United Way of Central Indiana Success Story

400+ Board and Committee Members, Thousands of Volunteers

For 100 years, the United Way of Central Indiana has positively impacted the lives of those in six counties. That includes Marion County, the state’s largest county and home to Indianapolis. Through its volunteer-driven programs in health, education, and financial stability, UWCI lives up to its service-centered mission: “United Way of Central Indiana fights for the education, financial stability, health and basic needs of everyone in our community.”

That mission, combined with engaged leadership and an enthusiastic volunteer base, has driven steady growth for UWCI. Its 2016 numbers back that up, showing a healthy nonprofit with effective programming and partnerships:

  • 4,158 individuals transitioned from living paycheck to paycheck through the Center for Working Families.
  • 300,000 callers (approximate) connected to basic needs (food, shelter, heat), legal, or domestic violence assistance through Connect2Help211.
  • 1,640 children attended high-quality early childhood programs through the Indy Preschool Scholarship and On My Way Pre-K programs.

United Way of Central Indiana Success Story

Even successful nonprofits need help

Why would an organization like United Way of Central Indiana seek help when it has such successful programming? Because success begets success. In this case, that means more professionals eager to serve on UWCI’s boards and committees, and more volunteers eager to impact their communities.

How many? More than 420 between 90 board members and over 300 committee members.

United Way staff present portrait to celebrate Mary Rigg

UWCI celebrating the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center. (Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Indiana)

“All of our board members are highly encouraged to volunteer in another area,” says Robin Penny, executive administrator. “The means one person might serve across two to five committees—and getting an email from every committee.”

Managing that many people brought plenty of pain points. How could UWCI:

  • Capture and organize all that happens in its many board and committee meetings?
  • Organize its more than 420 board and committee members into groups for targeted messaging?
  • Securely host and organize documents where everyone could easily access them?

100 years later, a new way of doing things

Seeking remedy to those issues (just shy of its 100-year anniversary, no less), United Way of Central Indiana looked at software solutions on the market, ultimately finding them either too expensive or too underdeveloped.

Not seeing the solution it needed, UWCI reached out to Gravy Lab, the software arm of Indianapolis-based creative agency SmallBox. Having served on several boards (and hearing plenty of grumbles from clients who served on boards), the leaders at SmallBox and Gravy Lab saw the value of creating a board portal for community-based organizations.

That created the impetus to found Boardable, with United Way of Central Indiana signing up as one of Boardable’s first customers.

RELATED: My Nonprofit Board Journey

How Boardable made life better for United Way of Central Indiana

Built like a custom product

Thanks to input from some tech-savvy board members, UWCI shied away from pursuing a custom-built board portal. Custom software, after all,  is expensive and time-consuming to build, let alone update. Not to mention, it lacks the support typically built into commercial enterprise software.

“Boardable is saving our team lots of time that used to be spent on a manual process preparing for board and committee meetings.”

For UWCI, though, Boardable ended up feeling like a custom product.

“We had the opportunity to assist during the development of Boardable,” says Ann Murtlow, CEO of the United Way of Central Indiana. “Now, all our directors can easily access what they need.”

Quote from CEO of United Way of Central Indiana Ann Murtlow - the impetus for Boardable's board management software.

Customer feedback drives continual improvement

UWCI found Boardable eager to solve its problems, present and future.

“Boardable’s team is very open to our suggestions for enhancements,” says Lucy Downton, vice president of technology and operations. “They have been a great partner to work with to improve functionality of the app.”

Volunteers at United Way of Central Indiana assist students with tax preparations

UWCI improves lives in a variety of ways, including through educational programs such as tax preparation workshops. (Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Indiana)

Indeed, UWCI’s feedback has spurred not just refinements, but the genesis of new tools, such as Agenda Builder.

“We literally see our suggestions come to life,” Penny says.

Return on investment quickly realized

It didn’t take long for UWCI to see Boardable pay for itself. Streamlining communications through a central online portal brought multiple time-saving benefits:

  • Fewer emails cluttering board and committee members’ inboxes.
  • Board packets and other documents moved to secure, searchable online storage.
  • Users could be grouped into committees for dedicated discussion threads.

“Boardable … is saving our team lots of time that used to be spent on a manual process preparing for board and committee meetings” Downton says. Furthermore, she has noticed Boardable helps streamline operations beyond engaging UWCI’s board.

“Since starting with Boardable, we have discovered a few other programs that easily benefit from using Boardable’s functionality,” Downton says. “Boardable is a great tool to use for collaboration with external partners.”

Priced for community nonprofits

The United Way Worldwide may be a global organization, but the nearly 1,800 community-based United Ways in its network operate as independent organizations.

“Boardable is so easy to work with for our users and volunteers.”

For highly successful affiliates such as UWCI, that means leadership must make lots of strategic decisions to manage growth. With more than 420 board and committee members to engage, UWCI needed board management software, but had little wiggle room on what it could afford.

“We explored many different volunteer management software systems, but most were not affordable since we operate on a very tight budget,” Downton says. “[Boardable is] priced right for nonprofits and helps to keep us better organized.”

Now part of the United Way Worldwide Network Purchasing Program

Boardable’s ROI and ease of use have stood out to UWCI through its steady onboarding of more than 400 board and committee members.

“Boardable software is so easy to work with for our users and volunteers,” Downton says.

So much so, in fact, that Boardable quickly became part of the United Way Worldwide Network Purchasing Program. Other United Ways now receive a discount on the board management software.


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