Hour Community: Re-imagining the United Way

What does the United Way do for you? Can’t think of anything? Believe it or not, 1 in 3 people in the Miami Valley region have been touched in some way by the work done by the Dayton chapter of the United Way.  The United Way connects donors, volunteers, and people in need to improve overall quality of life.

Last year, the United Way housed 3,371 in emergency facilities when they found themselves without a home, and11,037 people received crisis counseling in times of need. Additionally, 21,693 seniors and people with disabilities received services that improved the quality of their lives. And that’s just pulling a few fact nuggets from the website. There many, many more.

But as great as these numbers are, we don’t really have a personal connection to them. As a donor, volunteer, or even a person in need, I need to trust that the organization I turn to is the right one. And the best way to do that is through personal stories and personal connections. It’s through building trust.

Like many businesses and organizations, the Dayton United Way understands that having a strong social media presence is vital in today’s world. They already have a presence on Twitter and Facebook, but something was missing… What they – and so many others – are looking to build now is a complete tactical social media strategy to support the goals and vision of the organization.

Today, David Bowman and I participated in a strategy session with the United Way and other members of the Dayton business community to discuss ways to leverage social media tools to connect the United Way more effectively with donors, volunteers, and people in need.

Traditionally, United Way chapters rely on large business donations to fund partner agency initiatives. But in Dayton, this model is changing. Three of the city’s largest employers have relocated within the last three years, and the United Way in Dayton must… well, reinvent the United Way. In fact, as we discussed new donation models and approaches (as well as sharing stories about how donations have changed lives) I found myself reminded of Kiva.org. Sometimes a smaller donation model – individuals working together – can be more powerful than a weighty corporate donation.

It simply takes more work.

And much of that heavy lifting can be done in the realm of social media on platforms, which were built for creating exactly these types of connections.

It was interesting to participate in a strategy meeting with an organization like the United Way, which is hip-deep in reinvention. Hot on the heels of a recession, amidst a social media explosion and evolving banking environment, we all must re-imagine, reinvent, and finally, adapt.

It’s the only way forward.

Penny Ohlmann Neimann

The Ohlmann Group has a rich history that began in Dayton, Ohio in 1949, where the agency was founded as Penny and Penny by Bob Penny and his wife Jean. In 1964, Walter Ohlmann joined the firm. Ralph Neiman came on in 1969 and the firm became Penny/Ohlmann/Neiman. In 2011, P/O/N was renamed The Ohlmann Group to better reflect the agency's ongoing evolution and collaborative nature.

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