Why Your Credo Isn’t Enough

When the United Way brand credo was introduced, many United Ways rejoiced. Finally, there was a way to describe all the things United Ways do with just one sentence. The brand credo seemed a truly great solution to what had been the bane of United Way marketing: the elevator speech. 

But, while it’s true that the credo does a great job of explaining what the United Way system as a whole does for communities throughout the world, it does not offer local context.

The credo does not answer the question: Why should someone give directly to your United Way and not the United Way across the county line?

In reality, the credo on its own isn’t meant to answer that question. While the credo brings the global mission of United Way down to a concise, simple phrase, it fails to explain the work of United Way in tangible terms that your community members can connect with.

The credo says: “United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community.” But your United Way doesn’t work in EVERY community; your United Way works in YOUR community.

So, how do you expand on the credo to contextualize your United Way’s work? You talk about local issues.

After all, what does it mean to fight for education? Does it mean you’re working to improve the graduation rate, promote kindergarten readiness, or prevent summer slide? What about fighting for health? Is your United Way tackling obesity? Teen pregnancy? The opioid crisis?

Fighting for health, education, and financial stability looks different in every community, so you need to give context for what that fight looks like on a local level.

Whether you follow up your recitation of the credo by discussing your United Way’s initiative to end homelessness or your strategic investments in early childhood education, the more context you can give your audience for how the work of your United Way is impacting your community, the stronger your elevator speech will be.

If your United Way is using the credo as your elevator speech, you’re off to a good start. Just make sure that you don’t stop there. If you want people to understand your United Way, you can’t rely solely on a concise credo – you need to back it up with real context and examples of what fighting for your community looks like on a local level.

Fortunately, the United Way credo doesn’t take more than seven seconds to recite. Unless you’re only riding the elevator one floor up, you can probably afford a few more seconds to expand your elevator speech. The expansion doesn’t have to be lengthy, but it is important that you describe how your United Way is fighting for your community. Use a few seconds to share the outcomes of your United Way’s efforts and the vision you have for your community in the future.

The more you keep the focus of your elevator speech local, the better your audience will understand your United Way.