EP Award Promo

United Way’s Emerging Leaders Initiative targets young professionals


Last year’s United Way of Central Iowa annual campaign raised a record $17.2 million. However, 93 percent of the “leadership” investments of $1,000 or more came from people older than 35.

Seeking to better engage Greater Des Moines’ next generation of leaders, United Way this year is launching an “Emerging Leaders Initiative” to more personally involve young professionals with the charity.

For an annual pledge of $1,000, interested individuals will be groomed to serve on the boards of the non-profit community organizations served by United Way. They also get the opportunity to designate their contributions to any project or organization that promotes the success of school-age children, whether it’s a United Way member or not. Additionally, they’ll be able to network with other young professionals, as well as top business and community leaders.

“What this group (young professionals) has said is that they really want to have access to these incredible quality people that they can learn something from,” said Doug Reichardt, chairman and CEO of Holmes Murphy & Associates Inc., who is spearheading the initiative.

Last month, an initial networking event sponsored by Principal Financial Group Inc. that was expected to attract 40 people drew about 80, Reichardt said. “Our next event could be in excess of 100 people, and that’s just by word of mouth,” he said.

From United Way’s perspective, the initiative is a way to broaden the base of giving, said Shannon Cofield, the organization’s executive director.

“The dollars continue to grow, but the participation rate has continued to decline,” she said. “We just don’t feel we’re capturing that next generation. We know that we need to entice and incent others to get involved.”

The new program is patterned after United Way’s Women’s Leadership Initiative, which in three years has attracted more than 600 women leaders who have pledged $1,000 or more, with a top giving tier of $2,500. That initiative focuses on programs geared toward increasing the learning readiness of preschool-age children.

The Emerging Leaders Initiative will have a “step-up” contribution level of $500 for those who want to begin with a smaller investment and work up to full membership status later.

Several non-profit organizations have indicated a need for attracting new talent to their boards, and they see this program as a way to do that, Cofield said.

Through United Way’s Board Connect program, “we will work with the non-profit boards to train them and facilitate board placement,” she said, “but in the end, it’s not the United Way’s decision as to who will be on a board.”

Though this particular initiative requires a substantial contribution, there are also leadership opportunities available that don’t require contributions, Cofield said.

“For instance, any member of the community can donate their time to be involved in the investment quality assurance process, in which volunteers go out into the community to meet with agencies and assess the outcomes based on the funds that we give,” she said.

Stephanie Gibbs, a 27-year-old account executive with Holmes Murphy who plans to join the initiative, said she feels the program is a good opportunity.

“Being able to see where my donations are going and having somewhat of a say in how they are allocated (is important),” she said. “And to see the impact you’re having on the community.”

Those interested in more information should contact their company’s United Way campaign coordinator, visit the United Way Web site at www.unitedwaydm.org or call Steve Quirk at United Way, 246-6571.

visionbank web 070123 300x250