United Way builds on Triad collaboration

By Todd Cohen

A joint marketing effort launched two years ago by United Ways in Forsyth and Guilford counties has expanded to other parts of North Carolina and been embraced this year by United Way of America.

Launched with the idea of creating a consistent look and message for separate fundraising drives in a region in which many people commute between communities served by separate United Ways, the effort also has generated production efficiencies and created a model for collaboration, United Way officials say.

“We realized this could be a real asset for the whole system,” says Tish McCutchen, director of field communications for United Way of America in Alexandria, Va.

For the first time, United Way of America this year will offer its more than 1,300 local organizations the free use of marketing materials created through the Triad-based effort.

Spearheading that effort has been Roger Beahm, chairman and CEO of Greensboro communications firm CoyneBeahmShouse.

In 2003, Beahm’s firm created marketing materials on a pro-bono basis for United Way of Forsyth County.

The next year, asked to create materials for United Way of Greater Greensboro as well, he suggested the two organizations combine their marketing, an effort that also was joined by United Way of Greater High Point.

Spurring his suggestion, he says, was his recognition that the materials his firm had developed for Forsyth County offered a different message than the materials his Greensboro employees had been getting in their United Way workplace campaign.

Last year, the marketing effort expanded to include five more Triad-area United Ways, including those in Alamance, Davidson, Davie, Randolph and Rockingham counties, as well as a handful of United Ways in Eastern North Carolina.

This year, Triangle United Way, United Way of Cumberland County in Fayetteville, United Way of Haywood County in Waynesville and United Way of Burke County in Morganton have joined the marketing initiative, says Vicki Elmore, member services director for United Way of North Carolina.

United Way of Central Carolinas in Charlotte collaborated on the design of the materials this year and plans to join the initiative more fully next year, Elmore says.

United Way of North Carolina and United Way of America both will make the materials available to local United Ways through their websites, and United Way of America has worked with United Ways in North Carolina so their materials will better reflect its national message.

As it strives to help local United Ways “see the possibilities for themselves,” McCutchen says, United Way of America recognizes that “you can accomplish more if you’re working together than if you’re working by yourself.”

United Way of America also has found that marketing offers local United Ways an opportunity to work together and “leverage our brand through consistency,” she says.

“The folks in North Carolina figured that out and just sort of jumped on it,” she says.

Beahm, who in 2004 was named volunteer of the year by United Way of North Carolina and whose firm this year received a Telly Award for its United Way work, says his goal has been to “help facilitate United Ways to be able to do this themselves with the internal resources they have.”

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