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Women In United Way Leadership Embrace New Technology And New Members

Nearly 300 women from North America are in Dallas for the United Way Women’s Leadership Summit. They’re discussing a range of topics, such as making the organization more diverse, embracing new technology, and tackling human trafficking.

Three weeks ago, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas celebrated its 90th anniversary by asking for a little help from its friends. At A&T Stadium that night -- Blake Shelton and Usher covered The Beatles classic.

The idea was to introduce United Way to people who weren’t all that familiar with it. One tactic – a new website focused on the group’s mission and how to get involved.

Jennifer Sampson, President & CEO of the Dallas United Way, says becoming more digitally accessible is a top goal. That was also the message at today’s summit.

“We’ll be using this digital strategy to create community conversations over the course of the next year where people can talk about loving where they live,” Sampson said. “How can they do something in small but significant ways to make home, their home – North Texas – the best place for all us to work and raise families.”

Sampson says using social media is key to get United Way’s message out.

One idea:

“Community over coffee, where we encourage people to instead of buying their large latte every month or every week or every day to instead give that money to a cause that they care about,” she said.

Credit Doualy Xaykaothao / KERA News
Usher and Blake Shelton perform at the 90th anniversary celebration of United Way.

The Women’s Leadership Council is a network of more than 60,000 women in 6 countries and 155 communities. This year, the group’s legislative priority is human trafficking.

Selecting causes like that is why having female leaders and more diversity is important, says Anita Garrett. She’s from South Carolina and is on the council’s national board.

“Traditionally when we think of philanthropy, originally that was a lot of old white males that were controlling dollars or thought to be the ones who had access to resources,” Garrett said.

The women’s council has helped changed old traditions. In the past 12 years, the group has raised more than $1 billion.

“By looking at that through a diverse lens, we’re able to leverage more of the fundraising efforts of a community and really also educate and empower women to advocate for issues that are important to them,” Garrett said.

After all, they control most families’ purse strings. United Way says women make 83 percent of all consumer purchases.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.