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

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Doing It Right! United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties (Wooster, OH)

Adopting an issue focus transforms a United Way from a focus on workplace campaigns and raising money, to a focus on community impact and making meaningful change. Once a United Way has adopted an issue focus, it is essential to explain to donors and the community what issue is being addressed, why that issue is important, and the bold goal for that issue. One United Way we have helped transform to an issue focus through our Direction-Setting Process is United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties (Wooster, OH). Let’s take a look at how United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties explains their transformation to the issue of poverty and their bold goal of “10,000 out of poverty by 2025.”

What are they doing right?

First, they clearly talk about the need to address poverty and why United Way needs to change. There are statistics and information about the significance of poverty in Wayne and Holmes Counties, and the impact of poverty on children and their educational success. These statistics clearly demonstrate the magnitude of the challenge of poverty and the importance of trying to reduce poverty in Wayne and Holmes Counties. There is also a brief explanation of why United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties is changing from a fundraising organization to a leader in bringing the community together to focus on a shared goal of moving 10,000 people out of poverty by 2025. There is a great sentence at the bottom of the page which explains this change: “Instead of raising money and allowing individual agencies to come to the table asking for money for the programs/initiatives they see as important, the issue of moving people out of poverty will drive the fundraising strategies.”

Second, United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties puts a stake in the ground with their bold goal of “10,000 out of poverty by 2025.” They state “We need to focus on a common agenda, a shared goal” and “work differently towards that shared goal.” For United Ways to be successful with community impact, it is essential to replace the traditional campaign goal with a goal related to an issue. The goal of “10,000 out of poverty by 2025” will not be accomplished by United Way alone, and requires mobilizing the resources of the entire community.

Third, United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties makes it easy for people to get involved with their “Donate” or “2-1-1 Get Help” tabs along the side of their Web pages. (Please note: the “Donate” and “2-1-1 Get Help” tabs only appear once on the side of their Web page, this screenshot repeated these tabs for some unknown reason.) In addition, the Web page outlines the community involvement in the section “We are listening to you” where they talk about their community conversations.

If your United Way is considering the possibility of adopting an issue focus, consider how United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties has shared statistics about their issue of poverty, set a bold goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty by 2025, and outlined how they will address the issue of poverty. An issue focus will make it easier for your United Way to clearly and simply communicate your work. United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties made the transition to an issue focus using our Direction-Setting Process. United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties has done a great job communicating about their transformation to an issue focus, their issue of poverty, and their bold goal. United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties, you are Doing It Right!


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 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.