Thank You to the Trailblazers

scenic chairlift - Ober Gatlinburg

When the Southeast Regional Conference ended last week, Gary and I headed up the scenic chairlift on Mount Harrison. We were headed toward what we had been promised was “the greatest view in the Smokies that you can get without hiking.” 

If you look at the photo to the right, you can see that it is no short climb to top of Mount Harrison. Moreover, that photo was taken after we had already enjoyed a ten-minute cable car ride up the mountain and nearly half of our peak-bound chairlift trip.

Although Mount Harrison is 2,200 feet above Gatlinburg, our journey to the top was pretty easy. As we went up though, I thought about the first trailblazer to climb to the top of Mount Harrison.

That first trailblazer – whoever they were – had to make it to the top of the mountain through uncharted forest, river, wildlife, and other hazards. Getting to the top before the addition of cable cars, chairlifts, and maps of the mountain was no easy feat. 

And that’s the thing about blazing a trail; it isn’t easy. You might have some idea of what lies at the end of your journey, but there’s little guarantee that you’ll end up exactly where you expect. And while you might have some idea of your final destination, you don’t know what hazards you may run into while you work your way there. 

But, when you finally reach the end of your journey, you can come back down the mountain and tell others that they too can get to the top of the mountain. Then they will climb the mountain and return with their own ideas of how to improve the journey to the top. That cycle continues until the day when getting to the top of the mountain is easy, and there are cable cars, chair lifts, and mountain maps. 

Trailblazing isn’t easy, but its thanks to the trailblazers of this world that we are able to know that we can reach the peaks of mountains and that together was can improve the journey to the top for those who follow. 

That’s why it’s such an honor to be able to participate in United Way conferences. Conferences facilitate the exchange of ideas and experience, which ultimately makes everyone’s journey up whatever mountain they’re facing just a little bit easier. 

We are thankful that we had the opportunity not just to share our Issue Focus expertise at SERC 2018, but also that we had the chance to hear and learn from so many United Ways that are changing their communities in creative, new ways. We’re grateful to have spent last week hearing and sharing stories of paths forged and mountains conquered.

Of course, we are especially grateful for Anita Barker of United Way of North Carolina. SERC 2018 would not have been possible without all of her hard work in organizing such a great conference. Anita, thank you for creating a space for United Ways to trailblaze together.  

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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Great Rivers – Great Times in Green Bay!

Gary and I headed back from Green Bay, Wisconsin last night after attending the 2017 Great Rivers Conference. It was a wonderful conference and we enjoyed meeting with United Ways from across the Midwest!

While we were at the conference, we presented two sessions and had a lot of great discussions with United Ways about how we can guide them in transforming to an issue focus.

During our first session, "Positioning Your United Way for 2020: What You Must Plan & Start Doing Today," we started by talking about the common communication, resource development, and impact challenges facing United Ways across the country. We then asked United Ways to think about the important question of why their United Way exists and whether they are fundraising-focused or issue-focused. Finally, we discussed the strategies being used by progressive United Ways, such as various issue investment methods, donor-centric methods, and creating a call to action.

Our second session, "Effectively Communicate on Social Media," focused on what people want to know from your United Way and how to use social media effectively, based on our research with United Way donors and community members across the country. We shared examples of how to inform and engage your donors and community members, and attendees had discussions about best practices and ideas for using social media effectively.

We are so glad we had the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful people while attending the conference, and look forward to working with some of you in the near future!

 

Great Rivers 2017

Are you planning on attending the Great Rivers Conference this year? Gary and I will be attending and presenting two sessions, and hope to see you there!

The Great Rivers Conference will be held in Green Bay, Wisconsin this year from Tuesday, February 28th through Friday, March 3rd. Registration is now open and early bird pricing is available until January 29th.

Gary and I will be presenting a session together on Wednesday, March 1st from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. called “Positioning Your United Way for 2020.” During this session, you will learn about the greatest opportunities and most significant challenges United Ways will be facing now through 2020. We will show you the leading‐edge strategies and methods your United Way should be planning and implementing today that will ensure your success in 2020.

I will be presenting “Effectively Communicate on Social Media,” on Thursday, March 2nd from 10:45 a.m. to noon. During this session, you will learn what donors and community members want to know, and how you can use social media to effectively communicate your message. We will discuss the appropriate role of social media and share examples of United Ways that are using social media to communicate effectively.

Don’t forget to register by January 29th to receive the early bird pricing for the Great Rivers Conference! Gary and I look forward to seeing you there!

 

2016 Michigan Association of United Ways State Conference

 
 

Gary and I attended the 2016 Michigan Association of United Ways State Conference at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Michigan from June 22nd to 24th. We had great weather at a beautiful location and fun was had by all! (How can you not have fun when you get a complimentary ride down the Crystal Coaster?)

Gary and I jointly presented a session called “Donor-Centric: Leave No Donor Behind,” which was based on our research studies and strategic planning conducted for dozens of United Ways. During this session, we explained how to make your United Way more donor-centric and how community impact can strengthen your relationship with donors. We discussed how to ensure that your impact/investment, campaign, and communication activities include information essential for meeting donor expectations. We received good feedback and had some great conversations with attendees after our session.

Gary moderated a great session called “Community Impact Meets Resource Development,” which explored how local United Ways are combining their community impact and resource development efforts. This session featured the stories and progress of United Way of Midland County, as told by Holly Miller, their Vice President of Communication, Outreach, and Impact, and United Way of Southwest Michigan, as told by Rachel Wade, their Vice President of Impact and Development. Holly and Rachel talked about how their United Ways are working to bring community impact and resource development together, and offered great advice about being intentional, open and transparent, and communicating to all stakeholders. Perhaps the best quote of the day, coming from Holly, was “Silos are for farmers” as she talked about breaking down the walls between resource development and community impact, and developing an internal culture where all staff have a role to play in community impact and resource development.

We also attended some wonderful sessions on a variety of topics at the conference, and want to thank Scott, Janine, Nancy, Beth, and the staff at Michigan Association of United Ways for all of the hard work they put into making this year’s conference so great!

We enjoyed meeting with Michigan United Ways and look forward to attending the conference again next year!