They’ve been pie’d, slimed, dunked and raced toilets through the streets. When it comes to helping the people of Michigan’s Great Southwest, the cast and crew at Midwest Family Broadcasting don’t just talk about it, they take their dedication off the mic and into the world.
For more than 30 years, the Midwest Family staff has been a vital community partner to United Way of Southwest Michigan. Dedicating themselves not only to raising funds and awareness, but also making it a point to educate their listeners about what United Way of Southwest Michigan does.
“When I started at the radio station full time, about 10 years ago, United Way was one of those things I just didn’t understand or know about. I made it my mission to start doing more research, “states Zack East from 98.3 The Coast. “My eyes were opened to the amazing work United Way does. Not only on their own as an organization, but making sure donations are going to the right places, that they are being used appropriately and that they are accountable for those dollars. There’s just so much more to United Way than collecting some dollars and giving it to people.”
This deeper understanding of United Way of Southwest Michigan’s mission, to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities to advance the common good, has motivated many of the Midwest Family employees to take on bigger volunteer roles. They have served on the United Way Board of Directors, Campaign Cabinet, Campaign Design Team and as Employee Campaign Chairs. While this volunteer work is done above and beyond the long hours they put in at the stations, they do it with the larger picture for our community in mind.
“It’s more about the idea that United Way is bridging and connecting the non-profit sector, the for-profit, government agencies, municipalities and everybody, all together, to understand and address what is happening in our community as a whole,” added East.
President and General Manager, Dave Doetsch, believes that developing an understanding of what United Way does can truly make a difference. Having a mic to speak into, and an expanding audience throughout Southwest Michigan gives Midwest Family a unique opportunity.
“It’s our number one priority to be the voice of the community. We have to tell [our listeners] what is happening around them, what the weather is, if a road is closed and about sales at stores. But we also have to tell the story about giving; about supporting the not-for-profit effort in our community. About the fundraising programs that are happening…and the why,” explains Doetsch. “If we don’t share what that story is than it seems like just a hand out asking ‘can you give?’ But we can share the story of the United Way that explains how $1 can equal up to $3 through matching funds. How those dollars join other dollars and goes to where it can make the most impact. That each dollar is going to be measured; and there will be a report showing what that dollar was used for. That if you give to the United Way you are also supporting many more people and many more agencies through them. That ‘why’ gives people a better understanding. They can step back and go, ‘alright, I can give here and I know I am making a difference.’"
Doetsch believes that many residents in Berrien and Cass counties may not realize that just $1 can make an impact. In order for programs to receive state and federal grants, they must show that there is local support for these programs. United Way dollars can be used as that match. In 2015, nearly 3 million dollars were leveraged through United Way funding. Every dollar counts, and then some.Yet, while he and Midwest Family’s staff understands the importance from a financial standpoint, they take a personal stake in the work as well.
“A couple of year’s back I was asked to go read at a school that was considered struggling,” says Doetsch. “I was prepared they wouldn't be engaged with me, but they were totally engaged. It meant something to them. If I go and read to them and it means something to them that makes school at little more enjoyable and they want to come to class instead of finding reasons not to go to. For many kids there's too many reasons not to go to school. Maybe they are more worried about where they are getting their next meal than going to school. That is a real situation for many children. Maybe they don't know where they are sleeping, and where they slept last night is far away so the motivation isn't there. But if you can get them excited about school and just the dynamics of learning and feeding their brain; that inspires them, that motivates them to come, and if we can do that, and make a difference for just one kid…we made a difference.”
To see how you can run a campaign, visit: www.uwsm.org/campaigntools