United Way reaches out to donors on-line

Philip King, vice-president of e-business for the United Way of Greater Toronto (UWGT), wanted to use the power of the Internet and e-business to appeal to the general public for donations, thereby accruing the same benefits as mainstream businesses.

On loan from A.T. Kearney Management Consulting in Toronto, King committed himself to the charity pro bono for a two-year term. And it was a heads-up decision by King and the UWGT staff to turn to Toronto-based Deloitte Consulting for help in honing their strategy. In doing so, Deloitte recommended the e-Business Interaction Suite offered by Delano Technology Corp. as their platform.

“In our minds as an organization it was more of why not rather than why (to get an e-business solution), given the change of the economy. We knew we had to do this and we were asked to do this by our donors and our corporate partners,” King explained. “We needed to minimize our costs of doing business and not impact the donations we do receive to achieve that goal.”

UWGT’s new e-business strategy will serve as a model for 125 United Way offices across Canada and potentially to its offices in the United States. The goal is to reach and improve interaction with donors. The UWGT model uses e-mail and the Web to facilitate communication with donors and allows campaign organizers to improve the organization’s outreach to contributors, speed revenue collections, and substantially lower administration costs for campaigns. Before Deloitte’s advice and Delano’s software came to the UWGT’s attention, the traditional form letter sent via snail mail was the charity’s only real means of communication with its contributors – something King wanted to change.

“Deloitte has been a long-standing friend of the United Way…they gave us a study at the end of 1999 pro bono and did a great job cutting through the clutter and helping us create a vision of strategy,” he explained. “Deloitte looked at different personalized engines and recommended Delano…a real home-grown Canadian solution and we really liked that, we wanted to support that and grow our relationship with Delano.”

From Deloitte’s view, it was an opportunity to help make a difference in their own backyard while coming to the aid of the widely-respected charity.

“The most exciting aspect for us was to take their (United Way’s) needs from strategy to the implementation process and help them leverage all of their capabilities,” said Terry Stuart, a principal of Internet and e-commerce solutions with Deloitte Consulting.

“Our goal was to help the United Way get more intimate with their interactions, with their donors and the companies they deal with. Rather than send out thank-you letters via snail mail, we discussed with them how they wanted to e-mail target messages to their donors using the Delano e-Business Interaction Suite. Now donors get a thank-you via e-mail with customized information that will show that particular donor information specific to the charities in which they are interested in and also how much money has been raised.”

The e-Business Interaction Suite enables the charity to deliver personalized campaign messages to a company’s employees via e-mail, along with a link to the United Way Web site, which can accept on-line pledges. Once an on-line donation has been made, an automated e-mail to thank the contributor is zapped back and provides an electronic tax receipt.

“Here was an example of an organization that was traditionally not involved in e-business,” said Barry Yates, vice-president of sales for Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Delano Corp. “We took about three weeks to build the platform for them…building profiles of donors or companies and then the thank you e-mails for potential donors. We gave away the software in kind.”

While UWGT is using e-business as a means to manage their fundraising efforts, there are plans to leverage Delano’s technology in their favour for future projects. King said linking their sister agencies and charities together is an invaluable means of making a greater impact in the community.

“The greater question is how can we achieve our mission by using e-business tools to make our organization more efficient and more personalized,” he said. “We’re trying to [think about] what it would look like if people could volunteer their thoughts…it’s an untapped resource.”

The UWGT funds a network of 200 health and social service agencies that support one in three people in Toronto including children, the homeless, abused women, newcomers to Canada, youth, seniors, people in crisis and the disabled. In 1999, UWGT raised $63.1 million for the community.