Virtual Lemonade Stand

Are you providing opportunities for people to support your United Way outside of campaign? Have you tried raising money for your United Way online?

If you’re thinking to yourself, "We’ve tried raising money for our United Way online and it hasn’t been successful," take a look at what United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area (Grand Forks, ND) did this year.

United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area held a "Virtual Lemonade Stand" for their Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. They promoted this virtual fundraiser in their e-newsletter and on social media.

United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area tied this virtual fundraiser to Dr. Seuss’ birthday (March 2nd) and encouraged their donors and community to help them provide a year of free books to 60 children by March 2nd. They also communicated results of the program, saying "Locally, 87% of parents who had a child enrolled in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library said their child graduated from the program better prepared for kindergarten," and "Locally, over the past five years, 106,618 books have been distributed and 1,705 children have graduated from the program." Most importantly, they communicated the impact of a donor’s contribution, saying that a $30 donation will provide a year of books to a local child.

United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area ended up exceeding their goal of providing a year of free books to 60 children and thanked their donors for their support on their website and social media.


The key to holding a successful fundraiser is to communicate about a specific issue and the impact of a donor’s contribution, just as United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area did with their fundraiser. Many United Ways do not succeed in holding a virtual fundraiser when they communicate about multiple categories, like education, income, and health, and only share a monetary goal. Successful virtual fundraisers are based on communicating a clear message about a single issue and sharing the specific impact of a donor’s contribution.

It is important to provide opportunities for people to give to your United Way outside of campaign, especially for those people who aren’t exposed to a workplace campaign. Also, you will find that your current donors will support your United Way through additional giving opportunities as well as continue giving to your United Way through the workplace campaign.

If your United Way is having difficulty communicating a simple and specific message, you may want to consider an issue focus. United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area is issue-focused, and has been able to simplify their message and raise additional resources outside of campaign because of their issue focus. To learn more about an issue focus, visit:


Volunteering & Seeing the Impact

My family and I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County this fall in memory of my aunt Peg who passed away from cancer earlier this year. My aunt Peg volunteered for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County in the past, so my family and friends wanted to come together and do something that she loved doing in her memory. I was looking forward to volunteering with my family and friends to help make a difference in someone’s life, while spending time together and sharing stories of my aunt with one another.

The day we were scheduled to volunteer, I was prepared to paint walls, as that was the activity I had been told our group would be doing. However, when I arrived, I was informed I would be working on wood flooring instead. I was surprised and a little bit nervous, as I had never done a job like wood flooring before! But, with a quick overview of how to use some tools, including a miter saw, and some instructions about how to put the flooring down, I was ready to tackle the job with my team. I was the designated cutter, so I cut pieces to the appropriate lengths and helped to line them up and place them together. After the first few rows, my team got the hang of it and started moving along more efficiently. We made good progress and finished a large portion of the dining room floor, and I was proud to see the work we had accomplished at the end of the day.

Wood Flooring

My volunteering experience with Habitat for Humanity of Kent County turned out to be so empowering, as I was in a group with two other women working on a job none of us had experience doing. I learned that I was capable of using tools like a miter saw and laying down flooring, and I even enjoyed doing it!

On Tuesday, December 6th, I had the pleasure of attending the dedication ceremony at the house I had worked on and had the opportunity to see the entire house completed. The house was packed, as dozens and dozens of people showed up for the event. There were introductions, speeches, and gifts given, but my favorite part of the evening was when the new homeowner, Tiara Vandam, spoke.

As a volunteer, I was able to see and hear about the impact I had made for Tiara and her family, and it was so great to know the home was going to someone who was kind and deserving.

Program - Page 1
Program - Page 2

In addition to hearing Tiara speak, I was able to read her story, which was included in the program at the dedication ceremony.


A few days after the ceremony, I received an e-mail from Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, thanking me for volunteering.


Habitat for Humanity of Kent County did a great job of communicating impact by sharing stories and results, and thanking their volunteers. My experience with Habitat for Humanity of Kent County was wonderful and I will be more likely to volunteer/donate to their organization in the future, knowing that I made a difference for a deserving family.

Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is a great example of making your volunteers’ experience great by communicating impact and thanking your volunteers. Remember it is important to build relationships with your volunteers by offering direct volunteerism opportunities at your United Way, rather than passing all of your volunteers through to partner agencies. Volunteers will be more likely to contribute to your United Way if their volunteering experience is with your United Way, rather than another organization.

Becoming issue-focused opens the door to direct volunteerism opportunities at your United Way, and increases engagement with your volunteers and donors. Check out our Web page about what it means to be issue-focused here.


Thanks + Giving

Are you thanking your donors and encouraging them to give this holiday season?

United Way of Greater Augusta (Staunton, VA) sent out an e-newsletter just before Thanksgiving, thanking their donors and encouraging them to give this #GivingTuesday. Their e-newsletter was simple and to-the-point, and the two sections of the e-newsletter each focused on a specific issue.

In the “Thanks” section of the e-newsletter, United Way of Greater Augusta wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and thanked their donors for supporting their United Way. They explained how they were able to help community members obtain financial stability with their support.


In the “Giving” section of the e-newsletter, United Way of Greater Augusta explained that they were participating in #GivingTuesday to raise money for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, an initiative which encourages reading and promotes childhood literacy. They explained that the program sends a child a book once a month and currently there is a waiting list for kids in the community to receive books. United Way of Greater Augusta encouraged people to sponsor a child for $30 to help the children on the waiting list receive books.


United Way of Greater Augusta did a great job focusing on one issue while thanking donors, and one issue while encouraging people to give. People will be more likely to remember what your United Way does, and will be more likely to donate, if you communicate a simple and focused message, just as United Way of Greater Augusta did in their e-newsletter.

If you are interested in learning more about adopting an issue focus to simplify and focus your United Way’s message, visit:

We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you are participating in #GivingTuesday this year, we hope you have a successful #GivingTuesday tomorrow!


Halloween Festivities

What is your United Way doing to celebrate Halloween this year?

United Way Silicon Valley (San Jose, CA) offers one-day volunteer opportunities for their community to easily get involved and make a difference. Most of their one-day volunteer opportunities are designed to complement their work in promoting early learning success and to strengthen families enrolled in targeted elementary schools in their community. They recently invited parents and their children to get involved and participate in a one-day volunteer opportunity to help create Healthy Halloween Snack Packs. The snack packs were created to help promote the importance of proper oral hygiene and healthy eating options around Halloween when kids consume a large quantity of junk food and candy. The snack packs include healthy goodies, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and health related resources for parents, and will be distributed to students at targeted elementary schools in the community.

United Way Silicon Valley made it easy to volunteer to help create the snack packs. The volunteer opportunity was from 9 a.m. to noon this past Saturday and United Way Silicon Valley provided a simple form to register on their Web site. They promoted this volunteer opportunity on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and thanked their volunteers and included pictures afterward:

Consider inviting your community to volunteer to raise awareness of what your United Way is doing in the community, just as United Way Silicon Valley is doing.

Have a safe and fun time celebrating Halloween this weekend!


Make Donors Feel Important

Recently, I heard an interview with a businessman who attributed his success, in large part, to the idea of making people feel important. He said it is his goal to make everyone he meets and works with feel important all the time.

This idea of making people feel important also applies to United Ways – specifically, United Ways will be successful when they make donors feel important. At a simple level, making donors feel important starts with a prompt thank you and acknowledgement of their gift, something most United Ways do very well. Every United Way donor, no matter the size of their donation, deserves to know that their contribution was received and appreciated. This has become more difficult, as some employers do not release the names of their donors, which means United Ways need to look at alternative ways to make sure each and every donor is acknowledged and thanked.

But, making donors feel important goes far beyond just thanking and acknowledging them. Donors want to know how their contribution made things better. United Ways struggle to make donors feel important because they have difficulty telling donors what their contribution accomplished. Many United Ways talk about funding dozens of programs, having hundreds of volunteers determine which programs get funded, or meeting the campaign goal. But, these things do not make donors feel important because these things are all about United Way and not about the donor.

Donors want to know that their donation provided someone a home, fed a hungry family, or allowed someone to graduate from high school. Donors will feel important when they hear a story about someone who their contribution helped to get a job or become self-sufficient. Donors will feel important when they can clearly see and feel how their contribution made a difference in their community.

Every interaction you have with a donor is an opportunity to make that donor feel important – campaign brochures, workplace campaign presentations, thank-you letters, media interviews, Web site, social media, even the person who answers the phone at your United Way. Make a list of all the interactions and touch points your United Way has with donors both formally and informally and you will find you have ample opportunity to make donors feel important throughout the year.

Making your donors feel important is not difficult, but it requires a focus on your donors. Making your donors feel important is all about your donors and not about your United Way.