Serving as United Way campaign co-chairs for the past six months has been an incredible, inspiring experience. We’ve had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of people from all walks of life whose generosity and humanity transcend stereotypes, political views and socioeconomic statuses.
We’ve also received an in-depth education into the always-evolving, complicated human-service challenges we face in Miami — from getting priced out of homes to access to quality early education and healthcare, gun violence, aging population, food insecurity, mental health — and so much more. All of which has reaffirmed our belief and commitment to the importance of United Way — and the urgency to grow its reach far beyond its current sphere of supporters.
For more than 90 years, United Way of Miami-Dade has been essential to the fabric of this community — responding to new and emerging needs and transforming people’s lives. Since 1924, the organization has served as a convener, uniting diverse donors, volunteers and organization to take collective action to address the challenges of the times: whether responding in the aftermath of the 1926 hurricane, helping with the war effort in the 1940s, funding programs to assist Cuban immigrants in the 1960s, supporting AIDS and gang violence programs in the 1980s, coordinating rebuilding efforts in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, being at the forefront of the early education movement since the 1990s, helping people pave a path to financial stability through the recession of the late 2000s or leading current efforts to empower older adults and veterans.
We know that when we have the opportunity to tell our story — to explain how United Way is helping improve the education, financial stability and health of our neighbors — people respond, opening their hearts and their wallets. When they learn about United Way’s proven process, led by trained volunteers from a variety of backgrounds, of assessing community needs, evaluating local program effectiveness and monitoring outcomes, they give with confidence — knowing that their hard-earned dollars are being put to good use and achieving life-changing results, not just for individuals but entire systems of caring.
We also see enormous benefits to our own businesses by participating in United Way, because the organization allows us to be part of something so much bigger than ourselves. The annual United Way campaign at our workplaces is an engaging way of bringing our employees together for the common good, educating them about real needs that exist and offering them an opportunity to be part of the solution. It helps to build morale and teamwork, it allows employees to develop leadership skills, a greater appreciation for their own blessings and a greater understanding for the plight of others. As employers, we benefit as does the community as a whole.
All the virtues that make Miami one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world, are the same qualities that make spearheading the United Way campaign a unique challenge. Our diverse business environment, primarily comprised of small and/or entrepreneurial businesses, makes it much more difficult to reach folks and share our United Way story.
We are fortunate to be surrounded by extraordinarily generous individuals — young and old — who are committed to Miami and its future. Each year, more than 357 companies and organizations and nearly 60,000 individuals make a gift in support of United Way’s work. To them, we offer our heartfelt thanks. Yet, they alone can’t carry the burden of our growing human service needs. With more than 50 percent of our households either living in or on the edge of poverty, we all have a stake in our future. As business leaders and as residents of this vibrant community, we must all participate in building a stronger Miami, today and for generations to come.
So we ask you, Are you in? Can you help open doors for us? If so, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. What better way to celebrate the holidays than by reaching out and helping others. Thank you.
Alexandra Villoch is president and publisher of the Miami Herald Media Co. Robert Sanchez is CEO of Ryder System, Inc. They are volunteer co-chairs of the 2016-2017 United Way of Miami Dade Campaign.