I had the opportunity to attend a New Presidents' Forum conducted by United Way Worldwide (UWW) last month in Alexandria, Virginia. In addition to meeting fifty or so of my new colleagues from around the country, I had the chance to meet several of the staff of UWW; without exception, they were incredibly bright and anxious to help those of us who are new to our roles.
The conference also gave me a chance to see how those within the United Way system describe the ten-year evolution of United Ways from community fundraiser to community agenda-builder and catalyst.
A traditional United Way would raise money in the community and fund a group of quality agencies that offered programs to address certain needs within the community. It was all about funding.
An Impact United Way advances the common good by creating opportunities for a better life for all. It focuses on education, income and/or health - the building blocks for a good quality of life. And it recruits people and organizations that bring the passion, expertise and resources needed to get things done. It invites people to give, to advocate and to volunteer.
Think of the young Indian boy in this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPeeZ6viNgY) as a United Way.
He identified an important community need - one that advanced the common good - and he recruited people who had the resources necessary to achieve the desired result, and together, they removed that obstacle. I suppose he might have collected money from those in the area and hired someone to move the tree, but I can't help but think that solution would have been somewhat less inspiring. And those who contributed would have felt less involved in the solution.
None of this is intended to minimize the need for successful fund-raising efforts. Clearly, with more resources, we can have a greater impact. Perhaps the best way to describe our approach these days is to say that raising money is necessary, but not sufficient, in and of itself, to accomplish our goals of helping Butler County youth succeed, and Butler County families achieve self-sufficiency. Please join us!