United Way board needs to learn from experience

From Jim Laseter, former and now-retired chairman of Wray Ward, a Charlotte creative marketing and public relations firm:

I was touched by our local United Way a thousand times during my career.

Our firm volunteered in leadership positions, created advertising campaigns that were nationally acclaimed and, of course, stepped up to the plate with corporate and employee donations.

But now the United Way is in a pickle. And what a pickle it is. Whatever the cause of this horrible mess, following are a few things they might learn from this experience:

1. Never forget who your customer is. Believe it or not, it is the donors. And I am not talking just the big guys upstairs.

The fellow in cubicle 900 might be real hesitant to ante up this year in spite of the corporate directives.

2. Never appear to be withholding information from your donors. They will quickly move on to another good cause. There are plenty out there.

3. A board of 60 means only one thing: lack of accountability. Get lean fast!

4. Your relationship with your donors is pretty fragile, given that you are an intermediary. If you can't add value, you are out. Hey, your donors would prefer to go direct if it was up to them, anyway.

5. And last, what were you thinking? Maybe a good dose of humble pie was just what the doctor ordered.

Many will be hurt by this extraordinary debacle. But none will be hurt more than those who are depending on financial support from the United Way in the upcoming year.

I pray, for their sake, that our community will look beyond this example of “boys and girls gone wild.”