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THIS IS NOT YOUR GRANDPA'S UNITED WAY

It’s hard to believe it’s already been more than six months since I moved here from Florida to join United Way of Thurston County, but it’s amazing how much we’ve already accomplished in such a short time. 
 
This is an exciting, transformational time for us. For a number of years, local United Ways have been taking a hard look at the way we’ve always done things, and asking how we can improve and grow in order to remain a relevant, powerful force for good in our communities. At United Way of Thurston County, the time has come for us to be bold and innovative. It’s time to imagine new ways of engaging our leadership, our volunteers, our donors, and our impact partners as we fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community. 
 
Here’s some of what you’re going to be seeing in the coming months: 
United Way – most simply stated - is a local fundraiser, and a local funder. Basically, we raise a big old pile of money, and then we give it away (it’s WAY more complicated than that, but stay with me and we can get into all the nuts and bolts when we have coffee one day. Oh, and call me.)
 
So we have two foundational priorities: how we increase the amount of money we are able to raise, and how we then invest those dollars to achieve the best possible outcomes with the greatest degree of accountability. 
 
To that end, we’ve made a few exciting staff changes. 
 
Raising the money: workplace campaigns
In fundraising, one of the most important questions United Ways must ask ourselves is how we are expanding and diversifying our family of donors. For the last century, we’ve raised money almost exclusively through workplace campaigns. Our campaigns are amazing, and we cannot continue to be successful without them. However, campaigns have been declining nationally for decades. 
 
Our challenge is to be more imaginative about how we engage our campaigns — we must build support within them from the bottom up, rather than from the top down. We need to understand the core values of the workplaces that support us, and share the ways in which our work is in alignment with their own goals. We have to do a better job of telling our story and communicating the impact of those payroll deducted gifts. Our Director of Development, Mike Leonard, will be leading the charge to keep our workplace campaigns thriving and growing. Mike is deeply committed to United Way of Thurston County, and he loves working with all of our campaigns. Expect new things, and if you have any ideas about how you’d like to get creative in your campaign this year, give him a call. We’re going to have fun with this! 
 
Raising the money: putting more chairs at our table
We absolutely must engage the wider community outside of our campaigns. It’s time to bring everyone to the table. Our small businesses, retirees, emerging leaders, and Women United will all play a critical role in our success. Grassroots relationship-building and donor-centered thinking are at the heart of our strategic development plan. If you’re among any of the above-mentioned groups, expect to get a call from Randi Nandyal, who, I’m proud to announce, is now our Director of New Business Development. She brings an enormous amount of passion, energy, and enthusiasm to her work, and we are incredibly fortunate to have her. 
 
Investing the money 
Once we have your money, what do we do with it? Our job is to identify the local organizations doing the best work in our focus areas of health, education, and financial stability, and get the most for every dollar we invest in their services. So we have to gather data to measure the real impact of the programs we are funding, and the outcomes of those who are served by them. We must, over time, be able to measure the cumulative impact of those funded programs in achieving our larger, community-wide goals. Doing this will enable us to see clearly, year over year, how we are performing as we work to solve some of our most complicated issues. This requires an infrastructure that we are now implementing. We will be using a results-based accountability (RBA) framework that will improve the amount of information we are able to gather, as well as the quality of that information. Paul Larsen, previously Director of Volunteer Programs, will be leading this effort as our Director of Community Impact, and has spent the last several months completing the coursework to be certified in RBA. Paul leads with his heart, but he’s also a data guy, and he has enthusiastically embraced this role. 
 
Other amazing things we’re doing
United Ways have always relied on volunteer leadership to accomplish so much of our work, but we have many opportunities to be creative and find new ways our volunteers can help us advance our organizational mission. We will be establishing a development council, a small business leadership council, and other volunteer teams that will help us implement our new strategies and initiatives.  Excellent volunteer leadership extends our reach and amplifies our voice, and I’m excited to bring more local volunteer talent and experience to our United Way as we move forward.
 
I invite you to join us as we grow, improve, innovate, and transform. Our team and our board are filled with energy, vision, inspiration, and passion for our future and the future of Thurston County.
 
You will see us everywhere, preaching the United Way gospel and asking for your leadership, your help, and your financial support. It’s our job to boldly ask. And we will keep asking, because we have big work to do, and it will take every one of us, working throughout our community, speaking with one voice, to get it done. That’s what it means to Live United.
 
Chris Wells
Executive Director
United Way of Thurston County
 
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