My Turn: Thanks from United Way

Posted: Tuesday, January 04, 2011

It’s the end of 2010 and as we head into 2011 with renewed commitment to make the world and our lives better for our families, friends and community, I want to say, “Thank You” to all the donors and volunteers that have given this past year to or through United Way of Southeast Alaska.

Thank you to the dedicated Board of Directors that volunteer their time and put their money where their mouth is!  Thank you to the donors that give either once, or through their paychecks, to make a difference in someone’s life.

Thank you to Sara Chambers and Chuck Collins for co-chairing the 2011 workplace campaign.  It is the workplace campaign that I would like to address further in this article because there is still time to implement one at your place of business and many corporations and government entities allow for open enrollment throughout the year. 

I know that many companies in Southeast Alaska give generously by donating funds or product to nonprofits, but they often don’t include the employees in the decision of which charities are supported or how.  It also isn’t very efficient.  While workplace giving campaigns were originally designed to increase efficiency in giving,  research has shown that there are many more benefits to be had, by the employee, the employer, the nonprofit and the community. 

Employee Benefits

• Employees like to know that they work for a company that cares about them and their community.  It makes them proud to say where they work when talking to friends and family, raising their morale.

• It increases their likelihood of staying with a company.  When employers match their employee’s giving, it gives the employee a say in the company’s charitable giving program and doubles the impact on the causes they care about.

• Allowing employees to choose where dollars are invested increases their satisfaction.

• Including employees is a powerful way to link their interests with the company’s interests.

• Making payroll deductions to support charities that employees care about is simple.  If you give through payroll deduction, it eliminates the need for another receipt or letter from the charity to prove to the IRS that you’ve given.

Employer Benefits

• A United Way giving campaign allows for a payroll deduction program that is easy for your employees and allows for more money to go to the nonprofits and less to fundraising costs.

• United Way campaigns demonstrate to employees and customers that community leadership is a company priority.  It says, “We Care.”

• Experience shows that when employees are given an option, participation rates increase.

• When donors can make a difference to a cause they care about, everyone wins. 

• A United Way workplace giving campaign eliminates the year-around ask by multiple agencies.

Nonprofit Benefits

• United Way funds allow more money to go directly to the causes and agencies where there is the greatest need.

• Gives agencies an opportunity to present their mission and cause to a broad audience.

Community Benefits

• When employers and employees participate in community wide giving, it makes everyone feel good. 

• It brings a community closer together. 

• Sometimes there is a little friendly competition between like employers, other employers look for unique ways to tie their products or services with ways to “help” the community. 

• It makes the community aware of social services and needs; connecting them in ways that help them, or their families and friends. 

• The community begins to express itself as a community of caring individuals, improving the overall quality of life.

While I know many companies encourage their employees to volunteer and give because it demonstrates leadership and creates great ambassadors for the company, it is important not to “force” anyone to give. That defeats the purpose of charitable giving! I can tell you we have lost donors for a lifetime when they felt coerced into giving by their boss. Making it fun, let them hear the stories about the results of their giving, reward givers with drawings for a great parking space or a personal lunch with the company president. All are wonderful options to encourage giving. Once people have given, I find they are usually “hooked” because they can see that it didn’t hurt to give up a little each week and the rewards are great. Giving back is a wonderful way to demonstrate appreciation for all that we have.

Here’s to a 2011 where Southeast Alaska Advances the Common Good together. May you all have a blessed and wonderful New Year filled with health, happiness and prosperity. Cheers and thank you again.

• Brenda Hewitt is President and CEO of United Way of Southeast Alaska.

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