John McMillin: United Way evolving just like the Internet

I thought the Internet was supposed to make everything easier. It doesn’t, but I am grateful for what it does bring to United Way of Wilson County.
Jul 6, 2014
John McMillin

I thought the Internet was supposed to make everything easier. It doesn’t, but I am grateful for what it does bring to United Way of Wilson County. 

I can’t say that I notice a greatly reduced amount of paper being used because more companies offer their campaigns online.

Still, it’s much easier to be involved with the whole process. Just a few years ago, UWWC depended much more on its local campaign to support programs for Wilson County residents. Now it’s much the norm to have designations to our United Way and/or the programs we support pour in from all parts of the country.

While we still have to process campaign data, and that alone can lead to some real head-scratching dilemmas at times, the donor is more involved with the process than just a few years earlier. Donors in many companies are encouraged to visit sites like United Way of Wilson County and consider giving with a payroll deduction. The engagement with these donors is much greater than if they simply listen to a company coordinator or a United Way staff person give an annual speech.

The key to this is that donors are performing their own research. They can weight what means more to them and how they can best help their community. Believe it or not, our United Way brings in more than $100,000 from donations outside of Wilson County. However, the money is designated to help the very people who live and work right here at home.

In a time when United Ways across the country are evolving to communicate what it is we do and we help our communities, this change in donor involvement is crucial and exciting. More informed donors are more engaged donors.

Ask most people what United Ways do and you may get a response such as “they do good work” or “they help people.” While that’s good, it’s not truly measurable and doesn’t lead to donor loyalty over the course of many years. 

Consequently, United Ways across the country have been trying to refocus on telling their stories. We are continually developing our own Internet presence and trying to inform as many people as possible about our work to support the education, health and economic welfare of our community. 

One of our board members, Colette Lanham-Stoffel of Visionary Design in Watertown, developed our current website to assist with reaching out to more individuals and companies than is possible with a small staff. 

Now any company can simply go to our website and begin their own campaign. It’s the easiest way to not only let the general public know about how involved a company is with their community, but also to allow employees to both give help and get help. 

So while the Internet is constantly evolving, we want to evolve with it and we want to help those of you in our community who want to be a part of making this place we call home better for everyone. For more information, check out givetouwwc.org.

John McMillin is president of the United Way of Wilson County. Email him at jmunitedway@bellsouth.net.

 

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