United Way Helps Get DFW Employees Engaged in Social Good

Anyone who’s ever planned a corporate initiative knows getting employee participation can be a challenge, even when it’s for a good cause.

But today’s socially conscious companies have more tools than ever to get employees involved in improving their community. And one of the most engaging is the Social Innovation Accelerator from United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

The Program

This incubator for innovative nonprofits helps bring to life bold new solutions for age-old community problems. Promising ventures are chosen for their focus on Education, Income or Health, what United Way calls “the building blocks of opportunity.”

Participants go through an intensive boot camp to refine their business plans, create milestone goals and earn critical resources like funding, mentorship and community connections. And after months of serious prep work, the best of the bunch compete in a star-studded live pitch event for a chance to win an additional $225,000 in funding.

Many past participants have gone on to become community and media darlings—Café Momentum, the Akola Project and Bonton Farms, to name a few. But what makes the program so compelling is the way it gets ordinary people rooting for young local organizations to succeed.

The Process

The process itself has some excitement built-in—it feels like the pursuit of VC funding—but with the competition for big money prizes, the stakes get higher. And public interest just naturally seems to follow.

Part of the intrigue stems from the fact that the first $75,000 in prize money is awarded by an online vote. Competitors make social videos to tell their stories and viewers get to cast a vote for their favorites.

This one-click ability to affect how the money is awarded draws people in and gets them emotionally invested. And the personal stories of the good these organizations accomplish inspires devotion among employers and employees alike. 

The Participation

Some forward-thinking companies have tapped into the competitive spirit to encourage employee participation. Deloitte for example, was an early adopter of the campaign, rolling it out to their 2,000 employees in its first year in 2016.

“We wanted our people to see the great work being done by United Way in our community,” said Frances Kennedy, Deloitte LP, Senior Manager of Corporate Citizenship. “We thought watching the videos and voting each week would be a perfect way to educate them. And we wanted them to value the annual giving campaign and become an active participant if they weren’t already.”

The company was sectioned into teams to compete for highest participation rates and twenty team leaders spread the word, helped generate excitement and created weekly emails with click-through watch-and-vote capabilities.

“The contest dynamic and in office activities around The Vote made it fun,” Kennedy said. “It was easy, it was technology enabled, they could easily feel like they were doing good and making a difference.”

This year, more than twenty companies have signed on to to participate in the 3rd annual United Way Social Innovation Accelerator campaign. Online voting begins April 8th and five local nonprofits will compete in The Pitch at Gilley’s Dallas on April 16th—My Possibilities, Rosa es Rojo, Student Success Agency, Readers2Leaders and POETIC.

To help make Dallas a better place, be part of the change. Get your company involved at UnitedWayDallas.org/Innovation.