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Joanne Fritz

Rethinking Nonprofits

By November 19, 2012

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I am honored to welcome Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way Worldwide, and Stacey Stewart, President, United Way U.S.A., as guest authors this week.

United Way ad showing volunteer helping at-risk kids in a classroom.

Too often, people hear the word "nonprofit" and only think of fundraising, without giving much thought to the impact of a nonprofit organization on society. We believe the true value of a nonprofit is not the money it raises, but the connections it makes and leverages across the community in order to drive lasting change.

There's a core value that unites all people: everyone seeks and deserves a good quality of life, which includes a good education, a family-sustaining job and good health. This common desire for a better life across communities and around the world is the driving force behind United Way partnerships.

As the world's largest privately-funded nonprofit, we focus on advancing the common good by convening citizen leaders and partners to identify and address challenges that impact people in communities around the world. Specifically, we see education, income and health as the building blocks for a good quality of life.

Take a moment to think of the people in your community and your own family. Imagine what our society could be if each us had sufficient resources to strengthen these three fundamental components. We believe this can be possible through community and nationwide support. It takes a village to raise a village.

Understanding this notion, we ensure that volunteering lies at the heart of our work, bringing together people and organizations that offer the passion, expertise and resources needed to get things done. Making real change can seem like a daunting task alone, which is why we value coordination among people, government and businesses to tackle the community issues we face.

In 2008, United Way launched a 10-year initiative to cut by half the number of young people who drop out of high school in the United States; cut in half the number of lower-income families who are financially unstable; and to increase by one-third the number of youth and adults who are healthy and avoid risky behaviors. From partnering with the NFL to recruit volunteer readers, tutors and mentors to hosting annual Day of Action reading and mentoring activities in local communities, we've made a significant, direct impact across the country and are helping to set kids up for academic success.

This commitment to making a real, tangible impact is not and should not be unique to United Way. As non-profit practitioners, our focus should always be first and foremost on the people we serve and the measurable changes we can provide by working together. We see nonprofits headed in this direction and are excited to help lead the charge in transforming a sector that has proven to be so much more than strictly a fundraiser.


Photo courtesy of United Way.


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