Case Study: United Way of Greater Cleveland

The Challenge: United Way of Greater Cleveland needed a new platform that would allow them to reach people as they changed careers and also bring their current fundraising efforts up to speed with how people prefer to give.

The Solution: Big River was selected as the new fundraising platform, allowing people to give to the causes they cared about most in the way that worked best for them — and all in a single platform with complete mobile access.

The Result: UWGC and its partner businesses are able to seamlessly conduct workplace giving campaigns that produce measurable results while making both the setup process and user experience as simple and effective as possible.

Listen to Our Interview with UWGC Now

The Challenge

United Way of Greater Cleveland (UWGC) partners with Northeast Ohio organizations to set up and support workplace giving campaigns conducted by leadership and HR teams to raise money through their employees. For years, UWGC achieved great success through this federated giving model. However, as the trend of employees switching jobs every 18–36 months began to take hold, UWGC began having difficulty keeping in contact with its past donors — as its campaigns were historically concentrated under the umbrella of the company with whom it had partnered.

“What we needed was a new online giving platform that would allow us to keep in touch with employees as they moved from place to place, began to retire, and so on,” said Niki Krause, Director of IT Solutions and Analytics for UWGC. “I was tasked with identifying a solution that would help us reach donors where they were. We needed to give donors a personalized record wherever they went so we could serve as an anchor for their philanthropic giving.”

The need for a new system extended beyond simply keeping in touch with past donors, however. UWGC had a number of circumstances and preferences to consider in its search for a new fundraising platform.

As UWGC is a volunteer-guided organization with involvement from community leaders, it needed a way to track gifts of time and expertise. The organization was also transitioning off its prior CRM system, so adaptability and flexibility were needed to ensure the giving platform it selected would integrate with its chosen CRM. A mobile-friendly solution was also needed to meet donors where they were and on the devices they use the most. Finally, the platform would need to account for potential coverage from other United Way organizations and agencies should donors move or be located outside the UWGC service area.

“The need for a robust system was many-layered,” Krause said. “We needed a platform that brought us into the 21st century. Big River was completely built for that — no question.”

The Solution

UWGC selected Big River as its new online giving platform. Because federated giving is a complex, large-scale fundraising model, UWGC made the decision to pilot the platform with one partner organization to fine-tune its messaging, campaign setup, and overall workflow. During the pilot test, the organization successfully increased its giving by 17% over the previous year.

From here, campaigns were then rolled out to businesses that spanned multiple United Way territories. To keep employees connected with their regional United Way (particularly effective for organizations with a distributed workforce), UWGC tapped into the United Way Worldwide database — allowing donors to give in their own backyard using their zip code.

“The flexibility of Big River was a godsend with this, “Krause said. “We tapped into United Way Worldwide’s database to get the localization we needed, which is all automated through Big River. This is now available to us on-the-fly — no additional coding is needed. We only have to associate the employee with a zip code. People can also give to UWGC itself so we can direct funds based on their communities, but they can specify based on interest. They can earmark funds for our focus areas or designate to a specific charity they have an affinity for.”

Because federated giving is a complex, large-scale fundraising model, UWGC made the decision to transition 50 percent of its existing workplace partners to the Big River platform in 2018 and keep the remaining 50 percent on its existing system. This strategy allowed UWGC to focus on updating internal processes and workflow to ensure that everything about its new fundraising platform was as polished and streamlined as possible.

Additionally, Big River allowed UWGC service team members to transition to a completely distributed model. UWGC associate directors (ADs) and other service team members can now set up their own sites at partner organizations — without the need for a software developer to customize or set up campaigns. This freedom gives UWGC greater capacity to encourage even more businesses to conduct workplace giving campaigns in years to come.

With Big River, UWGC was also now able to give employees multiple options for the method of giving, including payroll deduction, bank drafts, card payments, cash, and check. But more important was that Big River allowed UWGC to completely configure the available giving methods based on the preferences and options available at each partner business. In addition to payment processing flexibility, Big River was also instrumental in supporting UWGC as it transitioned toward more data-driven decision-making.

“We’re learning to decide based on data,” Krause said. “We pay very close attention to the numbers to ensure we’re doing the most good. With Big River, we get flexible and ad-hoc reporting via dashboards for staff and employee campaign managers within the workplace campaign. We can see how things are going in real time. Everything is up-to-date and exportable. Everyone loves the dashboards — they can be used even if you have little or no in-house IT support.”

The Big River platform also allowed UWGC to support events. The organization can now collect RSVPs, provide and capture online ticket sales, and conduct online raffles and auctions. These campaigns and events can be offered privately within the context of a company’s workplace campaign or publicly for Giving Tuesday and other opportunities.

“Workplace giving is the largest way people give to the United Way, but with Big River, we have new channels,” Krause said. “Corporations can give directly via transfers. We can process those gifts and can record the contacts online. A lot of companies have asked for this in the past, but we didn’t have it. We can also put up flexible donation forms that support specific interests like education, fighting poverty, and helping the homeless.”

The Result

As of September 2018, UWGC has rolled out the Big River platform to 25 companies and plans to continue rolling it out to more partner businesses throughout the remainder of the campaign season. Organizations conducting workplace giving campaigns now have the tools, accessibility, processes, and backend support they need to not only make giving easier for their employees but also to assess the performance of their campaigns and collaborate with UWGC.

“Big River has been instrumental throughout this entire process. They spend one day a week with us to assist with campaign configuration, provide insights and best practices, and provide any other needed support,” Krause said. “They did a great deal of development for us, but it’s not limited to us. Any other organization can use it and configure it as needed for their business.”

“Overall, working with Big River has led to a better experience for the employee, so they know their giving history over time. It’s important to understand that it’s their information — not the company’s information. Big River made it easier for people to give by removing barriers. You can give quickly — from your phone or wherever you are, and all on the same platform.”

Where UWGC had previously been limited to their former giving system’s constraints and rules, Big River has helped remove the constraints — making giving in all its forms easier, more efficient, and more understandable analytically for UWGC, partner businesses, and employee donors.

Ready to learn more about the Big River online giving platform and how we support organizations like United Way? Contact our team or request a demo today.