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.

 

Make It Awesome! Affinity Groups

Does your United Way offer an affinity group that people can be a part of to make an impact on a specific issue in your community?

Many United Ways offer affinity groups at their United Way, but very rarely do we see affinity groups that are focused on addressing a specific issue. Most often, the examples we see are "peer groups," where United Ways are bringing people together who share demographic similarities, such as age, gender, or social status, and there is usually an expected minimum level of contribution to be a part of one of these groups. In order to be considered a true "affinity group," the group should be bringing people together around a common interest (e.g. a specific issue).

Let’s take a look at the affinity groups being offered by United Way of Central Virginia (Lynchburg, Virginia):

 
 

United Way of Central Virginia is offering two affinity groups – a Women’s Leadership Council and a Young Leaders Society. We think it is great that they are offering not one, but two ways to be involved with their United Way! In our work with United Ways across the country, we share the importance of being donor-centric and providing donor-centric methods to connect with people outside of workplace campaigns. It is absolutely essential to connect with donors in addition to the workplace campaign, in order to engage them throughout the year – and offering an affinity group is one of the donor-centric methods we recommend.

We would encourage you to follow United Way of Central Virginia and offer affinity groups at your United Way – but first, check out these three ideas to take an affinity group to the next level and Make It Awesome!

How to Take an Affinity Group and Make It Awesome!

  1. Connect it to a specific issue. If you have adopted an issue focus like United Way of Central Virginia, it is important to connect your issue to your affinity group. United Way of Central Virginia adopted the issue focus of education readiness and the bold goal of "90% Third Grade Reading Proficiency by 2025," after we guided their board and staff through our Direction-Setting Process. Instead of having your Women’s Leadership Council focus on categories, such as education, income, and health, have your Women’s Leadership Council focus on your issue focus, such as education readiness. Engage young people in your community by encouraging them to join your Young Leaders Society to help address your issue focus. Explain to your affinity group members how they can get involved by volunteering, giving, or advocating for your issue focus. If you have not yet adopted an issue focus, let your affinity group members decide on a specific issue to focus on addressing. People will be more likely to participate in an affinity group if they understand that they are helping to make an impact on a specific issue in your community.
  2. Let the members lead the group. Many United Ways have told us they don’t have the staff capacity to lead an affinity group and therefore do not offer an affinity group at their United Way. Whether you have an affinity group already or are considering offering one, consider letting the affinity group members lead this group. You have so many intelligent leaders in your community who are capable of leading your affinity group, once they receive guidance on the issue you are focused on addressing and your bold goal/what your United Way is focused on accomplishing in your community. Give your affinity group members the guidance they need to lead and grow your affinity group, and encourage them to invite their peers to participate and come up with ways to make an impact on the issue in your community.
  3. Get rid of the minimum level of contribution. Stop asking for a minimum level of contribution in order to participate in your affinity group. If you want to have leadership giving societies, make them separate from your affinity groups. If people want to make an impact on the issue your United Way is focused on addressing, encourage them to do so by joining your affinity group. Do not limit the number of people you could engage by requiring a minimum level of contribution. Instead, encourage people to become part of your affinity group to make a difference on a specific issue in your community. United Way of Central Virginia does not list a minimum level of contribution for their Young Leaders Society – not requiring a minimum level of contribution is especially important if you want to engage young people. Think about the number of young people you could engage if you invited them to make an impact on your issue by volunteering or advocating, rather than asking them to give a large amount of money.

By following these three simple ideas, you will take a great affinity group 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.

 

Make It Awesome! Pledge Forms

Does your pledge form include the information your donors want to know?

At Perspectives, we have conducted research for over 25 years for United Ways across the U.S. In our research, we have found that donors want to know three things: 1) the issue(s) your United Way is addressing, 2) the actions you are taking to address the issue(s), and 3) the results you are achieving in your community. We refer to these three things as I-A-R, or Issue(s), Actions, and Results.

Let’s take a look at the pledge form from one of our clients and good friends - United Way of Mercer County (Hermitage, PA). They recently transitioned to focusing on the issue of poverty and “Lifting Families Out of Poverty” in their community.

On United Way of Mercer County’s pledge form, you can clearly see they are focused on the issue of poverty - Lifting Families Out of Poverty. They do a great job of communicating actions they are taking within education, income, and health to address the issue of poverty, and they include results on their pledge form. They have done an excellent job providing far more information than most United Ways list on their pledge form! Here are three ideas that will take this pledge form even further and Make It Awesome!

How to Take This Pledge Form and Make It Awesome!

  1. Share statistics about the issue of poverty. Donors want to know the significance of the issue you are addressing in your community. Share statistics that indicate the prevalence of the issue, so donors know why they need to donate to address the issue.
  2. Talk about one specific action in more detail. Rather than sharing information about programs and services you are offering within the categories of education, income, and health, focus on sharing information about one program or service your United Way provides to address the issue in your community. Explain to donors how your United Way is making a difference by providing this program or service in your community.
  3. Communicate results related to addressing the issue of poverty. It is much more powerful to share that your United Way has helped move a specific number of families out of poverty and to tell a story about a family that was helped, than it is to share how much money was donated to support programs within education, income, and health. Tell donors about the impact their contributions have on families in your community.

These three simple ideas will take this already excellent pledge form 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 marketing 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.

 

Make It Awesome! Social Media Fundraisers

Did you participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? If not, I’m sure you heard about it from your friends and family, and saw videos posted on social media.

A similar fundraiser was done by a United Way. They invited people to “Give A Buck” and then “Pass The Buck” by posting a video on social media about why they donated to United Way and encouraging their friends and family to donate, as well.

 
 

We have shared this “I Give A Buck” fundraising campaign in our presentations, as an example of how to raise money on social media. While this is a creative fundraising idea, I have three ideas to share with you to Make It Awesome!

How to Take This Social Media Fundraiser and Make It Awesome!

  1. Communicate about a single issue. In a news article about the United Way holding the “I Give A Buck” fundraising campaign, this is how they described what the United Way does:

    Through their Community Impact Grants, the agency helps provide everything from aid for homebound seniors to scholarships for children to attend daycare. Some programs help at-risk youth, others provide after-school tutoring. The United Way of ______’s network of non-profit, business and government partners identifies and addresses the most pressing issues that affect ______’s residential and business communities, going beyond what any single organization can accomplish alone.

    This description isn’t dissimilar to how other United Ways describe what they do. United Ways do a lot of great things and it can be difficult to communicate a focused message. When you do your social media fundraiser, communicate about a single issue, such as: hunger, homelessness, school readiness, etc. Your message for the fundraising campaign could be something like “Give a buck to United Way of ____ to help end hunger in our community.” Remember, it is better to be known for one thing, rather than nothing at all, and people will be more likely to give if they understand what their donation supports.
     
  2. Add a fun challenge. In addition to asking people to “Give A Buck” and then “Pass The Buck,” get creative and add a challenge. If you want people to take part in your social media fundraiser, it will be easier to get them involved if you add a fun challenge, like dumping a bucket of ice over your head if you don’t donate to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Even if people choose not to donate, you will still raise awareness of your United Way and what you do in your community, and your fundraiser will be more likely to go viral if you add a fun challenge!
     
  3. Get your young leaders involved. A great way to start the chain reaction of asking people to donate is to get your young leaders involved! They are already on social media and have tons of friends. Ask your young leaders to post videos on social media, inviting their friends and family to participate, and remind them to communicate about your issue during their videos.

If you implement these three simple ideas, you will take this social media fundraiser 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 marketing 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.

 

Make It Awesome! Banners

We have always enjoyed highlighting and sharing the great work of United Ways from across the United States on our blog. Our monthly Doing It Right! blog posts shine a spotlight on the work of one United Way each month, and throughout the year we share examples from dozens of United Ways when we blog about topics like marketing, affinity groups, special events, community impact, social media, and volunteering.

This is the first blog post in a new series we are calling Make It Awesome! Our goal with our Make it Awesome! series is simple – take a good idea and make it even better. In our Make It Awesome! blog posts, we will take a look at something good that is currently being done by a United Way and then provide a couple of suggestions of how to Make It Awesome! We promise we’ll keep the suggestions simple, so it's easy to implement at your United Way.

 

Campaign season is underway for many United Ways across the country. Campaign kick-offs are happening every day, United Way staff members are busy preparing and meeting with workplaces and donors in the community, and signs are going up around town…just like this banner I saw while traveling this past weekend:

 
 

I am always excited when I come across a United Way banner, billboard, or sign, especially when it is from a local United Way. This banner, along with dozens of other banners, lined the main street in the downtown area I was visiting.

This banner, as is, is a great example of raising awareness of your local United Way in the community. As people are driving or walking by, they can easily see that there is a local United Way and that they can support it.

However, while this banner is great for raising awareness of your local United Way, I have three ideas to share with you to take this banner and Make It Awesome!

How to Take This Banner and Make It Awesome!

  1. Add your Web site address. If someone is not familiar with your local United Way, they will not know how to support your United Way, unless you tell them. Make sure to connect people back to your Web site, by providing your Web site address on your banner, so they can support you.
  2. Invite people to give, advocate, or volunteer. Instead of saying “Support United Way,” say “Donate to...,” “Advocate to…,” or “Volunteer to...,” and follow that phrase with the text suggested in the third idea below.
  3. Communicate impact. Use the space on the banner that says “Support United Way” to communicate impact. The United Way logo and name is already included at the bottom of the banner, so it is not necessary to repeat “United Way” again. Also, people will not know what will be accomplished if they choose to support your United Way, if you do not communicate impact. End the phrase with the impact of their contribution; for example, “reduce poverty,” “end hunger,” or “increase graduation rates.”

If you implement these three ideas, the message at the top of your United Way’s banner will say something like: “Donate to reduce poverty,” “Advocate to end hunger,” or “Volunteer to increase graduation rates.” In four or five words, you are inviting people to get involved with your United Way and you are communicating impact.

The bottom of your United Way’s banner will include your United Way’s logo and name, plus your Web site address, so people know who you are and how to support your United Way.

If you implement these three simple ideas, you will take this banner 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 marketing consultant, I will share great tips and ideas with you about how to enhance your materials, 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.