Doing It Right! United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area (Grand Forks, ND)

United Ways across the country are busy promoting their campaigns right now. There are dozens of United Way Web sites with campaign goals and campaign kickoff invitations, as well as thermometers, campaign videos, and campaign materials. As an Issue-Focused Consultant for United Ways, I am always excited when I see a United Way designing their campaign materials around their issue focus. United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area (Grand Forks, ND) focused their campaign kickoff and their campaign video on their issue of poverty.

 
 

Pat Berger, President/CEO at United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area, told us about the success of the event. "We kicked off the campaign with a very new event for us," Pat said. "We asked people to bring items for local food shelves and had a baked potato bar with a free will donation. I had no idea what to expect and it was a huge success! As the picture shows (see below), we stacked the stage, made $1,000 on the potato bar (potatoes were locally donated), and 14 of our local agencies that work directly with clients in poverty had booths in the Market Square. Tying in our poverty focus with donations to food shelves really got our message out."

What are they doing right?

First, they are focusing their efforts on the issue of poverty in their community. Instead of highlighting their fundraising goal and asking people to give to support United Way and/or local partner agencies or programs, they are asking people to "Join the fight against poverty in our community."

Second, they are engaging donors and community members by asking them to take part and #BeAHero. Community members were encouraged to fill a bag of donations and help "stack the stage" at United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area’s campaign kickoff.

Third, they are communicating a clear and consistent message about poverty across all of their campaign materials using a variety of communication methods. It is clear to donors and the community that United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area is focused on addressing the issue of poverty, and they explain how to help make an impact.

I know your United Way’s campaign materials are already printed and your campaign is underway, but as you go out into the community and into workplaces to tell people about your United Way and ask for their help in making an impact in your community, consider highlighting a specific issue just as United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area is doing. Talk about the prevalence of that specific issue in your community and share a story about someone who has been helped, or if you do not have a story of someone who has been helped, share a story about someone who has volunteered to help. People will not only be more likely to remember your message, but will also be more likely to contribute if they know how they are helping to make an impact in your community.

If you are ready to take the next step toward transforming to an issue-focused United Way, we are here to successfully guide you. Becoming issue-focused involves more than just focusing your message – we will also guide you in maximizing your impact and resources.

Consider becoming issue-focused and maximize your impact, resources, and communication, just as United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area is doing. United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area, you are Doing It Right!

 

Doing It Right! United Way of Northwest Arkansas (Lowell, AR)

What is your United Way doing to raise awareness of the issue you are focused on addressing in your community? United Way of Northwest Arkansas (Lowell, AR) recently held a Poverty Challenge to raise awareness of the issue of families living in poverty in the community and the daily struggle they face. Community leaders were challenged to spend only $5 a day on food (per person in their family), and their experiences with the Poverty Challenge were shared on United Way of Northwest Arkansas’ Facebook, Twitter, and blog. Board members and staff participated in this challenge and posted pictures of the food they purchased and their receipts. They also shared their thoughts about this challenge and pictures of the meals they ate throughout the week.

What are they doing right?

First, this Poverty Challenge raised awareness of the issue United Way of Northwest Arkansas is focused on addressing. United Way of Northwest Arkansas is addressing the issue of child poverty and this Poverty Challenge is just one of the many ways they are informing their community about their issue. They have done a great job explaining the prevalence of their issue in their community on their Web site and on social media.

Second, this is a great way to engage the community, and it gives participants and the community a glimpse of what it would be like to live in poverty. Whether someone participated in the Poverty Challenge or followed someone else’s experience, the community was able to see how their neighbors could be struggling. By understanding what people in their community may be experiencing, community members will be more likely to want to make a difference and contribute to United Way of Northwest Arkansas.

Third, this challenge helped to spread the word about what United Way of Northwest Arkansas is doing in the community. In communities across the country, many people have heard of United Way, but have no idea what their local United Way does. Inviting community leaders to take part in this challenge and posting about their experiences on social media was a great way to inform the community about the issue United Way of Northwest Arkansas is focused on addressing in the community. In addition, the local media provided coverage for the Poverty Challenge, including tweets by KNWA News and an online article.

It is essential to inform and engage your community about the issue you are addressing, just as United Way of Northwest Arkansas is doing. Your community will be more likely to contribute their time and/or money to your United Way if they know what you do, and an issue focus is a great way to simplify your message. Consider engaging your community in something similar to United Way of Northwest Arkansas’ Poverty Challenge to raise awareness of what you do and the importance of the issue you address. If you are not yet issue-focused, we can help guide you in becoming issue-focused, like we did for United Way of Northwest Arkansas. United Way of Northwest Arkansas, you are Doing It Right!

 

P.S. Check out this blog post from 2013 about United Way of Central Carolinas’ Young Leaders’ Week to Fight Hunger (Charlotte, North Carolina), which is similar to United Way of Northwest Arkansas’ Poverty Challenge.

Doing It Right! United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties (Wooster, OH)

Adopting an issue focus transforms a United Way from a focus on workplace campaigns and raising money, to a focus on community impact and making meaningful change. Once a United Way has adopted an issue focus, it is essential to explain to donors and the community what issue is being addressed, why that issue is important, and the bold goal for that issue. One United Way we have helped transform to an issue focus through our Direction-Setting Process is United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties (Wooster, OH). Let’s take a look at how United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties explains their transformation to the issue of poverty and their bold goal of “10,000 out of poverty by 2025.”

What are they doing right?

First, they clearly talk about the need to address poverty and why United Way needs to change. There are statistics and information about the significance of poverty in Wayne and Holmes Counties, and the impact of poverty on children and their educational success. These statistics clearly demonstrate the magnitude of the challenge of poverty and the importance of trying to reduce poverty in Wayne and Holmes Counties. There is also a brief explanation of why United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties is changing from a fundraising organization to a leader in bringing the community together to focus on a shared goal of moving 10,000 people out of poverty by 2025. There is a great sentence at the bottom of the page which explains this change: “Instead of raising money and allowing individual agencies to come to the table asking for money for the programs/initiatives they see as important, the issue of moving people out of poverty will drive the fundraising strategies.”

Second, United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties puts a stake in the ground with their bold goal of “10,000 out of poverty by 2025.” They state “We need to focus on a common agenda, a shared goal” and “work differently towards that shared goal.” For United Ways to be successful with community impact, it is essential to replace the traditional campaign goal with a goal related to an issue. The goal of “10,000 out of poverty by 2025” will not be accomplished by United Way alone, and requires mobilizing the resources of the entire community.

Third, United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties makes it easy for people to get involved with their “Donate” or “2-1-1 Get Help” tabs along the side of their Web pages. (Please note: the “Donate” and “2-1-1 Get Help” tabs only appear once on the side of their Web page, this screenshot repeated these tabs for some unknown reason.) In addition, the Web page outlines the community involvement in the section “We are listening to you” where they talk about their community conversations.

If your United Way is considering the possibility of adopting an issue focus, consider how United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties has shared statistics about their issue of poverty, set a bold goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty by 2025, and outlined how they will address the issue of poverty. An issue focus will make it easier for your United Way to clearly and simply communicate your work. United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties made the transition to an issue focus using our Direction-Setting Process. United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties has done a great job communicating about their transformation to an issue focus, their issue of poverty, and their bold goal. United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties, you are Doing It Right!

 

Doing It Right! United Way of Central Maryland (Baltimore, Maryland)

One of the challenges facing every United Way is how to effectively communicate their community impact. Donors want to know how their contribution is making a difference and all too often United Ways overwhelm donors by trying to explain every last thing United Way does in the community. One United Way that has figured out how to explain their community impact in a simple, one-page progress report is United Way of Central Maryland (Baltimore, Maryland).

On their Health Programs: Access to Healthy Food Initiative progress report, United Way of Central Maryland includes their goal of increasing access to healthy food by at least 1.5 million pounds each year, how they are addressing the issue of food insecurity, their progress to date, facts and statistics about food insecurity in central Maryland, and a story about someone facing food insecurity.

What are they doing right?

First, their progress report covers the three things every donor wants to know: what issue United Way is addressing, what actions United Way is taking to address the issue, and what results have been achieved by United Way. Our research with donors has found over and over again that donors want to know the issue, actions, and results, and United Way of Central Maryland includes all three. It is clear that United Way of Central Maryland is tackling the issue of food insecurity from the headline at the top of the page: “Changing the odds for food insecure families.” They share their definition of food insecurity as “the lack of available nutritious and safe food. They also share how food insecurity affects the ability to learn, slows cognitive development and increases susceptibility to illness.

Second, the actions they are taking to address the issue of food insecurity are clearly listed, including: grow more food, improve distribution, and increase access and affordability. Each of these three actions are described in detail on the back of the report and United Way of Central Maryland explains what they are doing in each area. United Way of Central Maryland also makes it clear that their efforts are a collaboration with a variety of community organizations, both funded and unfunded.

Third, the results are clear: “Increased access to healthy food in central Maryland by 8.3 million pounds/6.9 million meals within the first 39 months of the initiative.” In addition to pounds of food and meals, they also include information about food drives and Thanksgiving meals. Finally, there is a story about Shauna’s family and how she can now feed her three children nutritious foods as a result of United Way of Central Maryland’s Access to Healthy Food Initiative.

Communicating community impact does not need to be long and complicated. A simple progress report like this one from United Way of Central Maryland is more than adequate to inform donors. By providing basic information about food insecurity and the results of donors’ contributions, United Way of Central Maryland demonstrates an effective way for communicating community impact. The next time you are looking to prepare a progress report on your community impact, take a look at how United Way of Central Maryland has communicated their community impact addressing the issue of food insecurity. United Way of Central Maryland, you are Doing It Right!

 

Doing It Right! United Way of Central Virginia (Lynchburg, Virginia)

United Ways across the country are continuing to move their community impact efforts forward. Many United Ways focus on categories, such as education, income, and health, and some United Ways focus on a specific issue, such as poverty, homelessness, or hunger. United Way of Central Virginia (Lynchburg, Virginia) has taken the next step on their community impact journey by focusing on the issue of education readiness.

In 2013, we helped them select their issue and develop a plan to guide United Way of Central Virginia in their transition to an issue focus with our Direction-Setting Process. They chose to focus on the issue of education readiness and are now communicating their bold goal of “90% Third Grade Reading Proficiency by 2025.”

What are they doing right?

First, they have a “Statisticks Lottery” video on the homepage of their Web site, which explains how you can help change the future for children in Central Virginia (like Jamie in the video), and concludes with local superintendents saying they support United Way of Central Virginia and their Education Readiness Initiative. This is a great way to explain what United Way of Central Virginia is focused on addressing to donors and community members who visit their Web site. They also have an “Education” tab at the top of their Web site with information about their Education Readiness Initiative and bold goal, as well as Born Learning resources.

Second, they are acting as a convener in their community and recently held their first annual 2015 Education Summit. United Way of Central Virginia invited their community to help them move the needle toward their goal for Central Virginia of 90% Third Grade Reading Proficiency by 2025. Nationally-recognized speakers addressed the key issues facing children and families, and discussed how the community can begin to help them work on entering school ready to learn and succeed. Attendees were invited to work in focus groups with subject matter experts and facilitators with a goal of completing the beginnings of a Community Solutions Action Plan for education readiness in Central Virginia.

Third, they are communicating a bold goal, replacing their campaign goal. They have also set sub-goals within their bold goal to address the issue of education readiness. United Way of Central Virginia has indicated that they want programs to meet their metrics and have dedicated funding to meet their goals.

United Way of Central Virginia has done a great job of communicating about their issue focus and bold goal, and convening their community to address the issue. Adopting an issue focus just as United Way of Central Virginia has done will help your United Way to communicate more clearly and simply what you do. Donors and community members will be more likely to donate because they will better understand how their contributions will make an impact in the community. United Way of Central Virginia, you are Doing It Right!

If you are interested in learning more about adopting an issue focus at your United Way, please send me an e-mail at info@perspectives4uw.com and I will send you a complimentary handout to share with your board and staff.