website and they are asking community members who support their United Way through giving, volunteering, or serving to share their story.


United Way of Genesee County is then sharing the stories they receive throughout the month of February on social media and in their e-newsletter.

Consider doing what United Way of Greater Portland or United Way of Genesee County is doing, and share stories of people who are involved with your United Way. Your community will enjoy seeing and hearing about fellow community members who are helping to make a difference, and will be more likely to contribute once they learn about the impact of contributing to your United Way. Remember to tell stories about how your United Way is helping, and if you do talk about partner agencies’ programs, connect them back to your United Way.

If your United Way decides to become issue-focused, it will make storytelling a lot simpler. You will have one issue to communicate about and you will be able to explain how your United Way is making an impact on this issue in your community. Also, people want to know about results, not processes, so if you become issue-focused, your United Way will be able to communicate results about the progress you are making addressing the issue in your community. If you are interested in learning more about an issue focus, visit: www.perspectives4uw.com/issue-focus