Nacogdoches Co. United Way: We're giving a hand up, not a hand out

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The Nacogdoches County United Way wants you to know it's giving a hand up, not a hand out. United Way, just like huge corporations to small businesses, has a sales/marketing/branding side.

Wednesday morning, pink flamingos on the Stephen F. Austin State University president's lawn helped Student United Way deliver a fundraiser message.

"You can pay $10 for 10, $15 for the full 20," Danielle Waite said.

Bigger campaigns are more complicated, particularly when a massive debate over "entitlement" puts a negative spin on wanting to help those in need.

"You know more people go into poverty each day by means that they have no control over," Chris Wiginton said.

It's a reminder United Way is carefully mapping out. Wednesday, Nacogdoches president Gary Ashcraft was in Houston learning how to disperse the notion that all United Way does is raise money for agencies.

First lesson: Don't call the service providers "agencies." "Impact programs" is the preferred term. It portrays "getting people to work and out of poverty."

"If you just assist them that doesn't break the cycle," Wiginton said.

That is very much like what United Way Houston is doing with its successful "Thrive" program.

Clients are taught how to increase savings, build income, and acquire assets. In addition, taking a clue from the younger generations' use of social media, United Way has a "Find Help" page on its Website to assist those in need.

"You need to give them the tools that they need and education they need to be self sufficient on their own," Wiginton said.

That brings to mind another marketing phrase, "change not charity" It's a worthy effort if it doesn't make charitable giving something for the birds.

There are two events Nacogdoches County United Way is sponsoring this weekend. The Student United Way will be continuing its "Flamingo Flocking" fundraiser. Saturday, everyone is invited to the SFA Lumberjack Baseball Tailgate at the SFA ballpark. Prior to the 2 p.m. game, there will be hot dogs, steel drum music, games for more than 150 kids, and a pie-eating contest. The family event is United Way sponsors' way of "giving back to the community."

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