I’ve spent much of the past few months listening to our donors, corporate partners, agencies, and community leaders. Despite coming from diverse perspectives, every person has shared one common message: our community needs United Way. Agencies are looking to United Way to help them build partnerships to move families out of poverty and mobilize the needed resources to do so. Donors are looking to United Way to help them invest in what works and maximize their impact in the fight against poverty. Companies are coming to United Way to help them engage their employees in deeper ways in the community. And many others look to United Way to bring our community together for a common cause, which is so needed in a time of such polarization. For more than 100 years, United Way has brought our community together to help those who need it most, and our community needs us now more than ever.
That is why all of us at United Way are so determined to turn the challenges of the past few months into an opportunity to build an even better United Way. Any organization that has been around for more than 100 years faces its share of challenges – the best organizations learn from those challenges in order to become better. As part of our commitment to transparency, here is our progress so far to do just that:
1. Mobilizing the community: A few weeks ago, United Way joined with the Enquirer to mobilize the community to help federal workers affected by the government shutdown. Within 72 hours, we raised more than $120,000 from 23 generous companies. So far, we have distributed grocery gift cards to 866 federal workers, and we continue to do so. I’m incredibly proud of the United Way team for mobilizing so quickly to meet this need, and of our community for stepping up to help our neighbors in need. This is what United Way is all about – uniting our community to change lives.
2. Strengthening our leadership: The Nominating Committee of our Board, chaired by Sean Rugless, is on track to identify our next Board Chair by early March. The Board has also convened an Ad Hoc Governance Committee, chaired by Mary Miller, to assess and improve Board governance. United Way Worldwide is providing significant support by way of executive counsel for our leadership team and Board. Finally, the Board aims to commence the search process for our permanent CEO in the coming weeks.
3. Setting our strategic direction: Our staff and Board leadership have been focused on setting our strategy and finalizing our business plan for the year. Our plan focuses on five strategic imperatives: 1) be donor centric, 2) maximize impact against poverty, 3) bring our community together, 4) embrace equity and inclusion, and 5) modernize our business. I will share more details in my next update once our business plan is approved by the Board later this month.
4. Reinventing our fundraising model: We are acting with urgency to build on our legacy workplace campaign model. Our development team has already taken steps to restructure to put more resources against innovating new engagement and revenue models. Moving forward, we’ll create new ways to engage donors and connect their passion, skills and resources to our poverty-reducing efforts. We’ll also more deeply engage our corporate partners to help them be the best corporate citizens they can be with the most engaged employees.
5. Advancing equity and inclusion: Our United Way has been on a decades-long journey to be more inclusive and equitable. But, like most organizations, we still have much more work to do. That’s why we are conducting a comprehensive audit of all aspects of our operations to identify where we can improve. We received a tremendous response to our RFP from local and national vendors, and we will be selecting our partners and launching the work in the coming weeks. We are committed to sharing the findings and reporting on our progress in the hopes that our example can help other organizations improve.
In all my conversations with stakeholders the past few months, another message has been clear: we stand with you and remain committed to United Way. I thank you,each and everyone of our supporters, for your continued commitment to living united. Please reach out to me anytime at Ross.Meyer@uwgc.org with your ideas and questions. Together, we will make our community – and our United Way – even stronger.