Unified Kickoff: Bringing Back the Light


A few days ago, I stood on a hillside in Wyoming and watched the world around me fall into shadow as the moon blotted out the sun. A gossamer corona of perfect white shimmered from behind the black moon, beautiful to behold yet unable to chase away the night alone. But then, moments later, the brilliant, life-giving light of the sun returned, peering over the lunar rim and instantly banishing the darkness.


As I reflect on the amazing solar eclipse, I can’t help but think about United Way. Our communities grow dark with the toughest challenges—children struggling to learn, families unable to make ends meet, individuals striving for access to health and basic needs so they can get back on their feet. It’s up to United Way, through our partnerships, programs and impact strategies, to shed light. To bring hope. To chase away the night.


It’s important work—work that we need to promote across the Great Lakes State.


That’s the genesis of the unified (or virtual) kickoff, an idea that arose in 2015 among a handful of Michigan-based United Ways: Capital Area United Way, United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, United Way of Jackson County, and United Way of Southwest Michigan. These organizations kicked off their annual campaigns during the same week in September, exploring ways to leverage their marketing on a bigger canvas.


This year marks the third unified kickoff, which happens Sept. 12-17. Some of the tools of the 2017 kickoff include:

  • a common landing page online, www.letsliveunited.org, which includes links to local United Ways across Michigan;
  • shared advertising and marketing materials, including a radio script, a billboard design, a news release, a blog and social media posts, along with a media statement and FAQs;
  • a day-long digital takeover of MLive news websites across the state;
  • programming sponsorship on Michigan Radio (NPR).


Participation statewide keeps growing every year. By pooling our marketing efforts across all United Ways, large and small, we hope to bring that glimmer of light to communities darkened by the biggest issues afflicting vulnerable families, children and individuals.


Our unified kickoff reflects a single, heartfelt belief: UNITED WE WIN. To live better, to drive off the darkness, to bring the light of hope to our communities, we must LIVE UNITED.

Rick Chambers is the marketing and communications lead for United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, and for United Way of Jackson County.