Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve visitor gives $100,000

On a New Year's Eve nearly a decade ago, a stranger taught me a lesson I will never forget.

Like most executives, I tend to work during the holiday season. Phone calls and daily interruptions are at a minimum. It is usually a week where I can catch up on a number of smaller projects around the office. My office was just off the lobby, so I could also serve as a greeter and receptionist during the holidays.

On this particular New Year's Eve, a visitor came into our lobby looking to make a contribution. He had been to several other charities that day, but none were open. After a little small talk, I was stunned to see his first time gift of $10,000. It was the single largest personal gift in our history (at the time). He and his wife became good friends of our organization, later giving us the deed to one of his houses which netted the organization well over $100,000.

From that experience, I made it a point to emphasize year-end giving. One year, we even encouraged our largest local bank to keep their drive through lanes open downtown until midnight for any last minute gifts. While we did not get another $100,000 through that effort, we did increase the awareness about our organization through significant media coverage that holiday season.

That experience will always remind me that New Year's Eve can be one of the best giving days of the year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year 2009

Wishing you a Happy New Year 2009 from your friends at Upic Solutions!

7 steps to managing in tough times

With a New Year and a new administration in Washington, our fellow United Ways are facing the perfect storm of uncertain contributions and unprecedented demands for basic human care services.

My friend and Upic Board member, Joe Tolan at Metro United Way (Louisville) shared this recent article from titled "Managing in Tough Times: 7 Steps" which contains several timely reminders about what is important in our current economic situation.

1. Act quickly, but not reflexively and plan contingencies
2. Protect the core
3. Identify the people who matter most and keep that group strong
4. Stay very close to your key funders
5. Shape up your organization
6. Involve your board
7. Communicate openly and often

Over the upcoming holiday weekend, let's all make a resolution to reconsider these seven steps to be prepared for the New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Best United Way blogs?

I'm on the lookout for the best United Way blogs around the nation.

I currently follow a dozen or so blogs created in the field. Here are three that I've been reading lately.

Boston, MA

Denver, CO

Austin, TX

If you have some United Way blogs you'd recommend, please comment below.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Using technology to track Santa tonight

Growing up in the 1960's, tracking Santa's progress from the North Pole involved watching the Channel 10 TV news with breathless updates from the weather reporter...usually involving a Santa cutout on the national weather map.

In the 1980's when my son was young, the weather reporters used their new (pre-Doppler) radar setups and would scare us with the news that Santa was just across the river, so we had to scurry to bed fast before he got to our house.

Now, thanks to Google, tracking Santa is high tech with Norad Santa.

With Google Maps for mobile, anyone can keep tabs on him from their mobile phones (just activate GMM and search for "norad santa").

You can also receive updates from "Bitz the Elf" on Twitter by following @noradsanta.

And of course, be sure to visit starting December 24th at 6:00 am EST when Santa's journey begins.

Upic Holiday Hours

Upic Solutions will be closed on December 24th & 25th for the Christmas holiday and on January 1st for New Years Day.

Upic's help desk will be open on December 24th until 4:00 pm Eastern.

We will monitor all Upic hosted systems on a 24x7 basis for any system-wide issue.

For the complete Upic Holiday schedule, please go to

United Ways responding to the economy

United Ways are responding in new and creative ways to drive more assistance to families in need throughout the nation, by increasing fundraising, decreasing costs and providing more direct assistance.

In previous posts we've introduced new micro-campaigns which ask for small gifts from residents and their friends via social media like You Tube.

Yesterday, the United Way of the National Capital Area (Washington, DC region) announced that they were cutting their fundraising fees by 50% to recipient organizations who participate in their fundraising campaign. The net effect of this move is an immediate $1.5 million in program funding for their region.

Interim CEO, Angela Woods reports that these fees will be offset by a prudent use of reserves, increased organizational efficiencies and aggressive expansion into new campaign markets. UWNCA is looking to Upic as a possible strategic partner to assist in this endeavor for 2009 and beyond.

Finally, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati updated their "Where to Turn Guide" with a focus on resources people need when facing unemployment, including legal services, consumer credit counseling and public assistance.

Tough times call for bold action in all three areas. As we discover more of these innovative ideas, we will share them with you.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Give 5/10 updates

Since the Twin Cities United Way launched its Give5Now campaign last week, several United Ways have added this micro-campaign to their websites.

Chicago United Way launched the Give5Here campaign on You Tube and this website.

Nashville United Way launched the Give10Now campaign on You Tube and this website.

We'll check in with all three cities after the holidays to see how they fare.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gift card winners announced

Announcing to our $25 gift card winners for participating in our December 2008 customer satisfaction survey:

Darris Ely (Cincinnati)
Guy Hayes (Indianapolis)
Hilda Burkhead (Louisville)
Kevin Montgomery (Asheville)
Janet Ravneberg (Columbus)
Jessica Stoner (Toledo)
LaTonya Springs (HOME)
Linda Todd (Cincinnati)
Michelle Patterson (St. Louis)
Phyllis Bowser (Indianapolis)
Sarah Barker (High Point)
Shelle Austin (Sarasota)
Susan Grosse (Cincinnati)
Tyler Benack (Columbus)

THANK YOU to everyone who participated. We'll post the survey results in an upcoming article.

Give5Now campaign-Twin Cities

United Way of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN) is now experimenting with an new a viral campaign called Give5Now encouraging residents to contribute $5 and encourage five others to give $5 now with a focus of helping with basic needs given the current economic climate.

Check out the short You Tube video below. The campaign launched on Monday with the following article.

According to the local newspaper article, over $12,500 was raised in the first 48 hours with an average gift of $23 per person. We'll keep in touch with the organizers to see how it turns out for them.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Managing your online reputation

Monitoring your organization's online reputation is more challenging than ever before with the hundreds of new Web 2.0/social media tools now on the scene.

This week, we started monitoring "United Way" and "Upic Solutions" mentions on the web and in blogs using several of the free tools mentioned in this article from last year.

As we started monitoring Twitter feeds, we were surprised with the number of tweets coming from United Way board meetings, including this one in Charlotte earlier this week. If you would like email alerts of Twitter feeds, we really like this free service as well.

Listening to the blogosphere is more important than ever and you can do it easily with Web 2.0 and social media.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Customer Satisfaction

Twice a year, Upic asks every end user of our member organizations to complete a brief Customer Satisfaction survey to provide service feedback and suggestions for improvement.

During our March 2008 survey (see results), we had a 50% participation rate with dozens of great ideas. We discovered which Upic services are used most frequently, which services provided the most value and established benchmark approval ratings which we will measure again in late 2008.

Congratulations to our March 2008 survey gift certificate drawing winners:

Jan Sherrell (Louisville)
Lori Terwilliger (Toledo)
Melissa Lohman (Cincinnati)
Marcy Wagener (Columbus)
Mary Jones (Indianapolis)
Phyllis Lile (Louisville)
Tiffany Baker (Cincinnati)

As a result of the survey feedback, Upic has developed the following service responses:

1. Created the Upic newsletter/blog to provide regular updates on Upic services and technology news
2. Replaced our Spam Filter with a new system which allows individual members to create their own settings
3. Launched Upic University on-demand webinar series providing 5-10 minute training sessions on your schedule
4. Started a new live telephone response for Andar "how to questions" using our toll-free help desk number
5. Secured discounted AT&T internet circuit rates to permit expanded internet bandwidth options for members

Our next survey is now underway until 5:00 pm on December 10, 2008. Once again, we will have drawings for $25 gift certificates (one per 50 responses). Results will be published the week of December 15th.