Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

September 10, 2007

United Ways unite on marketing

Nonprofits and foundations talk a lot about the need for collaboration, but too few truly practice what they preach.

Showing how working together actually can work, a growing number of local United Ways in North Carolina have teamed up in developing marketing materials for their annual fundraising drives.

The effort began in 2004 in North Carolina’s Triad region, when United Way of Greater Greensboro asked CoyneBeahmShouse, a local communications firm, to develop campaign materials.

Aware that the firm the previous year had prepared campaign materials on a pro-bono basis for United Way of Forsyth County in nearby Winston-Salem, and that some of his employees worked in Winston-Salem but lived in Greensboro and were getting separate and sometimes inconsistent messages from the United Way in each community, Roger Beahm, the firm’s chairman and CEO, suggested the two United Ways combine their marketing.

Also joining that initial combined effort was United Way of Greater High Point.

The marketing effort expanded again the following year with five more United Ways in the region, including those in Alamance, Davidson, Davie Randolph and Rockingham counties, plus a handful of United Ways in Eastern North Carolina.

And it grew still again last year with the addition of Triangle United Way in the Raleigh-Durham region, United Way of Cumberland County in Fayetteville and, in the mountains of Western North Carolina, United Way of Haywood County in Waynesville and United Way of Burke County in Morganton.

Also last year, United Way of Central Carolinas in Charlotte collaborated on the design of the materials, while United Way of North Carolina and United Way of America both made the materials available to local United Ways through their websites.

This year, United Way of Central Carolinas provided design templates for 15 different marketing pieces that local United Ways can customize with their own content.

United Way of Central Carolinas also secured a local vendor in Charlotte, Belk Printing, to produce the materials in two separate bulk printing runs.

For their annual drives this year, 28 United Ways throughout North Carolina ordered half-a-million copies of the main brochure alone.

Mid-sized United Ways saved an estimated two-thirds on their printing costs by placing bulk orders, while larger United Ways saved 25 percent, says Jill Cox, government relations director for United Way of North Carolina.

Bonnie Emadi, a graphic designer at United Way of Carolinas who designed the templates, says the idea was to provide “consistency in messaging but also economies of scale.”

Collaboration can be tough and does not always make sense.

But in the face of rising demand for services, and growing competition for resources, nonprofits need to look for ways they can work together that do make sense.

By looking for ways to work together, nonprofits may be able to eliminate duplication in the services they deliver or the back-office tasks they handle, and direct the resources they save to advancing their mission.


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