United Way Agencies: Thou Shalt Not Live on Workplace Giving Alone

Each year, millions of employees at companies large and small get involved in Workplace Giving campaigns to support United Way solutions that improve health and well-being, education and financial stability for those in need.  These Workplace campaigns unite employee bases in a ‘sum greater than their parts’ dynamic, giving them opportunities to support causes that matter to them in any number of ways — donating, volunteering, or simply amplifying a voice to the need for critical support in their own backyard.

Especially at larger (200+ employees) companies, Workplace Giving campaigns have historically been the all-in-one solution for a streamlined corporate donation strategy. More than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies have Workplace Giving programs in place…and many of those offer  employee matching gift programs as an additional source of support.

Make no mistake: with so many years of equity the Workplace Giving campaign is still a primary donation option for corporate philanthropy. But, let’s look at this from another perspective. When managing your investment portfolio, your personal financial advisor probably doesn’t recommend putting too many of your eggs in one basket, thereby mitigating unnecessary risk but also opening you up to taking advantage of the benefits from a number of other investment avenues. From the same standpoint, your United Way agency (or other nonprofit) shouldn’t have to depend on a singular source of revenue for the bulk of its support.  And between a major health pandemic, once-in-a-generation price inflation and growing economic concerns, times of uncertainly are still very real and present.  These realities have challenged United Ways and nonprofits across the country to pivot towards revenue diversification as a way to avoid donation attrition.

Below, we’ll take you through a handful of viable options to help you diversify your fundraising ‘portfolio’ — giving current supporters new and exciting ways to support your mission, and attracting new supporters to your cause.



Your United Way chapter may already have one or two signature fundraiser events on your annual calendar.  If so, kudos to you!  But if not, it may be something you should strongly consider.

Do some research (and maybe poll your constituents) as to what kinds of events would resonate the most with your supporters. Perhaps a formal dinner & gala, something aligned with arts & culture, music, sports or an easily-accessible social-recreational activity (like bowling or a watch party for your city’s favorite team). Next, put together a calendar plotting the Special Events other nonprofits in your trade area hold. Then, compare the two lists and see if there are any content gaps your United Way agency could fill.  A fashionable and trendy event idea + a strong pitch for support = a successful Special Event brand opportunity that you can own in your market.



Have you given any thought to the merits of a hybrid fundraising event?  Today’s donors (and, on a larger scale, today’s consumers) want to be much more in control of whatever commerce experiences they have; they shop online, get personalized rewards sent to their account, and have their transaction arrive on their doorstep — often the very same day.  Now that consumers have enjoyed this level of personalization and convenience, they expect it in other parts of their lives.  For these reasons as well as donors’ increasingly saturated schedules, a fundraising event that can be supported in-person OR VIRTUALLY (with an effective digital experience) may be something worth investigating.  Initiatives that ‘meet them halfway’ show a prospect a whole new level of consideration and respect — and may be what you need to help bring them into your donor family. Many reports support the theory that multiple avenues for donor involvement strengthens supporters’ connection to the cause….and results in increased long-term giving. An example: a hybrid in-person/virtual Annual Celebration & Highlights Gala. Just make sure that the digital interaction is 1) easily executable, 2) not overly lengthy, that 3) any virtual ‘hiccups’ can be easily reconciled, and that 4) the virtual experience doesn’t take anything away from those experiencing the event in the room. And your United Way social media accounts can make perfect extensions of a hybrid event.


Raffles and Auctions are two of the more popular kinds of fundraising examples that United Way agencies and other nonprofits employ.  Both inherently have a high level of audience engagement, cast a wide net in terms of interest, and offer a clear ‘benefit’ to the donor beyond the gratification of helping the less fortunate.  Raffles are giveaways that afford a donor the chance to win cash/other prizes via a lottery-style drawing. On the other hand, Auctions (live/’real-time’ or silent/’form’) are more pointed where attendees submit their own predetermined competitive bid for high-interest goods, services or experiences.

Some things to consider, however: As Raffles are considered gaming (i.e. games of chance), they are regulated by the state and generally require a license/permit. You will need to research as to whether you can legally run a Raffle in your state — and whether there are limitations as to who can submit bids based on where the bidder lives.  Additionally, the IRS regulates games of chance too, as well as any taxable income earned by winners (and potentially the nonprofit as well). And since a winning Auction bid essentially involves the purchase of goods-services-experiences, it is likely that not a penny of his/her ‘donation’ would be tax-deductible.



Not be one of the more commonplace initiatives, but in some circumstances might be a perfect fit. Running the gamut from conferences, Board of Directors workshops, leadership and achievement programs, co-sponsored speaker and lecture events, retreats and more, these provide educational, motivational and thought-provoking content to the populations you’re trying to reach.  Depending on the subject, programs could be tailored for a number of audiences, from your Board to top-level donors, educational institutions and corporate foundations, as well as the very populations your United Way or other nonprofit serves.


Remember that not all support needs to come in monetary form. There’s a reason the old adage ‘Time, Talent and Treasure’ still holds up.  There may be supporters in your stable that, for a myriad of reasons, are just not able to donate cold hard cash at this time, but nonetheless want to help the mission. Here’s a perfect opportunity for Volunteer Engagement. Brainstorm with your team on creative ways you can leverage these individuals in any number of ways, from community cleanups to donation/collection of school items, non-perishable food and grocery coupons, or health and hygiene items.



How can you target people with different interests and professional/personal backgrounds without major undertakings in financial or man-hour commitments? Look no further than calling on your most ardent supporters to help you expand your audience. Peer-to-Peer and Crowdfunding initiatives are effortless ways for your donors to bring their family, friends and colleagues into your agency’s universe. Although initial P2P & Crowdfunding campaigns may yield smaller average donations at first, the breadth of ‘new recruits’ will surely make up for it…and lead to overall donation growth long-term. And a bonus gold star if you hold a strong social media influencer in your United Way/nonprofit family; their efforts can lead to an incredibly exponential reach for your story!



Developing a full-service local United Way chapter app that not only gives your supporter base a flawless and secure way to donate but also allows you to keep them apprised of news and happenings, and allows them to stay in touch with your cause, is another potential option. An app opens up the possibilities of real-time ongoing communication with your constituent base.



A giving vehicle administered by a public charity created to manage donations on behalf of organizations, foundations, families or individuals, a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) is an increasingly popular manner of supporting United Ways and other nonprofits. Donors make gifts into an account managed by a sponsoring organization (e.g. a community foundation, a national financial services corporation such as Fidelity Charitable, or an affinity group sponsor like one dedicated to mental health improvements), and as a contribution (and earned interest) grows over time the donor can earmark the amount and timing of the gift.

DAFs currently make up around 10% of total giving, but it’s one of the fastest-growing vehicles of philanthropy.  And DAFs have other benefits, too: they allow for immediate tax deductions and are able to accept non-cash assets such as stocks, bonds and other securities, as well as cryptocurrency and in some cases real estate holdings.  And many DAF sponsors manage more than one account — making it easier for you to cultivate even more donor opportunities.



One aspect of many Workplace campaigns that often gets overlooked is employee matching gift programs.  Many companies (again, the larger the company the greater the propensity) offer matching gift programs that automatically double the financial support to the designated cause. Approximately $5B annually is raised through U.S. Workplace giving initiatives — but many employees either don’t know about or forget to leverage their employers’ matching program — resulting in billions of additional fundraising dollars going unclaimed each year.

A surefire way to maximize your impact?  Do a quick touchbase with your company’s corporate giving director, human resources manager or even your direct report to see if there are programs that currently exist to augment the influence of your gift.

If you’d like to discuss your United Way or other nonprofit’s revenue diversification, please reach out!