United Way, NANOE & Major Gifts Ramp-Up is Jenny Lee, CEO of Rowan County of United Way, overview of her first-hand experience with a better way to build financial capacity. Here’s what Jenny has to share:
As we look at the struggles we face at United Way with workplace giving and seeing the decline in revenue, we’ve had to look for ways to diversify our revenue. Last year alone, contributions to United Way nationally decreased by 21%. Particularly here in Rowan County, we’ve seen a decline in workplace giving and philanthropists and their descendants moving out of the area. We knew we needed a different approach. This is why we were intrigued by Major Gifts Ramp-Up and National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives (NANOE).
We started working with Major Gifts Ramp-Up and NANOE about two years ago and the difference it’s made in our organization and our community is startling. To meet the needs of our community, particularly in the areas of mental health and substance use, we needed to think differently about revenue generation. When we began to consider Major Gifts Ramp-Up, I convened my entire team to be a part of planning conversations to stabilize our operations, grow impact, and generate creative streams of revenue to supplement the losses we were facing in workplace giving.
As the United Way, we bring government leaders, philanthropists, health care professionals, nonprofits, congregations, educators, and all the diverse sectors that make our community what it is. The United Way is the heartbeat of our community and it’s up to us to bring leaders together to solve difficult issues. This is why the planning process we learned through Major Gifts Ramp-Up was so important.
United Way, NANOE & Major Gifts Ramp-Up
Chapter 3 in Major Gifts Ramp-Up is Organizational Development. This was a process to enable us to determine the next three years of impact for our United Way. Together, we began to dream big about our community. We developed the concept of the HUB: A Center for Collaboration. This would be a place where nonprofits, philanthropists, and businesses could come together to solve issues facing our community. Louis Fawcett (the President of NANOE) helped us connect with other United Ways to see their models and this helped refine what we would establish here in Rowan County.
The HUB is a safe place for local nonprofits to have offices, board meeting rooms, training rooms, access to Internet, storage spaces, and places to meet with donors. They can also hold special events and fundraisers at the HUB. We already have six nonprofits ready to occupy the space.
Once we went through Major Gifts Ramp Up’s organizational development process, we created a Case for Support to describe our work in the past, current impact and future vision. Then we brought leaders together to test Case for Support to make sure we had considered the needs and the solutions and were messaging these correctly. We wanted to make sure we had a real plan that could be put to use immediately, not just gather dust on the shelf like most strategic plans.
We put this Case for Support in front of community leaders, shared our dreams and our visions, and then we listed to them. We listened to our donors hopes, dreams and advice and we adjusted the Case for Support based on their wisdom. We wanted to make sure their voices were reflected in this process. We spent six months connecting with people and making sure our Case for Support resonated with the community.
Rowan County United Way’s Case for Support tells stories. It shares our stories. We’ve got testimonials in our Case for Support from clients that we serve and from nonprofit executive directors as well, because they make up the heartbeat of our community. The Case for Support also succinctly describes our three funding initiatives:
- Expanding Programs
- Establishing the HUB
- Growing our Endowment
Then we held two events: a non-fundraising luncheon and an evening ask event. At the non-fundraising luncheon, we introduced our new Case for Support to the community. At the evening ask event, we showcased the impact of our work and asked philanthropists to make major gifts to this effort. In one evening, we raised more than $200,000 and created community champions for the United Way.
Through this process, we learned to treat our donors as our customers. This was a huge shift for us. We were used to thinking about the hungry, homeless, and hurting as our clients. And they are. But we also realized that our donors pay the bills and they are our customers.
We learned from NANOE that listening to the needs of our donors and helping them achieve their dreams for the community would allow us to have more money to serve the hungry, homeless, and hurting. This was one of the biggest shifts in our thinking and it has resonated with our county.
Toward the end of this process. One nonprofit leader took me aside and said, “Thank you, Jenny, for bringing NANOE to our community. I know this was an investment for Rowan County United Way, but it has rippled out into the rest of our community. Our nonprofit would not have made our budget goals this year were it not for United Way bringing the resources of NANOE to us. Thank you!”
Bringing Major Gifts Ramp-Up and NANOE to your community as a United Way is the best way you can provide real world tools for fundraising and nonprofit management for your community.
NANOE & Major Gifts Ramp-Up transformed the way we look at donors and helped install a permanent culture of philanthropy at Rowan County United Way. It will do the same for you. This is no longer your grandparent’s United Way!
To learn more about Major Gifts Ramp-Up VISIT HERE
To learn more about NANOE VISIT HERE
United Way, NANOE & Major Gifts Ramp-Up was first posted at National Development Institute
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