Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

When our team defines the elements of a successful campaign, there are three key factors always at the top: committed volunteers, highly effective staff and connected donors. Over the course of our nearly four years working with the United Way of South Hampton Roads, beginning with a planning study and supporting them through their United for the Future Endowment Campaign, we helped them cultivate, develop and strengthen all three of these elements. Their $40 million campaign was the largest campaign in the history of the organization. In addition to reaching this incredible milestone, raising $41.7 million, the campaign raised the community’s awareness of the United Way’s programming and collective impact model and changed the narrative for the organization going forward.


The Road to Success

Throughout the course of their campaign, the United Way of South Hampton Roads was confronted by several external and internal hurdles. They not only overcame these obstacles but turned them into opportunities for the organization and the community.

The Coronavirus Recovery Fund – As with many nonprofits, the pandemic impacted every facet of the United Way, including their campaign. They did not want to lose momentum, but they couldn’t just stand by. Rather than putting things on hold, the United Way launched the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Since March 2019, on top of raising ongoing program support and millions of dollars for their campaign, the United Way raised $2.7 million to help those most impacted by COVID-19.

The Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund – When a tragic mass shooting took place in May of 2019 at the Virginia Beach municipal center, the United Way was called upon to partner with the city of Virginia Beach to create the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund, so the community could provide financial support for those families and individuals directly impacted by this terrible tragedy.

Onboarding a New CEO – A change in leadership often causes challenges for a nonprofit, but when you add a change in leadership at the onset of a campaign it can be especially difficult. Fortunately, UWSHR had a seasoned internal leader ready to take the helm. By including The Curtis Group in the search and onboarding process of Michele Anderson as the new CEO, the United Way moved forward with a leader who is committed to philanthropy, has a positive perception in the community and strong relationships with the board and donors. Michele Anderson is a passionate, dedicated and effective leader who was integral in the campaign’s success.

“The Curtis Group hit its deliverables out of the park, but the value they bring is so much more than checking the boxes. As a new CEO, they were my sounding board and improved our organization as whole. They provided strategy, brainstorming and communications to help us pivot when we faced unexpected challenges, especially a pandemic in the middle of our campaign. It is because of their support that we were able to increase our campaign goal to $40 million, far beyond what I had dreamed.”

Michele Anderson, President & CEO


The Home Stretch

The United Way’s campaign leadership had been hard at work for over three years and had been confronted by many challenges. They had set a goal and achieved it, twice, but were committed to reaching their stretch goal of $40 million. To keep the momentum going, we helped them establish a $2.5 million challenge gift through the combined generosity of two of their most loyal donors. By leveraging the generous support of their Campaign Chair Joan Brock and generous community leader, the Batten Foundation, the United Way announced a 1:1 challenge to the public that enabled them to meet their goal, raising $41.7 million for the United for the Future Endowment Campaign.