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Local United Way Tocqueville Society Grows Leaps & Bounds – George McCanless

United Way Tocqueville Society - George McCanless

Local United Way Tocqueville Society Grows Leaps & Bounds is CEO George McCanless’ take on a new way to raise five and six figure gifts for local United Way programs. Here’s what McCanless has to share about United Way of Central Georgia’s recent increase in major donor revenue:

Local United Ways across the country are continuing to battle a double whammy of declining workplace giving combined with more companies switching to third party processors that send dollars directly to agencies rather than through United Way coffers.  If you are a local United Way executive wondering how you are going to turn things around in 2023 and want to know how you can increase your financial resources, we have the answer:  Grow your Alexis de Tocqueville Membership through a measurable process called Major Gifts Ramp-Up for United Way Programs.

If you are going to serve your communities by growing your impact, you must diversify your revenue streams and show  individual donors the value of giving to United Way.  The way to do this is through capturing and retaining individual donors at $10,000+ annually.  Growing your ADT membership is the fastest way to achieve new fundraising records with the least amount of staff stress and effort.


Local United Way Tocqueville Society Grows Leaps & Bounds – George McCanless

Major Gifts Ramp-Up is a proven, step by step process that has been refined over the last 32 years and it is the answer to your financial woes. One United Way in particular, has used Major Gifts Ramp Up to grow their Tocqueville giving.  In doing so, they have tripled their ADT membership from 18 to 56 ADTs and are on their way to 100 ADT members!

Here are the seven key steps United Way of Central Georgia took to grow their ADT base using Major Gifts Ramp Up:

  1. Determined ways to serve the community (Organizational Development). The first vital step for United Way of Central Georgia was to determine the most important challenges facing the 15 counties they serve.  Through a community wide needs assessment, three key issues for service emerged:
    • Eradicating homelessness through a shelter for families and programs to create independence, jobs and self-sufficiency.
    • Early childhood education in cooperation with schools to ensure students have books and reading skills by the completion of 3rd
    • Breast cancer prevention and treatment by providing underserved women access to mammograms and treatment (if diagnosed).

Once these community needs were determined, United Way of Central Georgia conducted Organizational Development to establish the necessary steps to meet these needs.

  1. Created a compelling Case for Support including a three-year impact budget. United Way of Central Georgia compiled a three-year comprehensive budget detailing all of the costs of these initiatives.  Included in this budget were program needs, equipment, one time capital costs, supplies, competitive compensation for employees, volunteer coordination, events and an endowment.  This three-year budget was then brought to life with descriptive text, pictures, statistics and heartwarming stories in an eight-page Case for Support document.  This document was tested and refined with existing donors and community leaders before it was introduced publicly at a non-fundraising Awareness luncheon.
  1. Introduced Case for Support to the community at a non-fundraising Awareness Event. For the purpose of introducing Case for Support to a new set of community leaders and millionaires, United Way of Central Georgia hosted a business luncheon from 11:30 to 1:00 on a weekday.  Invitations were mailed to roughly 1500 high net worth individuals and the invitations clearly stated the event would be non-fundraising.  Angela Williams, CEO of United Way Worldwide was the featured speaker.  The local United Way CEO, George McCanless, introduced Case for Support to 154 new supporters and everyone was dismissed at 12:58 with these words, “Friends, if you have learned today that United Way of Central Georgia can help you achieve your goals for this community, we look forward to visiting with you personally.”
Major Gifts Ramp-Up Angela Williams United Way

                             Angela Williams, CEO, United Way Worldwide

  1. Cultivated donors through face-to-face meetings to listen to donors’ goals and passions for the community. Following the non-fundraising Awareness Event, each guest (as well as guests who wanted to attend, but could not) were stack ranked based on their capacity and affinity to become ADT members.  Each person was sent a handwritten thank you note and invited to a face-to-face meeting.  This process took six months, during which prospective donors were invited to join the Tocqueville society, become Table Hosts for an evening event and, when appropriate, asked to serve as Campaign Leaders.
  1. Asked donors to commit at least $10,000 to United Way of Central Georgia. Donors who were open to receiving an ask to become Tocqueville Members were presented with another review of Case for Support and a written proposal outlining the gift request and the impact and benefits of ADT membership.  In some cases, donors were asked to give $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000, accordingly to their philanthropic goals and capacity.  Gift commitments were recorded and acknowledged with a personal thank you.
  1. Celebrated donors at an evening fundraising event. At roughly the one-year mark in the process of Major Gifts Ramp Up, donors and prospective donors were invited to an evening event. There were no ticket sales or table sponsorships.  Rather, Table Hosts were recruited to invite their friends and business associates to an evening featuring Lucille O’Neal (Shaquille O’Neal’s mother).


The invitation clearly stated that an ask would be made in support of United Way’s work to improve the community.  160 guests gathered at Mercer University’s President’s Dining Room to hear from other donors, people personally impacted by United Way and Lucille O’Neal’s inspirational remarks regarding the importance of generosity.  Each family present was asked to complete a commitment card.  The commitment cards were collected a live tally was conducted.  Each gift amount was recognized without calling out any names.  The total raised for the evening was $434,000, including two $100,000 gifts!  Additionally, this evening brought the number of ADT members up to 56 from a previous high of 18.  United Way of Central Georgia had tripled their Tocqueville membership in one year! Given that the commitment life-span of our existing members is between 7 and 10 years, a conservative projection is these 56 new will generate over $3,850,000.00 in new revenue!

  1. Organized donors in portfolios for continued cultivation and solicitation. After this successful evening of community pride and celebration, United Way of Central Georgia organized existing donors into portfolios divided among three staff members.  Each staff member now has primary responsibility for stewarding the relationships in their portfolio.  Metrics for calls, visits, solicitations and dollars raised are being tracked.  The team has goals to grow their donor base and ADT members to new heights!  Their next goal is to have 100 Tocqueville members. When it is all said and done our one hundred Tocqueville Members will provide over $7,000,000 in support over a seven-year period. We are already halfway there!

Here is the bottom line:  the COVID pandemic combined with record inflation has exacerbated the needs of individuals and families in need. Whatever the critical needs in your community are, it’s a good bet that they are greater today than five, three, even two years ago. So are you ready to commit to a new process to grow your impact in your community?  If so, we look forward to visiting with you to learn about your goals and fundraising needs.  Major Gifts Ramp Up is the answer for which you’ve been looking.

About The Author – George McCanless

United Way of Central Georgia

George McCanless is President & CEO of United Way of Central Georgia. Installed in 2013, George has overseen an organizational transformation by building thriving communities and disrupting family poverty within Central Georgia. Under his leadership UWCG has increased and diversified its funding base while starting critical new initiatives.  The net result of these strategic moves is that funding has grown 72% while UWCG staff has increased from 13 to 48.

Local United Way Tocqueville Society Grows Leaps & Bounds was first posted at INSIDE CHARITY

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1 Comment

  1. Stuart says:

    What is an ADT ?

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