"There is nothing more important to an organization than the passion that resides in the hearts and souls of the staff, the Board, donors and the community."
– Susan Putnam
Negotiated for the Acquisition of New Office Space while Simultaneously Building Outstanding Community Relations
It was the middle of winter, but there was one particular building that had been on the market for nearly a year. It was known as the “Bolger and Battle” building and it was on the market for $320,000, way out of our price range. It was the perfect home for us! The square footage was 4,400 on two floors with windows galore. It was modern and painted in bright colors – kid friendly colors.
In late 2011, the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization serving two neighboring counties was about to go out of business. I was approached by a member of the Board of Directors indicating the agency was struggling.
While I was the Community Relations and Public Affairs manager at IBM in Minneapolis, I was responsible for running IBM’s United Way campaign in 12 states, encompassing nearly 20,000 employees. I understood how valuable online giving could be in terms of increasing revenues and I also knew how to promote it to employees.
United Way Launches First Online Donation Platform
United Way of Midland County hired me as their very first Campaign Director in the fall of 2002. I learned quickly that the Executive Director had a plan that was perfect for my experience and skill set. He wanted to bring online giving technology to the community during the 2004 campaign starting with the largest employer, Dow Chemical. While I was the Community Relations and Public Affairs manager at IBM in Minneapolis, I was responsible for running IBM’s United Way campaign in 12 states, encompassing nearly 20,000 employees. I understood how valuable online giving could be in terms of increasing revenues and I also knew how to promote it to employees.
eWay was a robust donation tool that was easy for employees to use. I had learned while I was at IBM that employees feel more comfortable with their confidential information when it is online and password protected rather than using a piece of paper and an envelope. Plus, it takes less than one minute to make a donation. From a campaign management standpoint, eWay provided daily information about revenues, and we could also determine which employees had not logged on at all. This allowed us to send reminders; these reminders could also be scheduled automatically.
The 2004 United Way Campaign Chair was Dave Kepler, who was an Executive V.P. at Dow Chemical and also the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Dave and his wife Patti were solid United Way supporters and it was an honor for me to have the opportunity to work with them. I wanted to do my best. Dave was excited about what eWay technology could bring to the Dow employee campaign and committed a team of employees to work with me to make it happen.
At the same time, Kepler was responsible for setting the fundraising goal and for working with me to build a campaign cabinet which would run the campaign from the grassroots. Setting a revenue goal for the United Way campaign is always a big deal; the goal needs to be higher than last year, and it needs to be attainable. In the midst of the campaign, Dow was going to be announcing lay-offs, and we recognized this would have an impact on the success of the campaign. We agreed on a goal of $4.2 million.
Using eWay for the first time was going to be a key factor in the $4.2 million goal. It took us eight months to get eWay ready to go. The project management team at Dow provided the necessary technical input and we ran scenario after scenario to be sure we’d covered every potential glitch. A soft rollout to a group of 100 employees took place in early August and the new system worked perfectly. The messaging we had developed was positive and well received. The rollout to all employees went smoothly as well. Employees, however, didn’t like that we knew which employees had not responded (not necessarily donated) to the eWay messaging that came into their e-mail.
In the end, the campaign raised $4,112,200, short of the $4.2 million goal. The Dow employee campaign did not reach its $1.2 million goal. It was the first time in years, the campaign goal had not been met. The entire United Way team was disappointed, and I felt responsible for the Dow employee campaign because it was their first time using eWay. During the rest of my tenure at United Way, we never missed a campaign goal, and grew the campaign year to year.