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2 + 2 Equal 5 (Or $1.5 Million!)

Kind of an odd title, I know.  I’m referring to the 48 in 48 event we held this past weekend at Rivian Automotive.  Check out some of the positive coverage of the event in these links:



So, how does my title play into this?


Many people still view us (United Way of McLean County) through a traditional lens.  Raise money and give it directly to another non-profit to benefit a client.  It’s a fairly linear equation, and it often produces a very linear result. This weekend’s event demonstrates what’s possible when we stop thinking linearly and start thinking exponentially.


We invested $25,000 in this event, and with a matching grant from State Farm Insurance, Atlanta based non-profit, 48 in 48, came to town to conduct their 10th event.  Jim Thomas and his team at Rivian Automotive, which, given their devotion to innovation and technology, I would suggest they’re a technology company that produces vehicles J, graciously hosted the event.  The space they devoted to the event surpassed all expectations and prompted the folks from 48 in 48 to comment that it was the most unique and largest space they’ve ever occupied (and IN the smallest city they’ve ever put on one of these events).


$50,000 + 1 Auto Factory + 250 volunteers + 48 eager non-profits = $1.5 million in impact


That’s no longer a linear equation, it’s an exponential one!!  It demonstrates what’s possible when we set aside traditional charity dogma and think about what will unleash these creative, passionate people to serve their clients and meet local needs.  The traditional viewpoint might criticize the $25,000 we invested because that’s money that could have gone to “direct service”.


But, if the non-profits don’t have the capacity to function, can they serve their clients?


In the WGLT article above, they noted that the Community Health Care Clinic hadn’t been able to update their website for 18 months to reflect their new address.


Think about that.  They didn’t have the capacity or skill sets on staff to update that, and what does that mean for clients trying to find them?  How much staff time there and elsewhere is devoted to addressing items like this and others that are broken, ill-fitting, or outdated?  How does a non-profit meet their full potential with these kind of constraints?


Thinking linearly, we could have spent $25,000 to update their website.  That would have helped them, but what about the other 47?


My point?  Increasing and streamlining capacity for non-profits is as essential to meeting the needs of our community as one of our direct service grants.  Declining state and local funding and revenues will only make the problem more evident in the coming months and years.  We often ignore infrastructure we can’t see until something breaks.

At United Way, we’re not going to wait until something breaks.  We’re going to invest in capacity building in our health and human services infrastructure now.


After this weekend, we can pause for a moment and reflect on what a great and exciting event that it was.  I’ll let that linger through the weekend, before I turn to the inevitable question:


“What can we do next?!”

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