Just like clockwork, United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA’s) annual campaign kicks into high gear every September and culminates in December. It’s during this period of time that we raise tens of millions of dollars that help fund more than 80 health and human services organizations in our five-county area, as well as a number of services provided directly by United Way to the community.
Where does most of this money come from? Central Alabama is extremely charitable, in fact one of the most giving communities in the nation. And UWCA is fortunate to have many generous donors who simply give out of the goodness of their hearts, a desire to help others and support of our mission to build a stronger, more equitable community. Many of them don’t even need to be asked. But the primary focus of the annual campaign is on generating workplace donations through payroll deduction – in other words, encouraging companies to ask their employees to support United Way. This is where the bulk of “campaigning” comes into play.
It’s no small task to contact, and build relationships with, countless businesses throughout Greater Birmingham. A staff of relationship managers works with employers all year long to keep them informed of how their dollars are being used and new opportunities for support and volunteerism. These staff members also help donor companies plan and conduct their own internal campaigns, whereby coordinators inside the businesses promote the good work of United Way and rally their fellow employees to contribute. But year-round staff can only do so much and reach so far, which is why the Loaned Executive Program was launched years ago.
Just as the name implies, Loaned Executives (LEs) are employees of area companies who are loaned to UWCA (or in some cases companies sponsor individuals who are seeking LE opportunities) for 13 weeks, during which time they are oriented, trained and charged with contacting prospective businesses, and helping them develop and implement their company campaigns. The LE Program is a win-win-win proposition. The Loaned Executive fulfills a desire to make a difference in the community while gaining skills in leadership, public speaking, team building and communications in the process. The lending company benefits from those skills upon the employee’s return. And, of course, UWCA benefits by having extra boots on the ground to help achieve our increasingly lofty fundraising goal. The 2019 team of Loaned Executives includes: Teresa Odom, Jeanne Gallagher, Tabby Keahey and Wes Butler from Alabama Power Company; Shelley Staton from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama; Holly Poole from Brasfield & Gorrie; Brett Jankowski from Building & Earth Science; Holston Ryan from Coca-Cola Bottling Company United; Melissa Crowell from Drummond Company; Will Callander from Mayer; Jasmine Wright from Protective Life Corporation; Callie Richie from Publix Super Markets, Inc.; Lauren Shaw, Charlotte Parsons, Janis Posey and Becki Leon from Regions Financial Corporation; Richard Tinnell from Southern Company; James Mathews from Spire; Jessica Clay from Thompson Tractor Company; Amy Barnett from Vulcan Materials Company; and sponsored loaned executives Ann Douglass Williams, Karim Shamsi-Basha, Talesha Oliver, Marlesa Willis, Erica Sellers, Gina Hawkins, Dawn McGlothan, Miyel Miller, John Thompson, Elizabeth Dunn, Thomason Bryan and Jess Vaughan.
All of these organized, methodical and constantly evolving fundraising activities are planned and managed by a group of highly experienced campaign staff under the leadership of John Martin, UWCA’s Senior Vice President of Resource Development. That work is, in turn, meticulously monitored by our team of finance and compliance professionals, which contributes to UWCA’s consistent four-star ranking by Charity Navigator – and the #1 ranking among 1.5 million American charities for transparency and responsible utilization of funds.
Each year, UWCA’s annual campaign is chaired by one of Central Alabama’s most accomplished and influential leaders in business, industry or community service. This year, we are honored to have Jeff Stone, Executive Vice President of Brasfield & Gorrie, serve as Campaign Chair. In this role, he sets the overall the tone for the campaign, is involved in messaging, goes on the speaking circuit, writes letters, makes countless personal calls and consults continuously with campaign and support staff. Mr. Stone’s central message this year is: “United Way of Central Alabama’s campaign is not just for the community; it’s owned by the community.” This is a reference to the fact that all donations stay within our five counties as an investment in each and every person’s future thanks to the far-reaching benefits of United Way’s work.
That very point is driven home by the way the annual campaign funds are allocated. Prior to the conclusion of the campaign, UWCA’s Visiting Allocation Teams are hard at work – visiting all partner agencies, reviewing their operations, assessing performance from the previous year and learning about their needs and plans for the future. These teams are composed entirely of hundreds of volunteers and represent a cross-section of social strata and demographics that reflect the interests of donors from across the community in a fair, informed and unbiased way. Based on everything they learn from their agency visits and subsequent assessments – and based on the final tally from the campaign – each team then makes its funding recommendations to UWCA’s Board of Directors, thus closing the loop on this annual process.
This year’s campaign goal is $36,500,000. With your help, we can undoubtedly achieve that and more. We ask you to be an Everyday Hero by putting whatever you can afford where your heart is…by making an impact on the lives of others…by bringing about positive, lasting change in our community…by making a difference that makes you feel fulfilled. These are all things that can happen when we support United Way and LIVE UNITED.