Old Meets New

How a decades-old nonprofit reimagined brand awareness to appeal to a modern day generation of givers.


The challenge

United Way of Central Minnesota was founded in 1967. It played a crucial role in community wellbeing as a trusted, centralized source of funding for local nonprofit organizations. One key way to generate this generosity was through workplace giving campaigns. Employees could allocate a certain amount from each check to the United Way throughout a year. Steady, recurring donations made it easy for givers to support a worthy organization. And, it worked … until it didn’t. 

Millennials and Gen Z comprise today’s new demographics. Because many individuals under age 40 want to feel deeply connected to causes they support, they are less inclined to support third-party organizations like United Way. As a result, workplace giving has been on an alarming and steady decline over the last 10 years. 

This is where Vye comes into the picture. United Way of Central MN came to Vye with critical needs to address the demographic gap in awareness and giving:

  • Connect emotionally to the Millenial and Gen Z demographics through storytelling
  • Build a pipeline of givers by increasing the number of subscribers and volunteers
  • Empower United Way employees to easily communicate through  marketing technology
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The solution

Setting a strong strategic foundation with United Way of Central MN was crucial to our ongoing success. We needed to bring all stakeholders together to agree on a common vision. We needed consensus from the United Way marketing team and support and comprehension from its leadership team and board of directors. 

What better way to do that than putting on a show? 

First we followed our research and discovery process to uncover key persona details about target audiences. We developed a comprehensive strategic campaign outlining  each initiative needed in order to hit goals. Then we put on a show featuring Vye  employees standing on a makeshift stage, acting out scenarios as  three identified personas. We aimed to make stakeholders feel connected to the  personas, and in the right presence to understand campaign strategy direction. This creative, fun approach paid off. We received buy-in from all stakeholders and approval to launch marketing initiatives. 

This campaign included:

  • A website built on HubSpot’s CMS platform 
  • HubSpot Marketing Hub implementation 
  • Messaging framework designed to appeal to Millennials and Gen Z
  • Video, blog, and photography content
  • Revamped  social media strategy 
  • Paid media targeting 
  • Nurturing email workflows

A crucial element of our approach was bringing to life authentic stories of ALICE — hardworking Central Minnesotans who, despite their efforts, struggle to afford necessities. "ALICE" stands for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed.

Through an immersive "Stories of ALICE" content series, we humanized their daily trade-offs between rent, childcare, and healthcare. This compelling branded storytelling helped advance United Way’s mission.

Ultimately, our work earned recognition, including Gold and Silver W3 Awards and an Honorable Mention from the prestigious MARCOM Awards.



United Way Digital Mockups
United Way of Central MN Social Media
“Working through Vye, and especially through HubSpot, and being able to connect all our social media, blogs, and website—we had all this information that had to get out fast, and we were able to do that within the first two weeks of Covid-19 hitting.”
-Sam Switzer, Events & Brand Manager at United Way of Central MN

The results

Per our research and strategy build process, we collaboratively define goals to measure throughout the campaign. During this nine-month campaign, our goals were:

  • Grow contact database by 50 new contacts/month 
  • Grow awareness of its financial stability service pillar by 50 views/month 
  • Increase website sessions by 15% 
  • Increase blog views by 15%
  • Increase social media interactions by 10%

What did we see once the campaign launched?

Exceeded goal by 102% with a total of 693 new contacts
Financial Stability Pillar
Exceeded goal by 993% with a total of 4,918 views
Website Sessions
Increase in website visits with a total of 23,146 sessions
Blog Views
Increase in blog views with a total of 638 views
Social Media Interactions
Increase in social interactions with a total of 2,507 interactions

Making an impact through results

Building a website and marketing machine that streamlined communication set up United Way of Central MN for a level of success it didn’t anticipate. Vye had definitive goals, but other unexpected benefits have made this partnership stronger:

Streamlined event setup and communication. Prior to Hubspot, setting up an event was painful. The HubSpot CMS and integrated HubSpot Marketing Hub are intuitive and easy for non-technical staff and volunteers to use. 

The United Way team assumed a blog wouldn’t perform. The previous content strategy was random, lacking optimization. By leveraging tools like Ahrefs, Google Analytics, and HubSpot, Vye defined a content strategy that’s gained significant traction. It increased from a few dozen visits to over 500 in a single month.

Building a better community

“Let us do what we love so you can do what you love.” This theory sums up the purpose of developing strategic partnerships. It’s especially true with United Way of Central MN. Its team is changing the trajectory of Central Minnesota, making a real difference in the community. Nothing should stand in the way of that kind of impact—especially not technology and marketing. Removing barriers for the United Way team to do what they do best has been an incredibly rewarding experience for our agency.  

We enjoyed instant gratification by blowing most of the goals out of the water, yet we know the impact of this United Way campaign will extend far beyond a nine-month snapshot. We’ve developed a communication tool and identified a messaging framework that will benefit United Way of Central MN for years to come. 

Building a pipeline of passionate givers takes time. In organizations like United Way, the goal isn’t just to impact the current year. It’s to build toward a future 50 years down the road. We have helped United Way reach a difficult to pin down the audience. Showcasing  United Way in front of Millenials and Gen Z means cementing a better future for the community. 

Are you looking for help reaching a new audience or ramping up your marketing efforts? 

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