By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Roughly 18,000 residents of Rockingham County, or about 40 percent of its workforce, commute to jobs elsewhere, mainly Forsyth or Guilford counties.
Because local United Ways generally target the workplace to solicit contributions to their annual fundraising campaigns, they can send mixed messages to people who live in one county and work in another, says Rick Hurley, executive director of Wentworth-based United Way of Rockingham County.
“When you have this much crossover, it’s very confusing,” he says.
To address that problem, and boost fundraising and save marketing dollars, local United Ways in Rockingham and four other counties in the region have joined a collaborative effort launched last year by United Ways in Forsyth County, Greensboro and High Point to market their annual campaigns.
That initial effort helped spur increases in fundraising at all three Triad United Ways for the first time in recent years, says Roger Beahm, chairman of CoyneBeahmShouse, the Greensboro communications firm that spearheaded the joint effort and handled it on a pro-bono basis.
Last year’s joint initiative also saved on marketing costs, including a reduction $15,000 to $20,000 in Forsyth County, or roughly 25 percent, says John Conrad, communications director.
In addition to Rockingham County, which raised nearly $1.1 million last year, the joint effort this year will include United Ways in Alamance, Davidson, Davie and Randolph counties.
Together, all eight United Ways last year raised more than $40.2 million, and this year expect to save a total of more than $55,000 in marketing costs, Conrad says.
Adopting the same theme the joint campaign used last year, “Together, we do what matters,” all eight groups will use materials designed by CoyneBeahmeShouse that focus both on United Way’s common mission in bringing together people and resources to address community needs, and on local United Ways’ individual strategies in addressing specific local needs.
Materials, including ads for television, radio, billboards and newspapers, and posters, brochures, folders, banners, table tent-cards and pledge forms, will feature content common to all eight campaigns, and content tailored to each campaign, such as photos of member agencies and their clients.
“We want people to think about the United Way in a global sense,” Beahm says, “but we also want people to see that the United Way acts locally to meet the specific needs in each of the communities.”
The Triad unified marketing project also has spawned plans for a similar effort in Eastern North Carolina, and attracted interest among other United Ways in the state in and South Carolina, says Vicki Elmore, member services director of Raleigh-based United Way of North Carolina.
Modeling their effort on the Triad project, eight United Ways serving 13 counties in Eastern North Carolina are teaming up this year to market their campaigns.
And at the offices of Triangle United Way on June 17, Beahm met with officials of more than a dozen United Ways in North Carolina and South Carolina to talk about the Triad effort and offer them the use of this year’s materials.
Seven North Carolina and three in South Carolina have requested to use some of the materials.
“It’s sort of like Newton’s First Law of Motion,” says Beahm. “A body at rest tends to stay at rest, but a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Now that we’ve got momentum behind this, we’re seeing that it gets easier, not harder.”
United Way of North Carolina is pushing the idea of joint marketing, Elmore says, because a unified “brand transcends all our different communities and kind of brings us together.”