United Way Twin Cities
A Modern Perspective On Creating Impact

Using a creative platform to transform a 100-year-old culture

Greater Twin Cities United Way was in need of revitalization. While known for supporting communities in need, the perception of the non-profit was that of a fundraiser only, not necessarily a community impact organization. Zeus Jones partnered with Greater Twin Cities United Way to challenge both how it communicated its offerings and, more importantly, how it thought of itself.

The challenge that United Way has always faced is that people don’t know what we do.

Melissa Wagner
Melissa Wagner
Director of Marketing Services, Greater Twin Cities United Way

There’s a perpetual question of “Why United Way?” We have a 100-year-old brand and to remain relevant, we realized our messaging needed an update. Over the years, it had fallen flat and we needed to clarify who we are and what we stand for. We had already done research on a communication strategy but we were looking to take it a step further and actually create a consumer-facing creative platform.

We thought the most powerful thing we could do was to bring the heart to the head of Greater Twin Cities United Way. That humanity had always been there but there hadn’t been a rallying cry around it for a long time.

Laura Nelli
Melissa Wagner

Together, we knew that we needed to shift the perception of the organization to be more about creating an impact in our communities. And with significant income and opportunity disparities in the Twin Cities region, that starts by bringing a focus around equity. We wanted to concentrate our efforts on uniting people to create opportunity for all.

Laura Nelli
Creative, Zeus Jones

Because United Way is able to bring so many different people from different areas of our community to the table, we were able to really explore what equity is and means.

Melissa Wagner

That conversation really teed up a series of additional conversations that helped eventually lead us to the creative platform that we landed on.

Laura Nelli

Our creative platform was centered on the idea of “humankind” because kindness is so essential to equity, right? At the core, we’re dealing with very, very serious problems and issues that are filled with emotion. We’ll accomplish a better community, a better world if we come to the table with kindness.

Melissa Wagner

This idea put people first by focusing on their possibilities and how that translates into potential for our entire community. This lens has given us an ability to provide more of a context for what’s happening in the community and begin meaningful conversations. All of this organically sets up why United Way’s work matters.

Laura Nelli

We announced our “humankind” work with an animated video that’s meant to build empathy in terms of what it’s really like to be experiencing poverty. We used getting stuck in snow as a metaphor for this situation, because people aren’t necessarily stuck in poverty forever – they just need the kindness of others to help move out of it.

Strategist, Zeus Jones

And then we started applying that idea to more places. For instance, we repositioned the United Way’s annual fund, what it does and its impact as an expression of human kindness. We also created additional fundraising materials and then most recently, we wrapped upa naming project for key fundraising products in the spirit of humankind, so really focusing on the potential and the impact.

The work has been received amazingly well. Our partners are using the platform to communicate their relationship with the United Way and our volunteers are inspiring others with messages and acts of kindness.

Melissa Wagner
Melissa Wagner

Inside our organization, humankind has reminded us of who we are. We used humankind as the theme for our own internal campaign and it’s the highest fundraising campaign that we’ve had in years. The staff here has really embraced it and it’s actually transforming the way we work. In fact, we’re using it to train all employees. People are so proud of the humankind approach that it really has changed our culture.