If you are here because your board has voted to adopt an issue focus, CONGRATULATIONS! We are so excited and cannot wait to guide your United Way in successfully becoming issue-focused!

If your board has not yet made the decision to adopt an issue focus, but you are curious about the process we use to guide United Ways toward adopting an issue focus, we are glad you are here. We call this three-step process Direction-Setting.


Step One: Understanding

Your United Way must understand the critical social issues facing your community, how your donors feel about those issues, your partner agencies’ ability to work within an issue focus, the priorities of your board and staff, the probability of continued support from your top campaigns, and how other United Ways have transformed to an issue focus.

So, how will we make all of this happen at your United Way?

During the Understanding step of the Direction-Setting process, we will work with your United Way to collect and analyze the following information:

  • Donors’ Perceptions. We will create and distribute a customized donor survey to all of your donors from the past year or two, in order to understand their needs and concerns, especially as it relates to community impact.
  • Partner Agencies’ Views. Your partner agencies will be an important part of your success when implementing an issue focus. Typically, we will ask you to hold a meeting with your partner agencies to discuss the process of adopting an issue focus at your United Way; however, we can facilitate this meeting for you, if desired.
  • Top Campaigns’ Opinions. Your top campaigns will have an opportunity to share their opinions about social issues in your community, and if they would support your United Way if you focus on a specific issue. Because you have relationships with your top campaigns, we will ask you to hold individual meetings/conversations with your top campaigns.
  • Board and Staff Priorities. We will prepare and distribute a customized board/staff survey to your board and staff, in order to understand their priorities and concerns related to transforming to an issue focus. 
  • Community Input. Many United Ways have completed some form of community outreach, such as holding conversations, focus groups, or meetings to discover community members’ concerns, goals, and aspirations. However, if your United Way has not received input from your community recently, we can conduct a community survey.
  • Issue Information. Issue case statements include statistics about the prevalence of the issues in your community, and how the issues are being addressed. We will share examples of other United Ways’ issue case statements, and ask you to put together issue case statements for the issues you are considering addressing.
  • Other United Ways’ Experiences. Transforming to an issue focus at your United Way will be easier because other United Ways have gone down the same path before you. We will connect you with United Ways similar to yours in size and situation, so you can learn about their experiences in transforming to an issue focus.

By collecting and analyzing this information, your United Way will have the understanding essential to implementing an issue focus at your United Way.


Step Two: Opportunities

Once all of the information is collected in the Understanding step of the Direction-Setting process, the next step is discussing what this information means for the future of your United Way. We will make sense of all this information during our Opportunities step. We will compile the information and prepare a webinar for your board and staff to view about the opportunities and possibilities for your United Way. This webinar will present the results of the board/staff survey, donor survey, community survey (if conducted), and meetings with partner agencies and top campaigns. The purpose of this webinar is to learn from the information collected, and not to make any decisions about the future of your United Way – that will come in the next step.

During the webinar, we will cover the following topics:

  • What issues make the most sense for your United Way to address
  • How supportive your donors will be if you adopt one of those issues
  • How partner agencies could work with you to implement issue-focused community impact
  • How your top campaigns feel about social issues in the community and if they would support your United Way when you focus on a specific issue
  • Priorities of your board and staff for the future of your United Way

In this day and age, it is easy to become overwhelmed with too much information and too many choices. By reviewing the results of the information collected, we will narrow your focus on those opportunities which could be most beneficial for your United Way.


Step Three: Direction

The final step of the Direction-Setting process is to determine and plan the vision and direction for the future of your United Way. This will happen at our Direction-Setting session. After your board and staff have had an opportunity to reflect on all of the information, opportunities, and possibilities for your United Way covered in the Opportunities step, a four-hour Direction-Setting session will be held with your board and staff. This session will allow your board and staff to discuss and decide the future of your United Way, including:

  • The issue your United Way will focus on addressing
  • Your bold goal for your United Way and your community
  • How you will measure success, in addition to campaign dollars raised
A number of my board members who have been part of planning sessions for their organizations (local university, hospital, and major employers) praised your services and felt the sessions were excellent!
— Pat Berger, President/CEO of United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Area

A Note for Smaller United Ways

At Perspectives, we understand that smaller United Ways have limited time and financial resources, and that the process of adopting an issue focus is no easier for smaller United Ways than it is for larger United Ways. Therefore, we have developed a Direction-Setting process for smaller United Ways, which recognizes the limited time and financial resources of smaller United Ways. If your United Way is a smaller United Way and you are interested in our Direction-Setting process, please contact us and let us share with you how our Direction-Setting process for smaller United Ways can help your United Way adopt an issue focus effectively, efficiently, and affordably.


Next Step: Strategic Planning