United Way needs more from small businesses

    ‘Tis the season for giving – and the annual United Way of Greater Milwaukee Community Campaign.

    But before you consider not giving because of shareholder demands for increased profits, or competition-squeezing margins, consider this: how well United Way does may very well impact your bottom line. 

    Right now, 26 percent of Milwaukee residents live in poverty – that’s an income of $20,444 for a family of four. As a local business owner, I can tell you that poverty impacts the economic viability of the entire Milwaukee region, detracting businesses and potential talent. As a co-chair for United Way’s campaign, I know it also has a devastating social effect.

    That’s why it’s so important for local businesses to support United Way. The consequences of poverty, including un- and underemployment, low high school graduation rates and teen pregnancy, extend far beyond Milwaukee’s geographic borders.

    These are the exact issues United Way is tackling: investing in education, job training and self sufficiency programs that work. Through its programs, United Way improved the lives of over 410,000 people last year alone.

    If those aren’t enough reasons, a national study released this year indicates that businesses can personally benefit from their charitable contributions. In the report, 86 percent of consumers said they consider their purchases as a way to "send a message" to reward companies for their community involvement.

    The potential impact that businesses could have on our community is astounding.

    Currently, approximately 600 businesses give to United Way, with nearly half giving $1,000 or less. According to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, however, there are more than 30,000 businesses in the area. If only a fraction of these businesses give to United Way this year, millions of dollars would be generated to improve our community.

    Giving to United Way is simply the best way to do the most good. But, don’t take our word for it.

    United Way is one of only three four-star fundraising organizations in Wisconsin as rated by the nation’s largest evaluator of charities, Charity Navigator, because of its efficiency.

    It’s also the proud recipient of the state’s first charity seal by the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. You can feel good about getting to the bottom of our community’s problems, while also helping your bottom line. If you already support United Way, thank you. If you haven’t yet given, please consider contributing to United Way.


    Jon Hammes is chairman and chief executive officer of Hammes Company and co-chair of United Way of Greater Milwaukee’s annual campaign. For additional information, visit www.unitedwaymilwaukee.org.

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