Results

Taking Our Own Advice

We got a facelift.

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You may have noticed and been too polite to say anything. But that’s OK – we’re not ashamed of the work we’ve had done. Actually, we’re proud because the experience of totally stripping down and rebuilding reminded us why we’re here.

Of course, we don’t mean that we’ve had our faces redone – we mean that we redid our website.

Redesigning our website wasn’t easy; it meant facing the fact that we haven’t been following our own advice.

Prior to its facelift, our website was laden with excruciating detail about our processes – how we run board retreats, how we conduct donor research, etc. This made our website was dull and overwhelming. Our web pages were so overwhelming that almost no one took the time to read them, so what we had to offer to clients wasn’t easily understood.

Additionally, the content and design of our website were dated, so despite our consistent good work in the real world, we did not appear relevant.

Redesigning our website was an exercise in empathy. Getting bogged down in discussions of process and struggling to assert relevance despite a portfolio of good work are challenges faced by many United Ways. The opportunity to be in their shoes reminded us why Perspectives exists.

The fact of the matter is that changing the way you’ve always done things is challenging, which is why it’s helpful to have expert guides for the journey. Our adventure into the world of website design did not happen alone. We were guided by our long-time graphic designer, two exceptional copywriters and proofreaders, and the wisdom of several United Way CEOs to make our transition successful.

While our transition took a few months, our path to clear messaging and relevance was relatively straight-forward thanks to the help of our many guides. However, the transformation that most United Ways need to make to assure their relevance, sustainability, impactfulness and clear messaging is far more complex.

We have always seen ourselves as guides for United Ways, but being on the opposite end of the process – facing a change that we knew needed to happen – reminded us of the power of experienced guides.

The best guides prepare you for obstacles before you can even see them and make even the most challenging paths traversable.

Perspectives exists to be the best guide possible for United Ways that desire relevant, sustainable, and deeply impactful futures. While our look may have changed, our commitment to that mission has not. If you believe your United Way exists to impact your community, we are here to help you do that.

To learn more about how we help United Ways ensure their relevance, sustainability, and impactfulness for years to come, check out our newly updated services page or see how our guidance is helping one United Way make real impact on the issue of poverty.

After you have had a chance to take a look at our new website, please feel free to share your thoughts with us at sarah-and-gary@perspectives4uw.com.

The Communication Challenge Facing United Ways

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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.

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Who Cares?

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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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