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.