United Way's Customer Relationship Management Implementation

Updated: Sep 15, 2018


Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide, writes in the Harvard Business Review about the digital transformation of a 130-year-old philanthropic organization: https://hbr.org/2018/09/united-ways-ceo-on-shifting-a-century-old-business-model.


United Way started by religious leaders as a charitable organization in 1887 in Denver, CO now franchises regional charitable organizations that collect donations for centralized/coordinated philanthropic use.


Summary: For many years United Way received bulk donations primarily from paychecks deductions of employees of large corporations, who would not disclose the personal information of the individual donor-employees.


As an illustration of the importance of engaging customers, Mr. Gallagher recalls one of his projects from the mid-1990s, when he piloted a program in which United Way sent surveys to the biggest donor companies for the employees to fill out and provide information about their philanthropic goals. After receiving 186,000 responses, metrics such as giving, volunteering, and public opinion went up from this simple exercise of taking a survey.


In 2017, United Way partnered with Salesforce to create and develop a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that could be used across the whole category of nonprofits. This platform, called Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud, allowed interested donors to create a profile and interact with United Way. The platform would suggest news and information about philanthropic causes on the donor’s page.


This platform also allowed donors to be more targeted with their donations and to earmark their money for certain causes. United Way can raise more a lot more money through this system even though it has less control over the donations. Early results of this digital transformation seem promising.

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