It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment in history when the first fundraiser used a thermometer to measure their success. Regardless, the tool has proven to be a tried-and-true method of demonstrating how successful people are at raising money.

In order to grab the public’s attention, fundraisers look for memorable ways to generate interest and keep the public informed. Throughout our 95 years, United Way of Racine County has done some very public things to show the community how we were doing with our annual campaign.

In 1976, the Racine Area United Way, as it was then known, built a small cabin on a 12-foot high platform on Monument Square where a volunteer stayed for five weeks while we worked to reach that year’s campaign goal.

And yes, at times we’ve relied on variations of the fundraising thermometer to announce our goal and measure our success. This was due to the fact that we used to measure success, in large part, by the amount of money we raised.

Each year, United Way of Racine County partners with local companies large and small, as well as with countless individuals throughout our community to raise money for our annual campaign. We’ve done this successfully for 95 years.

But the collaboration doesn’t end there. We’re always finding new ways to get our community and our partners involved in the work we do. We fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. Fundraising is a big part of that. But we also work hard to engage donors year-round as volunteers so they can see firsthand the impact we’re making together through their contributions of time and money.

Today, you’ll still see fundraising thermometers outside some of our long-time corporate supporters like Andis, InSinkErator and CNH, to name a few. These are companies with a long tradition of encouraging workplace philanthropy, and we are grateful for their continued support of United Way of Racine County. And we’ll admit, we get excited each year as we watch their respective thermometers rise.

But we’ve moved away from announcing an annual campaign goal to the community.

We’ve evolved as a local United Way. Today, we are a community impact organization. We measure our success not just by how much money we raise, but by the kind of impact we create in our community with those funds, regardless the amount. Fundraising is a means to that end, because we cannot create positive change without the resources to do so.

We measure our success by whether we move the needle in our community.

In 2015, we announced impact goals for our focus of building an educated workforce. Eight years from now, in 2025, we intend to make a significant impact in our focus areas of health, education and financial stability through the aligned work of our funded impact partners and our own initiatives.

There will be an increase in the number of Racine County residents participating in quality physical and mental health practices. Racine County high school students will graduate with the knowledge, skills and motivation to succeed in college, vocational training or a career. Finally, individuals and families will achieve self-sufficiency in order to support their own future advancement.

How will we know we’ve succeeded?

By 2025, we’ll see a 20-percent reduction in unhealthy behaviors and poor mental health days; 75 percent of Racine County students who graduate will enroll in college, secure employment or plan to join job training or the military; and the number of financially stable Racine County residents will have increased by 2,000 individuals.

This is what we mean when we say move the needle. It’s just another way to measure success. It might not be as visible as a fundraising thermometer, but its impact can be felt throughout our community.

To learn more about United Way of Racine County or to get your company involved in making a positive impact in the community, visit www.unitedwayracine.org or contact Alexa Haigh, vice president of investor relations, at 262-898-2254 or ahaigh@unitedwayracine.org.

Alexa Haigh is vice president of investor relations for United Way of Racine County.

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