Community Impact

Community Impact is More Than Collective Impact

PuzzlePieces.jpg

Donors – especially younger donors – have increasingly high expectations of the charitable organizations they support. Donors want to feel confident that the dollars they donate go to organizations that significantly impact their community.

In response to changing donor expectations, many United Ways have begun to explore community impact as a means to ensure their local investments produce maximum impact. Unfortunately, while many United Ways want to fully adopt the community impact approach, doing so can seem daunting. 

After wrestling with what it meant to become a community impact organization, many United Ways began to pursue collective impact as their means achieve community impact. The unfortunate reality of this is that community impact is the most complex means by which a United Way can pursue community impact. Transitioning from a fundraising model to a collective impact model is challenging even for well-funded United Ways.

If large United Ways struggle to make the transition to collective impact, how can non-Metro 1 United Ways hope to effectively achieve community impact?

Fortunately, there are several alternatives to collective impact that are accessible and viable for United Ways of all sizes.

In total, there are six methods that United Ways use to achieve community impact. These methods range in complexity from specialized RFPs and in-house initiatives to collective impact. While collective impact remains the most complex of these methods, there are other methods that you could easily implement in your next funding cycle.  

On November 27, we will be hosting our webinar “Six Methods to Maximize Your Impact.” This webinar will explore the six methods that United Ways use to achieve community impact, the strengths and weaknesses of each method, as well as provide practical suggestions for how you can begin to implement these methods at your United Way. If you are interested in learning more about this webinar and the other topics this webinar will cover, please visit our webinar information page here.

While this webinar is relevant to United Ways that are on the community impact journey, we will be offering a total of nine webinars in the coming months that will cover other relevant topics in impact and investment, marketing and engagement, and resource development. To see a full list of our upcoming webinars and the topics we will cover, please visit our website here.

Quote of the Month: August 2018

Quote of the Month Image.jpg

Our August Quote of the Month comes from Ken Toll, President/CEO of United Way of Jackson County, Jackson, Michigan:

“It is more work to try to do everything and not know where you are going” – Ken Toll, President/CEO, United Way of Jackson County

Three-years ago United Way of Jackson County adopted an issue focus around the issue of financial stability and adopted a bold goal of “Help 5,000 Jackson County residents develop a pathway to financial success by 2025.”  I recently asked Ken if it was hard work to address an issue like financial stability, and he quickly responded that it was harder to do everything for everyone.  United Way of Jackson County is no longer trying to do everything, because they now have a clear direction to impact financial stability and achieve their bold goal. It is important to know where your United Way is going, because once you have a clear direction, the work becomes easier, more impactful, and more rewarding. If you have a quote you would like to share for our Quote of the Month, please let me know at gary@perspectives4uw.com

Gary 2017 Blog Signature NEW.png
 

The Communication Challenge Facing United Ways

CommunicationWall.jpg

In my most recent blog post, The Difference Between Auto Manufacturers and United Ways, I asked the question “What if automobile manufacturers sold cars and trucks the way United Ways ask people to give?”

As I noted in my previous blog post, many United Ways communicate information like their campaign goal, number of investment panels, number of funded partner agencies, and how many volunteer hours it took to determine the allocations – but, this information does not motivate donors to give.  

The communication challenge facing many United Ways is sharing a message that resonates with donors. Fundraising-focused United Ways, which exist to raise money to fund local nonprofits and programs, share a lot of information about their processes – like their campaign goal and number of funded programs – but this does not motivate donors. Some fundraising-focused United Ways share stories about people that were impacted by funded programs. Donors appreciate stories about how their contribution changed lives, but when the story is about a funded program, it strengthens the connection between the donor and the funded program, rather than the donor’s connection to United Way.

One solution to this challenge is to redefine the purpose of United Way. We are helping United Ways across the United Ways to adopt an issue focus, which redefines the purpose of United Way. Issue-focused United Ways exist to measurably change in an issue in their communities and then raise money to impact the issue. For example, issue-focused United Ways are reducing poverty, increasing the graduation rate, and lowering obesity in their communities.

What we know from our donor research is that the three things donors want and need to know to be able to support United Way are:

•  What issue is United Way addressing?
•  What actions is United Way taking to address that issue?
•  What results have United Way achieved addressing that issue?

Issue-focused United Ways focus all their efforts addressing a single issue. Therefore, issue-focused United Ways communicate messages that resonate with donors because the issue, actions, and results of that United Way are clear.

Issue-focused United Ways can share messages about the results of giving to United Way, not the processes used by United Way. Issue-focused United Ways do not communicate about their campaign goal, number of investment panels, number of funded partner agencies, and how many volunteer hours it took to determine the allocations. Instead, issue-focused United Ways communicate messages like “Donating to United Way reduces poverty” and “We are halfway to our goal of a 90% high school graduation rate . . . from 59% in 2005 to 76% in 2014!”

I realize that not every United Way will be able to adopt an issue focus, so this is not a solution that will work for every United Way. I would encourage you to consider the potential of an issue focus at your United Way not only because it offers a simpler message that resonates with donors but for many other benefits including maximizing your impact and diversifying your resources.

Gary 2017 Blog Signature NEW.png