Why United Way?

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In the past couple of weeks, several articles and editorials with ominous titles like “Do we still need the United Way?” have once again questioned the relevance of United Ways.

These articles reference all the challenges facing United Ways, such as: declining workplace campaigns, changing demographics, increasing competition, tax law changes, donor advised funds, technological opportunities for charitable giving, lack of understanding of United Way’s work, etc. Several decades ago, United Ways played an integral role in the charitable giving landscape but, with all of these new challenges, it is a role that is no longer needed if you believe these articles.

There is no question in my mind that United Ways are needed now more than ever before. But, the answer to the existential question of why United Ways are needed is dramatically different today. The role United Ways must play now is one of uniting communities to make change.

The goal can no longer be how much money is raised. The goal now must be community change such as increasing the number of high school graduates, reducing the number of homeless, or halting hunger. United Ways have the unique capability to convene their community, donors, volunteers, nonprofits, workplaces, governments, schools, and religious organizations to make measurable change.

We refer to the new role for United Ways as issue-focused. Issue-focused United Ways address a single issue, with a long-term bold goal for how they will change the issue. For example, a United Way focusing on the issue of early childhood education may have a bold goal such as “All children enter kindergarten ready to learn.”

For most United Ways, change is inevitable. It is not a question of if your United Way will need to change, but how your United Way will change. The challenges facing United Ways cannot be overcome by doing more of what United Ways have always done. Organizing more workplace campaigns will not mitigate the fact that workplace campaigns are declining – they will continue to decline. The change must start with a transformation of the role of United Way.

Our communities still need United Way to bring us together, to focus our time and money on addressing a critical community issue, and making measurable and long-lasting change. When United Ways unite communities to make change, no one will question the need for United Ways.

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Quote of the Month: February 2018

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Our February Quote of the Month comes from author John C. Maxwell:

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John C. Maxwell

It is all too easy to fall into the comfortable pattern of doing the same things every day, or in the case of United Ways, doing the same things year after year. Personally, we are not doing the same things every day we did as teenagers, nor will we be doing the same things every day when we are retired. Today’s social, cultural, technological, and economic environment demands that United Ways change from the ways of the past. Growth for United Ways should no longer be measured by the campaign goal. If a United Way is going to grow in today’s world, that growth will be measured by how a United Way impacts their community, such as reducing poverty, ending homelessness, or increasing the graduation rate. Issue-focused United Ways impact a single issue in their community, and their impact grows every year. When the time comes for your United Way to change, carefully consider how your United Way’s impact can grow in your community. If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at gary@perspectives4uw.com

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2018 Great Rivers Conference

We invite you to join us at the upcoming 2018 Great Rivers Conference, a regional United Way conference being held from March 5th-8th in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gary and I will be presenting two sessions at this conference:

 

CEO Workshop: Leading Your United Way to a Successful Future   

On March 6th, we will be presenting a special session exclusively for United Way CEOs, Executive Directors, and Presidents. This session will show you how to lead your United Way to a successful future by transforming to an issue focus.

As the issue-focused experts, we will show you the power of an issue focus to simplify your United Way's message, diversify your resources, and maximize your impact. We will take an in-depth look at a variety of progressive issue-focused United Ways of all sizes, as we share stories of their successes and challenges. You will learn about the four essential steps for becoming a successful issue-focused United Way and the importance of including all of your stakeholders in the process. This session will provide you with a deeper understanding of what it means to be issue-focused and the knowledge you need to lead your United Way to a successful future.

Strengthen Your Financial Position by Effectively Diversifying Your Resources               

On March 7th, we will be presenting a session about diversifying your resources. We know workplace campaigns have been the bedrock of United Way fundraising for decades, but future financial stability will depend on effectively diversifying resources beyond workplace campaigns.

In this session, we will explore several proven methods for diversifying resources that will allow your United Way to strengthen your financial position in the future. We will begin by discussing a variety of possibilities for diversifying resources and evaluating the requirements and potential for each possibility. You will learn how to implement these possibilities to diversify your resources, illustrated by examples from progressive United Ways. Strengthen your United Way's financial position by learning how to effectively diversify your resources at this session.

For more information and to register for the 2018 Great Rivers Conference, visit https://unitedwaywi.site-ym.com/page/GRC2018. We hope to see you at one or both of our sessions in March!

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Quote of the Month: January 2018

Our January Quote of the Month comes from Julie Capaldi, President of United Way of Pickens County in Easley, South Carolina:

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“It used to be money drives the work, now work drives the money” – Julie Capaldi, President, United Way of Pickens County

This quote from Julie encapsulates the most profound change in United Ways over the past couple of decades. We refer to United Ways where the money drives the work as fundraising-focused United Ways, and several decades ago all United Ways were fundraising-focused. At fundraising-focused United Ways, the money comes from the workplace campaigns, which United Ways use to drive the work by investing that money into programs provided by partner agencies. The change Julie is talking about seems simple – just switch the order so the work drives the money. But this switch is anything but simple as issue-focused United Ways must start by clearly identifying their work – addressing a single issue, such as reducing poverty, increasing the graduation rate, or ending homelessness. Only after identifying their work, can an issue-focused United Way go out and successfully ask for the money to support the work. This quote should be a reminder to all United Ways that changing times require United Ways to change with the times. If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at gary@perspectives4uw.com

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What is Your United Way’s Purpose?

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As we enter into a new year, many people have made resolutions to improve in various aspects of their life, from choosing to eat healthier or going to the gym more often, to traveling more frequently or spending more time with family and friends.

At your United Way, you have probably reviewed how you did the previous year and set a goal to raise more money this year. However, as workplace giving decreases and campaigns continue to decline, many United Ways across the country have recognized that something needs to change in order to succeed.

The essential question you must be able to answer is "What is your United Way’s purpose?" However, just like New Year’s resolutions, it can be challenging to have the discipline to answer this question.

The good news is that we are here to guide you. During our Introductory Board Retreat, we will facilitate a conversation with your board and staff about your United Way’s reason for existence, and whether your United Way exists to raise money or make an impact. If you feel passionately that your role is to serve as a fundraiser in your community, then it’s important to have a conversation about what you are currently doing, whether or not it’s working, and to discuss ideas for how to improve and be the best fundraiser you can be in your community. However, if you decide that making an impact in your community is your United Way’s purpose and you truly want to maximize your impact, then you may want to consider looking at becoming issue-focused.

During our retreat, we will explain what it means to become issue-focused and share the benefits of being issue-focused. Your board and staff will leave the retreat with an understanding of how to maximize your impact with an issue focus, and with enough information to determine if an issue focus is the right direction for your United Way.

Don’t wait to have this important conversation – make the commitment to get this year off to a great start by scheduling a retreat to have a conversation with your board and staff about your United Way’s reason for existence.

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P.S. We are here to help you succeed! As you plan for your United Way’s success in 2018, we invite you and your staff to attend our free, 90-minute webinar, "Trends 2018: The Top 5 Trends That Will Change Your United Way."