It is autumn, which, for many companies, means a flurry of white envelopes marked United Way of the Midlands. The organization’s yearly fundraising campaign includes over 700 organizations that range from large corporations to mom-and-pop stores.
Greg Vassios is the senior vice president of UWM. He is responsible for corporate relations and plays an integral part in the donation process.
United Way was the original multi-impact organization, that buzzword associated with organizations such as Omaha Community Foundation and several others. United Way started in 1887, when Frances Wisebart Jacobs and three clergymen came together to collect funds for 10 health and welfare agencies. The company still believes in contributing to those areas of charity, especially those helping to reduce poverty.
“Poverty is incredibly complex,” Vassios said. “There is a lot of moving parts and individual components that sometimes come together and to address issues around poverty is very complicated. The advantage United Way has is we collaborate with the community to really look at the overall impact of what’s going on.”
There are now many multi-impact organizations in the area: Omaha Community Foundation started in 1982, Sherwood Foundation started in 1999, Thrivinci started in 2016. The latest, SHARE Omaha, started this year. Still, UWM is one of the biggest nonprofits in the region.
The United Way remains relevant, and their campaign is one of the biggest fundraisers in the area. The 2018 campaign raised more than $19 million. Included in that number is $1 million that was added this spring from contributions to their Nebraska and Iowa flood relief fund.
“United Way’s focus on basic needs, student success, and financial self-sufficiency is moving the needle to support more than 100,000 people living in poverty,” said Mutual of Omaha Chairman and CEO James Blackledge, the chair of this year’s campaign with his wife. “Without question, this work is critical to the future of our community. Paula and I are proud to support their efforts and are grateful for the partner agencies that are making a real difference in the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors.”
The campaign kicked off the morning of Aug. 29 with a variety of activities. As part of the kickoff, the initiative #HatsOff4UnitedWay started that same morning. That initiative has a goal of $25,000. Mutual of Omaha, First National Bank of Nebraska, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska have pledged $1 back to United Way for every hashtag generated, up to $25,000.
The hashtag initiative is one of the ways United Way has modernized the campaign. Companies now have the ability to contribute online as well as via those white envelopes.
Like many modern multi-impact organizations, UWM has their own one-day initiative to increase awareness. On Sept. 20, they held their Day of Caring, the organization’s largest day of service, to focus on tackling projects that address community and nonprofit needs in several counties.
United Way of the Midlands is conscientious of their fiscal responsibility to the community. 92 cents of every dollar donated is put back into the community and programs to help those in need.
“Unfortunately, there is a lot of press out there about nonprofits who are maybe not as fiscally responsible as the donors would like them to be,” Vassios said. “But we pride ourselves on being very conscientious of the donors’ dollar.”
Across the United States, United Way of the Midlands is ranked seventh in campaign and operation performance, which is tied to their fiscal responsibility and community engagement.
“I love that our mission is about the community and about people,” Vassios said. “We get to make a difference in people’s lives and that’s what motivates me to come to work. I know at the end of the day, all the work I do is really about helping people in our community who are in need.”
Visit unitedwaymidlands.org for more information about campaign 2019.
This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.