Who Cares?


Your donors do NOT care about . . .

  •  The number of partner agencies that receive funding from your United Way
  •  The number of programs funded by your United Way
  •  The number of hours spent by volunteers to determine your allocations
  •  Your number of Facebook likes or Twitter followers
  •  The number of priority areas of investment or targeted goals at your United Way
  •  How many of your workplace campaigns had 100% participation
  •  Your total number of donors and the average amount contributed by your donors
  •  How much donors designated to other nonprofit organizations
  •  How many people used your volunteer connection website
  •  The number of people in your leadership giving society and how much they contributed
  •  How much money was invested in each of your priority areas of investment
  •  How much money was raised at your social fundraising event
  •  The amounts contributed by your top 20 workplace campaigns
  •  How many people are on your board of directors
  •  Your campaign goal

. . . because none of these things tell a donor why they should give to your United Way.

Your donors care about . . .

1)  What issue does your United Way address?

2)  What is your United Way doing to impact your issue?

3)  What results has your United Way achieved to impact your issue?

. . . because when your donors know these three things, they will know why they should contribute to your United Way. Learn more about the power of one issue and one bold goal to attract donors by becoming issue-focused on our website here.

Successful United Ways tell donors what they want and need to know.

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Kicking Out Hunger

Does your United Way hold a special event? If so, is your United Way promoting a specific issue tied to this event?

Many United Ways hold special events, but they are solely focused on fundraising. However, it’s important to remember that donors want to know how they are making an impact – whether they are contributing to your United Way through a workplace campaign, via text-to-give, or at an event. Therefore, it is essential to tie a specific issue to all of your events and explain how people will help to make an impact on the issue by attending your events.

United Way of Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach, FL) has tied an issue to their corporate kickball tournament, inviting people to "Kick Out Hunger." Fans, players, and teams are being encouraged to bring food items to the event to help kick out hunger, and donations will support their Holiday Hunger Drive. This is a great example of connecting a specific issue to a special event.


Whether you choose to focus on hunger, poverty, or school readiness, remember to not only communicate the issue, but the impact of attending your event, as well. For example, we love how United Way of Tri-County (Framingham, MA) simply communicated the impact of attending their "Flashback to End Hunger" event on Twitter by saying one $25 ticket to their event gets five bags of groceries for someone in need.

Simplify & Diversify With an Issue Focus

As workplace campaigns continue to remain flat or decline across the country, United Ways are looking for new ways to diversify their resources. Holding special events tied to a specific issue is just one way your United Way can raise additional resources outside of campaign.

Adopting an issue focus will make your United Way’s marketing message much simpler, but more importantly, it will open the door to additional resources outside of campaign. With an issue focus, our United Way clients have been amazed at the additional funds they have received that they didn’t even know existed before adopting an issue focus – from foundation grants to large gifts from individual donors. For example, Julie Capaldi, President at United Way of Pickens County, explained "We are a little United Way, and focusing on the issue of early childhood education and summer learning loss has resulted in raising more money from grants and campaigns, attracting new donors, and reduced designations."

You can learn more about the benefits of an issue focus and find out why United Ways like United Way of Pickens County are transforming to an issue focus at www.perspectives4uw.com/issue-focus/#Benefits If you are interested in learning more about an issue focus and/or would like to share information about an issue focus with your board and staff, contact me at kasey@perspectives4uw.com for more information and a complimentary handout.


P.S. Our thoughts and prayers are with United Way of Palm Beach County and all of our United Way friends in the South who have been affected by the recent hurricanes. We also want to thank all of you who are helping out during this difficult time.

Make It Awesome! A Day Dedicated to Fundraising

Is your United Way involved in a day dedicated to raising money for your organization?

More United Ways each year are participating in #GivingTuesday, Red Nose Day, or a citywide or statewide fundraising day, like Give to the Max Day, in which United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (Chisholm, MN) is involved. However, while more United Ways are getting involved in some sort of fundraising day, most United Ways are not communicating about a specific issue the funds being raised will address, or how the donations will make a difference on a specific issue in the community.

Let’s take a look at the fundraising day in which United Way of Northeastern Minnesota is participating:

Today is Give to the Max Day in Minnesota, which is an annual 24-hour event in which Minnesotans are encouraged to donate to causes and organizations in Minnesota on the GiveMN Web site. Donors were able to schedule their Give to the Max Day donations beginning on November 1st, but the cut-off for donating is the end of the day today, November 17th.

There are prizes and leaderboards for Give to the Max Day on the GiveMN Web site. The organizations that raise the most funds appear on the leaderboards – Overall Leaderboard, Medium Nonprofits Leaderboard, Small Nonprofits Leaderboard, and Colleges & Universities Leaderboard – and the top five organizations on each leaderboard receive prize grants. "Golden Tickets" of $1,000 each and other prizes are awarded throughout the day, as well as two "Super-Sized Golden Tickets" of $10,000 each.

United Way of Northeastern Minnesota is doing a good job of communicating about their direct services, such as Buddy Backpacks, Imagination Library, Bright Beginnings, Good360, Smiles Across Minnesota, and United for Veterans. They are also doing a good job of communicating results that will be achieved if money is donated to each of these programs.

If you are involved in a fundraising day like United Way of Northeastern Minnesota, we would encourage you to communicate about your specific issue(s), the actions you are taking to address your issue(s) (for example: your direct services), and the results you are achieving in the community.

Check out these three ideas to take a fundraising day to the next level and Make It Awesome!

How to Take a Fundraising Day and Make It Awesome!

  1. Only communicate about one or two issues. Many United Ways communicate about multiple issues within categories, such as education, income, and health. If you are not yet issue-focused, we would encourage you to focus on communicating about one or two issues your United Way is addressing in the community. You do not want to overwhelm your community with multiple issues you are addressing and you want to be able to communicate a concise message that people will remember, especially if you are competing for dollars with other local nonprofits. When people are searching for a specific cause/issue on these Web sites, you want them to find your United Way and understand what your United Way does if they visit your fundraising page.
  2. Do not talk about categories or processes. You have limited space and time to get your message across, and you do not want to waste it talking about multiple categories or processes. Potential donors want to know about the issue(s) your United Way is focused on addressing in the community, and categories are not issues. Potential donors do not care about processes or how you do things at your United Way – they are concerned about how their donation will make an impact on a specific issue.
  3. Communicate clear actions and results. Take a look at United Way of Northeastern Minnesota’s "Find a Cause" page here. They are doing a great job of communicating about their direct services, which are the actions they are taking, as well as the results that will be achieved if they receive donations toward those programs/causes (If you click on each program/cause on the "Find a Cause" page, it opens up a new Web page with additional information about United Way of Northeastern Minnesota’s actions and results). We would encourage you to communicate actions and results like United Way of Northeastern Minnesota is doing, but only the actions and results for the one or two issue(s) you decide to highlight.

By following these three simple ideas, you will take your involvement in a fundraising day and Make It Awesome!

If you would like us to review something your United Way is doing and Make It Awesome! send me an e-mail at kasey@perspectives4uw.com. As your Issue-Focused Consultant, I will share great tips and ideas with you about how to enhance what you are doing, and will provide you with the information your donors and community want to know, based on our research and experience in working with United Ways.


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!


Turkey Trot for a Cause

Is your United Way holding an event on or around Thanksgiving? Is it tied to a specific issue?

United Way of Marathon County (Wausau, Wisconsin) is encouraging their community to participate in the 6th Annual Eastbay Turkey Trot 5k Run/Walk on Thanksgiving. This event is tied to the issue of hunger and they explain that by registering in the Turkey Trot, you will help feed those in need throughout the year. The proceeds from registration fees will be donated to the Marathon County Hunger Coalition, an initiative of United Way of Marathon County.

United Way of Marathon County has been promoting this event on their Web site. They have also been encouraging people to bring non-perishable food donations, which will benefit the United Way Hunger Coalition, and they have been inviting people to volunteer.

Mile High United Way (Denver, Colorado) is inviting their community to “strut their stuffin'” at the 42nd Annual Mile High United Way Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. They explain that by participating in the Turkey Trot, you will help Mile High United Way build the community by improving childhood literacy, increasing high school graduation rates and ensuring economic self-sufficiency for adults and families.

Mile High United Way has been promoting this event on their Web site, Facebook, and Twitter. On Twitter, they also encouraged people to shop at Denver Whole Foods stores on Wednesday, November 18th to support the Mile High United Way Turkey Trot. They have also been inviting people to volunteer.

While I saw other examples of United Ways holding Turkey Trots or other events on or around Thanksgiving, I really liked both of these examples because they tied the events to specific issues that their United Ways are addressing in the community. Instead of just inviting people to come out for a fundraising event, they explained the impact community members will have on specific issues in the community by participating in these Turkey Trots.

The next time you hold an event in your community, consider tying the event to a specific issue. People will be more likely to attend an event if they know they are helping to make an impact on a specific issue in the community.

If your United Way is interested in adopting an issue focus, which will provide you with an opportunity to hold events like these which are tied to a specific issue being addressed by your United Way, check out our Direction-Setting Process.