As we enter 2016, United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra’s board of directors can look back at the previous two years and see a recent history that changed the course of the nonprofit. In this recent history, the board of directors publicly committed to a single issue of grade level reading success and then dedicated $1.125 million to this effort in 2015. Together with four funded partnerships, 2016 will be a year we will continue to target our actions on this specific issue. We will tie our financial and volunteer support right back to this vitally important issue and document results as we move forward.
In selecting the single-issue focus, United Way developed the bold goal to double the number of children in northern Nevada who read proficiently at the conclusion of third grade by 2020. United Way and our regional partners are working to jointly develop long-term solutions in the areas of strengthening families, early learning and development, kindergarten readiness and early literacy, and early grade success. These are proven building blocks to success for early readers who are our future high school graduates.
United Way is poised to provide key services that can help meet critical needs in your business and make it very easy for individuals to be positively involved in the community.
One way to do this would be to consider engagement in cause-related marketing with United Way that demonstrates that you are socially responsible. Cause-related marketing can take many forms. Your participation will benefit your business by increasing public awareness of your values and willingness to support good causes. There is a mutual benefit to United Way as the contributions from a project that we agree to undertake together can be very significant. Those resources can truly make a difference in the lives of thousands of children and their parents in northern Nevada and the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Another important way for your business to help create a better community is to participate in an annual workplace campaign to give your employees an opportunity to invest in a priority community issue. More than 200 local businesses in the region offer a campaign to their employees to make a difference in the lives of others.
As the economic outlook in northern Nevada improves in 2016, another way that United Way can help your business is to connect your company with strategic volunteering. Depending on your company’s existing programs and philanthropic goals, you might want to focus the impact of an employee volunteer program on our specific issue area of grade-level reading.
Volunteering is an important form of community involvement that is proven to improve your ability to attract and retain employees. We are pleased to work with you to help identify what your company does best and focus on your employees’ proficiencies in areas that will help us to reach our goal. Your employees may welcome a chance to address an important social issue using skills that they have developed in your business. It can be mutually beneficial when your employees are able to bring these talents to the community for capacity building, sharing resources, and ultimately, social change.
There are many models that companies utilize to provide volunteer opportunities for employees. One way is to provide volunteer support by loaning an executive to United Way — an employee that is granted a sanctioned and compensated leave of absence to pursue a pro bono project. A second way that businesses participate is to co-create a team project with United Way. In this case, individuals are placed on teams, each with specific roles and responsibilities. Each project is scoped and structured around a standard deliverable that fulfills needs in your selected United Way programs and those of our funded partnerships.
A volunteer program in your business can help you to build leaders and develop talent. During the past 73 years in business, we have worked with thousands of volunteers and know that we can also work with you to create a fun team-building opportunity. This effort is a powerful retention tool and can help you to retain staff in an increasingly competitive environment. We have decades of experience in bringing teams similar to yours together to make a difference in meaningful ways.
With your help, we can meet our goal of all children reading at grade level. For additional information on United Way and how you can get involved, please call 775-322-8668 or visit uwnns.org
Karen Barsell is CEO and president of United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra.
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