Issue Focus Model
The Issue Focus Model is the answer for United Ways that desire to be relevant, sustainable, and impactful now and in the future.
The Issue Focus Model Philosophy
At typical United Ways, the goal is raising as much money is possible.
With the Issue Focus Model, the goal is changing the community.
Typical United Ways
Raise money and then decide how to invest it in programs that address broad categories of issues such as education, income, and health.
Issue-Focused United Ways
Set a long-term bold goal to impact just one issue, decide how to impact the issue, and then raise money to impact the issue.
The Issue Focus Model is based on the philosophy that United Ways exist to impact their communities.
At the heart of the Issue Focus Model is the commitment to deeply impact one issue.
The Issue Focus Model Difference
Issue-focused United Ways are different from typical United Ways because they have long-term relevance, sustainability, and impactfulness.
With the Issue Focus Model, United Ways have one issue and one long-term bold goal, which makes it easy to communicate the purpose of United Way. Everyone — from your funders to your community — understands the relevance of your United Way when you are issue-focused.
Using the Issue Focus Model, United Ways diversify their funding far beyond the workplace campaign. The Issue Focus Model grows the sustainability of your United Way by allowing your United Way to secure funding from foundations, governments, and others to address your issue.
The Issue Focus Model makes United Ways impactful because they have a laser focus on a single issue. When your United Way is issue-focused, you will deeply impact one issue in your community, rather than broadly impacting a variety of issues.
The Issue Focus Model in Practice
Issue-focused United Ways are fundamentally different from typical United Ways in how they invest in their communities, raise money, and measure success — all of which allows them to achieve long-term relevance, sustainability, and impactfulness. For example, issue-focused United Ways:
1. Focus on One Issue.
An issue-focused United Way selects a single, pressing issue in their community to focus their efforts on, such as poverty, childhood literacy, hunger, the graduation rate, or homelessness. This is an issue that United Way can lead, but United Way does not address this issue alone. Instead, an issue-focused United Way acts as a convener of all local organizations working on this issue.
2. Establish a Bold Goal.
An issue-focused United Way selects a measurable, long-term bold goal for their issue that guides all their future efforts. This bold goal replaces the campaign goal and becomes a rallying cry for United Way, its partners, and the community.
3. Identify and Fund Specific Strategies.
After assessing the services and programs available in their community, an issue-focused United Way works with other organizations to identify and fund strategies to impact the issue. Partners are no longer just the partner agencies that United Way funds – they’re all of the organizations in the community working on the issue.
4. Obtain Diversified Resources.
With a bold goal and identified strategies, an issue-focused United Way diversifies its financial resources beyond workplace campaigns to include grants from governments and foundations. Securing grants in addition to the workplace campaign allows issue-focused United Ways to grow their total resources under management.
5. Communicate Progress.
An issue-focused United Way’s results are the progress made toward their bold goal. Campaign goals are no longer discussed as issue-focused United Ways gauge their success by their progress toward the bold goal.
Want a more in-depth understanding of the Issue Focus Model?
Check out our "A Closer Look: The Issue Focus Model" handout.