Our Strength - Our Members
Collective impact is the new buzz around the non-profit community; but what exactly is it? Simply put, it is the realization that one community organization cannot solve the tangible challenges of our region alone. It’s going to “take a village.”
Working collectively is nothing new to United Way of the National Capital Area (United Way NCA). We have always believed that our member nonprofits were the heart and soul of community impact, and for 38 years in greater Washington, we have worked to promote this fact; to inspire donors, volunteers and advocates to acts of caring and compassion. And we take that mission and vision seriously.
In July, United Way NCA brought together nearly 300 representatives from 231 nonprofit organizations to examine ways for aligning around one of the most important aspects of nonprofit life: fundraising.
At its core, collective impact is about more than raising money for distinct organizations. It’s about aligning resources, expertise and capacities to solve specific problems. This is where United Way NCA is heading as we begin planning and executing on our newly announced strategic initiative, Workforce Readiness. However, we have a great foundation to build on; our relationship and collaborative history with our vast and diverse network of nonprofit members.
That diversity was well represented. Incredibly busy people invested an entire afternoon to deepen their connection to United Way; CEOs, Directors of Development, founders and sole staff members from all-volunteer neighborhood organizations.
In a gathering established to tackle fundraising, as representatives greeted United Way NCA staff or their peers from other nonprofits, it’s their mission they’re talking about.
“Did you read about our last graduating class,” says a Development Director for a workforce development program.
“How did you raise awareness when you first started out,” asked the founder of a nascent health organization as he’s introduced to a more seasoned health-service veteran
Music education! Mentoring our youth! Financial literacy programs!
There’s passion in the room; and dedication to causes they truly care about.
The funding is just the necessary means.
It is a new era for what has historically been United Way NCA’s bread and butter. Boosting our workplace campaigns undeniably requires a collective effort. Today more of our members are getting out in front of new audiences and promoting the fact that they are a choice in workplace giving. More importantly, it is their stories that spark the questions in the minds of potential supporters, “What do I care about? How can I make a difference?”
United Way NCA has worked hard to make sure our nonprofit members – the greatest spokespersons for what giving can give – get chances to promote themselves and to extol the value of the nonprofit community: exhibiting at workplaces, speaking at events, hosting volunteer days, and finding creative ways to tell their stories. Together, we’re expanding our engagement beyond the week or two our workplace partners “run campaigns.” It’s about service projects, days of caring, and sharing the results of their contributions.
“I always knew [United Way membership] was a vehicle for workplace giving. I was not aware about all the ways you can engage potential donors, and become a more known quantity in the community,” said Jack McCarthy, President and CEO of AppleTree Institute. “It seems aimed at developing long term relationships; … a multi-year effort that builds slowly and incrementally, but substantially.”
Our stronger alignment around fundraising has brought year-on-year increases in both public and private sector workplace giving. More new companies came to us to run new campaigns last year than in the previous two years.
Collective effort is working.
This same energy and synergy will propel us to even greater success as we adopt the collective impact model to take on the most serious of our region's problems, working, of course, with our nonprofit partners.