The Story of Julie Capaldi and the United Way of Pickens County

Have you experienced a loss in your donor base? Do you feel like you need to better connect with your donors and community members?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you will be able to relate to what Julie Capaldi experienced at United Way of Pickens County (Easley, SC) as President over the past 24 years.

Julie recently shared her story of how United Way of Pickens County experienced a significant loss in their donor base and how she turned things around and now better connects with donors and community members, while riding the Nonprofit Story Tour bus.

During the video where Julie shares her story, she talks about how essential it is to communicate impact about a specific issue and to share "S-S-T" with donors and community members. "S-S-T" is our acronym that we first shared with United Way of Pickens County in 2011, which stands for Statistics, Stories, and Trust & Accountability. Based on our years of experience in conducting research for United Ways, we have found that about one-third of donors want to see statistics, about one-third want to hear stories, and about one-third care about trust and accountability.

Julie also talks about "a consultant from Michigan" and gives a shout-out to Gary at approximately 10 minutes into the video, referring to Gary Goscenski, one of our Issue-Focused Consultants here at Perspectives. Gary has been working with Julie and her team at United Way of Pickens County since 2011 to focus and maximize their impact, resources, and communication.

On the homepage of our website, we share a quote from Julie, which says: "You were so right! 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. This is all we talk about – at campaign presentations, to donors, and to our community – and now everyone knows what United Way of Pickens County does in the community."

We love how Julie talks about how people felt moved to give to United Way of Pickens County when she shared a story about summer learning loss and their Camp iRock program. We encourage you to come along for the ride as Julie explains how focusing on a specific issue has been the key to engaging donors in the community – check out the video here.

To learn more about an issue focus, visit If you are interested in becoming issue-focused, you can find more information about how we can guide your United Way in your transformation at

Kasey 2017 Blog Signature NEW.png

Doing It Right! United Way of Snohomish County (Everett, WA)

In this day and age, every United Way needs to communicate their financial accountability to their donors and the community. In many cases, United Ways have a financial accountability Web page stuffed full of language that sounds like it comes straight from the small print of a financial institution Web site. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. One United Way that has figured out how to communicate financial accountability in an effective and efficient manner is United Way of Snohomish County (Everett, Washington).

On the Financial Information page of their Web site, United Way of Snohomish County includes information about why people should support United Way of Snohomish County, and how much money was raised to achieve their vision. Links within the page lead to their vision, annual report, and their code of ethics. Related links on the right side of the Web page lead to a simple explanation of where the money comes from and goes, as well as their 990 and audit report.

What are they doing right?

First, all of the financial information a donor might want is available from this page. When donors seek financial information, often all they are looking for is what United Way did with their contribution. By starting with the vision of United Way of Snohomish County, this question is answered, with additional information available in the annual report. If a donor truly wants more information, the links to “Where the Money Comes From” and “Where Your Contribution Goes” provide even more detail. Finally, seriously concerned donors will find links to the audit report and 990 filings, should they need to know every last financial detail. Most importantly, United Way of Snohomish County provides all of the information a donor might need right from this page.

Second, their trust is based on their people. Perhaps most obvious is the picture of Andrew Ballard, chairman of their board of directors. If United Way of Snohomish County was a bank, perhaps they could build a big brick or marble building so solid it conveys a trust that comes from the permanence of the building. In this case, trust is conveyed by Mr. Ballard’s picture as the person looking after the financial accountability of United Way of Snohomish County. This makes United Way of Snohomish County personal, an organization overseen by someone you know and can trust from your community.  

The personal aspect of their financial accountability continues with the link for Jeri Wilkes, the chief financial officer, and her phone number, on the right side of the Web page. This screams out “If you have a question about our finances, contact Jeri.” And it doesn’t stop with just Jeri – you can also contact Ethics Officer Becky Mackenstadt, whose phone number and e-mail are listed at the bottom of the Web page. United Way of Snohomish County actually connects their staff to many pages on their Web site, not just this page. Making United Way personal, by connecting board members, volunteers, and staff, builds trust and accountability.

Not only do we recognize how United Way of Snohomish County communicated financial accountability as being worthy of emulation by other United Ways, but last year, Jeri Wilkes, chief financial officer of United Way of Snohomish County, was named Finance Officer of the Year by United Way Worldwide. This recognition is bestowed upon a financial officer in the United Way system that exhibits outstanding leadership in financial management, and is seen as a role model inside and outside of their organization. Congratulations to Jeri!

Demonstrating financial accountability is a must for all United Ways, but for many United Ways it is merely an afterthought. At United Way of Snohomish County, financial accountability is clearly demonstrated in an effective and efficient manner. If you haven’t visited the financial accountability page of your Web site recently, you might want to take a look and see how some of the ideas used by United Way of Snohomish County might improve how you communicate financial accountability to your donors and community. United Way of Snohomish County, you are Doing It Right!


Doing It Right! United Way of South Mississippi (Gulfport, MS)

Donors want and expect their United Way to provide them with information about the impact of their contribution. Providing that information can be a challenge - what do you say and how do you say it in a way that will be meaningful to donors? Some United Ways will include information about their issues and impact as a part of their annual report, which often gets lost between pages of donors’ names and financial statements. United Way of South Mississippi has developed a 2013 Donor Report, which is specifically designed to let donors know about the impact of their contribution:

This is just one of the pages of their 2013 Donor Report; other pages include statistics about the education, income, and health challenges facing South Mississippi residents and another page includes information about volunteering and people involved with United Way of South Mississippi. The last page of the 2013 Donor Report includes stories about impact: 

What are they doing right?

First, their 2013 Donor Report includes statistics, stories, and reinforces trust and accountability. The report includes statistics, such as the number of children that drop-out of school or how many people do not earn enough money to meet their basic needs. These statistics make it clear to donors how significant these challenges are in South Mississippi. There are three stories about the impact of donors’ contributions on the last page. These stories make the issues personal, by sharing how people have benefited from the donor’s contribution. Finally, trust and accountability is reinforced by a listing of staff and volunteers, so that donors can see who is personally responsible and accountable for their contribution. Donors need to see all three things: statistics about the issues, stories about the results, and who is responsible and accountable for their contribution.

Second, the 2013 Donor Report provides donors with information about volunteering and shows donors how they can volunteer. Many donors are unaware of opportunities to volunteer and United Way of South Mississippi has made it a priority to increase the number of volunteers by letting donors know how to volunteer. Their 30 Ways In 30 Days Challenge is a great way to get people to volunteer and the donor report points people to their Web site for a complete list of volunteer opportunities.

Third, the 2013 Donor Report is long enough to provide the information donors want, but not so long as to overwhelm donors. The report is visually interesting with an infographic of information and statistics, followed by a page of stories. Donors are referred to additional information on the Web site, keeping the report short and to the point.

A donor report like the 2013 Donor Report from United Way of South Mississippi is a great way to communicate with donors about the impact of their contribution. A lot of information is provided in this report in a variety of ways sure to appeal to all donors. The next time your United Way is considering producing some type of report for donors, consider what United Way of South Mississippi has done and make a report that is meaningful and effective for donors. United Way of South Mississippi, you are Doing It Right!

Gary First name Sig GREEN.png

Doing It Right! Mile High United Way (Denver, CO)

Once again, it is workplace campaign season for United Ways. For many United Ways, most of the communication and marketing with donors and potential donors occurs during campaign season, which makes it essential that workplace campaigns communicate your message effectively. The campaign brochure is perhaps the most important communication piece of the year, as it must make the case why donors should continue supporting United Way, and why potential donors should start supporting United Way. One of the most effective campaign brochures comes from Mile High United Way in Denver, CO.

What are they doing right?

First, the campaign brochure covers all three things a donor needs to know – what are the issues your United Way addresses, what actions is your United Way taking to address the issues, and what results is your United Way achieving. The campaign brochure clearly lists the three areas Mile High United Way works in, and talks about how they address the issue for each area. For example, under school readiness, it explains the issue of children reading at grade level by the end of third grade and the actions Mile High United Way took, including providing over 5,000 books and launching the Colorado Reads early literacy initiative. The results included over 450 early childhood classrooms receiving financial support. Similar descriptions of the issue, action, and results are listed for youth success, and adult sufficiency. More information about the importance of communicating issues, actions, and results can be found in our Webinar at

Second, statistics about the prevalence of the issues are listed at the bottom of the first page under the headline “So what’s left to do?” For the school readiness issue, the statistic is 27% of Colorado third graders are not reading at grade level and falling further behind. This statistic, along with statistics about graduation rates and poverty, make it clear to donors and potential donors that these are not small, isolated issues, but rather important issues that significantly impact their community and region. There does not need to be a lot of statistics to convince donors, and in just a couple of sentences Mile High United Way has offered enough statistics to open donors’ eyes to the issues.

Third, the campaign brochure makes it clear that it will take donations of time, as well as money, to address these issues. On the top of the second page under the headline “What can we do together this year?” a goal of 3,000 reading tutors and mentors is listed as part of the effort to address school readiness. The words “To DONATE or VOLUNTEER visit” appear more than once on the campaign brochure, reinforcing the need for financial donations, as well as volunteer hours. Giving donors an opportunity to volunteer when they already financially support United Way deepens their relationship with United Way. Allowing people to volunteer, when they may not have the resources to financially contribute, allows people to join in the United Way mission now, and increases the likelihood that they will donate financially in the future.

Fourth, there is a section of the campaign brochure dedicated to addressing donors’ concerns about trust and accountability. Perhaps the most important statement in this section reinforces that donations are invested in the local, five county metro area, something that potential donors often question about United Way.

The campaign brochure should make the case why donors should continue supporting United Way and why potential donors should start supporting United Way. By communicating the issues, actions, and results they are achieving, providing statistics about the issues, and asking people to both give and volunteer, Mile High United Way has made the case to donors and potential donors. When it comes time for you to develop a campaign brochure for your United Way, keep in mind some of the ways Mile High United Way has used to effectively communicate with their donors and potential donors. Mile High United Way, you are Doing It Right!