Guest Columnist

United Way: Nonprofits pivot to technology

The Gazette asked Eastern Iowa nonprofit leaders to write about the changing needs of our community in 2020

Kristin Roberts will start as United Way of East Central Iowa CEO on February 3. Photographed at the Human Services Camp
Kristin Roberts will start as United Way of East Central Iowa CEO on February 3. Photographed at the Human Services Campus in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

This year has thrown everyone for a loop, and the nonprofit world is no exception. Traditional ways of communicating with clients and supporters has changed, as well as how critical dollars are raised for our missions. Even completing tasks or interacting with clients through a mask or personal protective equipment has changed us more than we know. In a world where everything has changed, nonprofits are adapting to meet the needs of our neighbors every single day.

Just as other nonprofits have had to pivot, United Way of East Central Iowa (UWECI) has found itself using technology in ways it never has before. We’ve stretched ourselves — from hosting virtual fundraising events to increasing remote volunteer opportunities — almost relearning how we can support our community in this “new normal.” UWECI has been at the table, creating partnerships and collaborations that are impacting those who need it most while allowing donors’ gifts to go further. From expanding Project ReConnect to fostering a growing partnership with rural farmers, we continue to help nonprofits make new connections to move forward during these trying times.

During the holiday season, UWECI receives numerous calls from people interested in lifting each other up in the spirit of giving back. Our Holiday Volunteer Guide now focuses on virtual volunteer options for people to give back and support our community. Visiting uweci.org/holiday is a great place to start. It gives you endless options such as adopting a family this holiday season, participating in a school supply drive, or providing meals for those in need. Each volunteer opportunity has guidelines on how you can support them in a safe way.

If you’ve felt moved by any of the challenges our neighbors have faced this year, you’re not alone. This year has been tough for everyone in one way or another, whether that’s from losing a job or choosing between paying an insurance deductible or replacing basic needs. If these feelings are familiar to you, I encourage you to support United Way and other area nonprofits during the holidays through a gift, volunteering your time, or advocating for others.

Now more than ever, our community needs to come together. The one-two punch of the global pandemic and derecho impacted our neighbors in ways we never could have imagined. These disasters just shined a brighter spotlight on the inequities some in our community face every day. We saw roofs blown off homes, we saw people being laid off, we saw neighbors needing food and diapers. But in reality, these issues have always been in our community. And unfortunately, they will last long after the spotlight has moved from these crises. For the last 106 years, United Way of East Central Iowa has been here to lead and connect our community to better the lives of our neighbors, both in times of disaster and in everyday life.

There are many challenges before us. UWECI is here to create solutions to make them better, and you can be part of the change. Thank you for standing beside our neighbors and nonprofits when it is needed the most. Stay well.

Kristin Roberts is president and CEO of United Way of East Central Iowa.

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