Case Studies: United Way

United Way

United Way of America is the national organization dedicated to leading the United Way movement in making a measurable impact in every community across America. United Ways bring communities together to focus on their most important needs – building partnerships, forging consensus and leveraging resources to make a measurable difference. The United Way movement includes approximately 1,400 community-based organizations. Each organization is independent, separately incorporated and governed by local volunteers. In 2001-2002, United Ways across the nation generated an estimated $5 billion to help America's communities address their most critical issues.

Because each United Way is independent and located in a separate geographical area, the Internet and email in particular are critical to our ability to work together across communities in a timely and cost-efficient fashion. While all funds are raised and spent locally according to the decisions made by local volunteers, United Ways need ways to communicate with each other and United Way of America. Communication is vital to discovering common issues among more than one community and new and innovative programs being developed by various communities. It is also critical to increase cohesion across what we generally call a loosely coupled movement.

"With LISTSERV Maestro and the other L-Soft products, we will be able to better tailor our message to meet the interests not only of donors but of people who, through our network of Web sites, express an interest about knowing more."

United Way of America has been an L-Soft customer since 1998 when we purchased and implemented LISTSERV® email list management software. We run a growing number of lists, currently 92 with 734,578 subscribers. Our largest list, the September 11th Fund, counts for more than 700,000 of those subscriptions. Average daily traffic (except when we send to the large list) is about 3,500 messages a day but will grow very quickly as we move our other methods of mailing into L-Soft products. For example, we send one particular mailing a day to more than 7,000 local United Way staff that will eventually be included in the totals, and there are others as well.

Some of our current lists include:

211Coalition-L is used by United Ways and their partners who are working to accelerate the national roll-out of the 2-1-1 phone number in communities across the nation. 211 is an easy-to-remember and universally recognizable telephone number that makes a critical connection between individuals and families in need and the appropriate community-based organizations and government agencies that can help. 211 is a nonprofit health and humans services information and referral line currently available in only a few jurisdictions.

AFL-CIO-CS-L is an open discussion among labor leaders across the United States on AFL-CIO Community Services topics.

Alert-L is our mechanism for reaching local United Way staff around the world when news breaks that cannot wait for our once-a-day Breakfast mailing.

BOA2SB6-L is sponsored by United Way of America for Bank of America/Success By 6(r) grantee discussion. Success By 6(r) efforts in over 300 communities nationwide leverage resources to enhance research-based programs, address system barriers to healthy development, and to mobilize the community around children ages zero to six. In 1998, the Bank of America Foundation made an unprecedented 5-year commitment of $50 million to build United Way of America's capacity to expand the Success By 6(r) early childhood network. In 2000, with the support of the Bank of America Foundation's grants, United Ways leveraged more than $16 million in additional support for Success By 6(r) strategies and activities.

PPN-L is an announcement list for information regarding United Way public policy issues.

OutcomeMeasurement-L is a discussion list for United Ways. In partnership with funded agencies and others in the community, United Ways continue to expand their leadership role in measuring outcomes to increase program effectiveness, communicate program value, and improve community conditions.

Crisis-L is a public list used to communicate with United Ways and all other interested parties in the event of major disasters. It focuses on situation reports and United Way responses to natural and other major disasters.

Now that we have received L-Soft's donation of LSMTP® and LISTSERV® Maestro, we plan to dramatically expand our communications not only among the 8,000 - 10,000 United Way professionals in the United States and internationally, but to and among a much wider audience. This will include active community investors and people who care about their community and want to know more and get involved through volunteering or donating. Before the generous donation from L-Soft, we ran mailing lists to reach various constituencies primarily within the United Way community as well as the nonprofit community at large; almost all of our earlier lists are closed to the public but now we can really reach out to the public at large.

Already, we have used L-Soft products to reach out to more than 700,000 September 11th Fund donors who asked to hear from us about how their money was being used and what needs were being addressed. With LISTSERV Maestro and the other L-Soft products, we will be able to better tailor our message to meet the interests not only of donors but of people who, through our network of Web sites, express an interest about knowing more. The information disseminated can be about the issues in their own communities and what others are doing to address them. It can also cover what they themselves can do through volunteering, donating or other means to make an impact in the areas in which they live and work.

In addition, we'll be able to reach a broader audience of nonprofit professionals to spread more knowledge concerning specific issues and practices. United Way is a unique movement in that it exists in nearly every community and serves as a common platform upon which all manner of health and human services issues can be discussed and addressed locally. With more than 825,000 tax-deductible nonprofits in the United States, United Way is uniquely capable of bringing together the resources in a community to address the needs of that community. The advanced products provided to us by L-Soft will increase United Way's capacity to bring together those resources to better serve the people in every community.

Case study written in May 2003 with Casey Cichowicz, Manager, United Way Online

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