March 31, 2008

Record Setting Donations And Trend-Setting Reputations

The Phoenix Business Journal is reporting that the Valley of the Sun United Way raised a record-setting $52.5 million in donations during its 2007 fundraising campaign.

That's a chunk of change. Seven hundred (700) companies and over one hundred twenty-three thousand (123,000+) individuals invested into the mission of the organization. This is really good news for those in the nonprofit industry.

Why, you ask, is this such big news? About fifteen (15) years ago, the United Way got into a little trouble. A huge ($463,000) salary and a comfortable expense account are two things that are hard to hide. Especially when you are the CEO of the most recognized and influential charity federations on the planet... Oh, and also when you spent a big piece it on a seventeen (17) year-old volunteer you had a crush on.

Justice was served, and other organizations stepped up to the plate. But as one of my professors is fond of saying, "A reputation is all that a nonprofit has going for it." And I think to a large extent, the story of United Way shows that. The organization has had to battle through their tattered image, even though one man out of thousands of employees really was responsible for the bad press.

Recently, however, that fight has been fruitful. At least here in Phoenix. Obviously, the news today was huge. Literally. And leadership over at VSUW has been dreaming up some amazing things to do with all that money. A few weeks ago, I saw Brian Spicker (SVP of Community Impact) and David Smith (Maricopa County Manager) discussing their plan to end homelessness. Seriously. Officially, it's called the Regional Plan to End Homelessness. Here is the sixty (60) page document (PDF) outlining the details. There is also a National Alliance to End Homelessness.
"United Way? Oh yeah, I've heard of them. They're the ones responsible for ending homelessness."
How's that for a reputation?

"We should become prosperous by working hard and then donate generously."
Atharva Veda

1 comment:

Aaron Stiner, DRB said...

Great article! United Way is certainly a powerful force for good in our community!

I will point out, the problems you speak of, oh so many years ago, occured at the national organization, not the local Phoenix affiliate. And, all UW's are independently incorporated 501c3's.

VSUW in Phoenix has a spotless ethics record, thanks to fantastic board and executive leadership.

DISCLAIMER: I work at VSUW. But I speak the truth!