United Way Uses Workplace by Facebook to Work Better Together as One Network

Case Studies

United Way is one of the world’s oldest and most respected non-profits and prides itself on fighting for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community.

As part of its multi-year digital transformation, United Way was already working to engage individual donors in a deeper and more personal way, but what about the other side of the coin? What about their employees, board members, volunteers, and leaders? United Way needed to find a way to leverage the professional staff at 1,800 local United Way chapters in 40+ countries in order to work better together as ONE NETWORK. Enter Workplace by Facebook, a mobile-ready, digital collaboration tool that could be used to connect their 12,000+ globally dispersed staff. This was a huge undertaking; aligning with a service partner to ensure that the technology was deployed and adopted successfully was key. Future State, a human-centered management consulting firm with a deep history of being purpose-driven, was a great match to support this vision come to reality and stay focused on the impact and not just the technology.

Each Local United Way (LUW) is an independently chartered organization that is governed by a local board of directors. Each LUW focuses on the specific needs of their own community. In an increasingly complex and competitive environment, a network like United Way is challenged with sharing and accessing knowledge, communicating efficiently, and collaborating effectively. If staff is spending too much time, effort, or energy searching for information, knowledge, and resources or connecting with the right person at the right time, that’s capacity they can instead be investing in their community.

Before Workplace by Facebook, United Way relied on traditional “push” communications tools like email newsletters, listservs, and their corporate intranet to reach out to staff working around the world. For the first time, Workplace by Facebook allowed its employees to act as one global network on a single technology platform where they could efficiently communicate, collaborate and share knowledge, successes, ideas, and tools with each other.

So, what should a non-profit, or for that matter any decentralized, franchised, or membership organization, think about before deploying Workplace? The tool itself requires little formal training – one of the benefits is that it looks and feels much like one’s personal Facebook account. As with any technology rollout, it’s all about making sure you are getting your PEOPLE ready to go on the change journey. Future State Consulting worked closely with Jim Yu, Director of Technology Engagement at United Way Worldwide to make sure a plan was in place before hitting send on 12,000+ invites to United Way staff around the world.

Future State chatted with Jim on how Workplace is transforming the way staff connect with one another at United Way.

“Jim, tell us about how your colleagues at United Way are using Workplace right now.”

Jim: “Well, we’re still in our early days of using Workplace, but we are already seeing lots of success. With a few clicks United Way staff can now ask for or share their experiences, ask questions, discuss challenges, and learn from each other in a much easier way than ever before – we don’t have to reinvent the wheel in every local community.

Getting feedback or ideas from colleagues to make a local program or event better is as simple as posting a question or request or setting up a quick poll in their Workplace group. The pool of people they can tap is broader and more diverse through Workplace. The conversations and discussions are richer.

For example, in the midst of Hurricane Florence, a cross-functional team at UWW was able to quickly set up and coordinate our efforts to support the communities and their local United Ways affected by this natural disaster.  We know we are just scratching the surface right now.”

“What are your top tips for others who are implementing Workplace?”

“The saying that “If you build it, they will come” isn’t always true, especially around technology rollouts…even when it’s “easy” like Workplace by Facebook. United Way and Future State spent a lot of time planning for and preparing for the launch so that we would have high adoption and meet our strategic goals. Some of the top tips that come to mind are:

  1. Make sure you assemble a champions team that spans across your organization. United Way’s adoption team included a diverse cross-section of influencers and leaders from different functional areas and geographies.
  2. Conduct a pilot to: generate buzz, excitement, and momentum; develop novel use cases, and gain important experience and learning.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Then communicate some more.
  4. Connect the dots to help people understand how this new tool fits in (or doesn’t) with the current technology systems and tools. Set up a few default groups that everyone in the organization will be a member of – this ensures that everyone has a group to belong to from the start and will see valuable content immediately. United Way also set up a “How to Use Workplace Group” as a place where all new users could ask questions or solicit help. Regular moderation of this group was essential in getting users up to speed
  5. Develop guides, policies, and procedures to manage groups effectively. Example: A simple group naming convention goes a long way to helping people quickly determine what groups they will find useful to join.
  6. Train your group administrators and moderators so that they can model the behavior that you are trying to encourage. We want to create an engaging and responsive environment which will encourage more usage.
  7. Make sure your leaders are using Workplace as THE place to connect with your workforce. Seeing your executives in a Workplace Live session or participating in a video chat goes a long way to making everyone feel comfortable with the platform.

Of course, we are just getting started on our Workplace journey. We are planning to integrate additional stakeholder groups into Workplace. Using multi-company groups, we’ll expand Workplace use to board members, volunteer leaders, community and corporate partners, nonprofit agencies, vendors, etc.”

The response United Way has seen has been overwhelmingly positive, exceeding expectations. A senior leader who was reluctant to let go of their old method of communicating via listservs was skeptical about how Workplace could help him and his team. His current email listserv had almost 250 subscribers. A week after launching Workplace to our entire global network, his group has more than 1,000 members!

Interested in Workplace by Facebook for your organization? Contact Future State Consulting with the form at the very bottom of this page and sign up for our newsletter.