Great Rivers – Great Times in Green Bay!

Gary and I headed back from Green Bay, Wisconsin last night after attending the 2017 Great Rivers Conference. It was a wonderful conference and we enjoyed meeting with United Ways from across the Midwest!

While we were at the conference, we presented two sessions and had a lot of great discussions with United Ways about how we can guide them in transforming to an issue focus.

During our first session, "Positioning Your United Way for 2020: What You Must Plan & Start Doing Today," we started by talking about the common communication, resource development, and impact challenges facing United Ways across the country. We then asked United Ways to think about the important question of why their United Way exists and whether they are fundraising-focused or issue-focused. Finally, we discussed the strategies being used by progressive United Ways, such as various issue investment methods, donor-centric methods, and creating a call to action.

Our second session, "Effectively Communicate on Social Media," focused on what people want to know from your United Way and how to use social media effectively, based on our research with United Way donors and community members across the country. We shared examples of how to inform and engage your donors and community members, and attendees had discussions about best practices and ideas for using social media effectively.

We are so glad we had the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful people while attending the conference, and look forward to working with some of you in the near future!

 

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: www.perspectives4uw.com/issue-focus

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

 

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.

 

Doing It Right! United Way of Northwest Arkansas (Lowell, AR)

What is your United Way doing to raise awareness of the issue you are focused on addressing in your community? United Way of Northwest Arkansas (Lowell, AR) recently held a Poverty Challenge to raise awareness of the issue of families living in poverty in the community and the daily struggle they face. Community leaders were challenged to spend only $5 a day on food (per person in their family), and their experiences with the Poverty Challenge were shared on United Way of Northwest Arkansas’ Facebook, Twitter, and blog. Board members and staff participated in this challenge and posted pictures of the food they purchased and their receipts. They also shared their thoughts about this challenge and pictures of the meals they ate throughout the week.

What are they doing right?

First, this Poverty Challenge raised awareness of the issue United Way of Northwest Arkansas is focused on addressing. United Way of Northwest Arkansas is addressing the issue of child poverty and this Poverty Challenge is just one of the many ways they are informing their community about their issue. They have done a great job explaining the prevalence of their issue in their community on their Web site and on social media.

Second, this is a great way to engage the community, and it gives participants and the community a glimpse of what it would be like to live in poverty. Whether someone participated in the Poverty Challenge or followed someone else’s experience, the community was able to see how their neighbors could be struggling. By understanding what people in their community may be experiencing, community members will be more likely to want to make a difference and contribute to United Way of Northwest Arkansas.

Third, this challenge helped to spread the word about what United Way of Northwest Arkansas is doing in the community. In communities across the country, many people have heard of United Way, but have no idea what their local United Way does. Inviting community leaders to take part in this challenge and posting about their experiences on social media was a great way to inform the community about the issue United Way of Northwest Arkansas is focused on addressing in the community. In addition, the local media provided coverage for the Poverty Challenge, including tweets by KNWA News and an online article.

It is essential to inform and engage your community about the issue you are addressing, just as United Way of Northwest Arkansas is doing. Your community will be more likely to contribute their time and/or money to your United Way if they know what you do, and an issue focus is a great way to simplify your message. Consider engaging your community in something similar to United Way of Northwest Arkansas’ Poverty Challenge to raise awareness of what you do and the importance of the issue you address. If you are not yet issue-focused, we can help guide you in becoming issue-focused, like we did for United Way of Northwest Arkansas. United Way of Northwest Arkansas, you are Doing It Right!

 

P.S. Check out this blog post from 2013 about United Way of Central Carolinas’ Young Leaders’ Week to Fight Hunger (Charlotte, North Carolina), which is similar to United Way of Northwest Arkansas’ Poverty Challenge.