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Change can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Brewton Brownlow Couch, VP of Branding and Messaging at United Way of Greater Knoxville, led the audience through how they have maintained their long-standing reputation while telling the new story of what it means to be a Modern United Way.

Over the past 100 years, United Way of Greater Knoxville has “worked to understand local needs, mobilize volunteers, to raise awareness and money to meet community needs by granting money to programs that align with predetermined goals.”


A Shift in Focus

Couch first addressed why United Way of Greater Knoxville decided to join the network initiative to become the “Modern United Way.”

A concerning trend has emerged over the past ten years. The lifetime value of a workplace donor is declining. When payroll software companies take over workplace giving, instead of a United Way campaign, there is an 80% decline in payroll deductions.

While this downward trend is not unique to United Way, they knew that something needed to be done. Considering workplace giving is a valuable piece of United Way fundraising, they decided that there was a need to rebrand and change the way that they were getting donations. According to Couch, young professions “care as much, if not more, than older generations” when it comes to social responsibility and charitable giving. But nonprofits have not been talking in a way that resonates with them. The goal of United Way’s rebrand was to address this problem.

Next, Couch approached how United Way of Greater Knoxville tackled the task of transforming a 100-year-old organization.

Instead of asking the community to get involved because it is simply the right thing to do, they have started to approach it as a “strategic partner[ship] for corporate social responsibility.” They are accomplishing the same work as always but recognizing the benefits to their corporate partners.

By focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility, or the idea of integrating social and environmental concerns into business operations, companies can help the community while also improving company culture, employee engagement and retention. Turnover reduced by 57% in companies that find space for “Social Purpose as a core business strategy.”

As part of a more modern approach, United Way has adopted some new technology and software to help them reach their goals.  Shared Purpose serves as an umbrella of products and resources for corporate partners. Sales Force Philanthropy Cloud is an exciting resource for corporate partners as well. This collaboration with Sales Force allows employees to set up a profile where they can donate directly to nonprofits, log their volunteer hours and so much more. Information from this software helps employers make decisions based of their employee’s civic interests.

In closing, Couch announces some collaborative opportunities that United Way of Greater Knoxville is assisting with for the community.

Giving Back

Couch and Amelia Everett, Program Manager at Volunteer East Tennessee and board member for American Marketing Association Knoxville, announced several upcoming service events with the audience. KnoxGives on November 8 will be a community day of service in Knox County. Big Give Knox will be on December 3. This 24-hour online giving campaign is designed to raise money and awareness the local-nonprofit community.

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