The EmpoWWered Way: Reinventing United Way of Greater Charlotte

  • Categories:

    Community, Brand Strategy

  • Date:

    February 7, 2023

The EmpoWWered Way: Reinventing United Way of Greater Charlotte

Community Brand Strategy

Since the inception of Wray Ward’s annual EmpoWWer service-grant program in 2018, we’ve worked with more than a dozen Charlotte-area nonprofits to leverage the power of marketing, helping create meaningful change for the organization and the communities it champions. EmpoWWer recipients receive gifts of time and resources to help solve a complex challenge while positioning the nonprofit for future success.

We awarded our 2022 grants to four incredible organizations, including the largest nonprofit that EmpoWWer has supported to date: United Way of Greater Charlotte.

In its EmpoWWer application, United Way of Central Carolinas (as it was called at the time) requested a marketing strategy that could increase community awareness, understanding and support for the organization’s brand, innovative work and unique ability to bring people and local nonprofits together to change lives.

Not surprisingly — given United Way’s size and importance to so many local nonprofits and Charlotte-area communities — the project was a significant undertaking for everyone involved.

Let’s unpack it.

One Grant to Help Many

Through the Unite Charlotte and United Neighborhoods programs, United Way of Greater Charlotte will help more than 100 local organizations with funding and capacity building in 2023.

However, to help so many, United Way relies on the support of volunteers and donors — something that has proven more challenging to secure in recent years. This is largely due to a decline in workplace giving programs and a perceived disconnect with the general public on what United Way does in the community.

As a result, the organization’s president and CEO Laura Yates Clark viewed securing an EmpoWWer grant as a watershed moment.

“Faced with these headwinds, it’s become imperative that we develop the skills, tools and resources to reposition our brand and reintroduce our work to the Charlotte community,” wrote Yates Clark in United Way’s EmpoWWer application. “The traditional fundraising and community support model we’ve relied on doesn’t really work anymore, and we need to position the United Way brand in a way that reflects a bold, new approach to how we lift up Charlotte-area nonprofits and communities.”

Tasked with helping Yates Clark and United Way accomplish these goals, Wray Ward pulled together a cross-functional team to develop a strategic blueprint that would guide all subsequent work.

The group outlined how to accomplish this through a three-step process:

  • Establish a strategic foundation that retains the value of the legacy United Way brand while evolving to be more relevant and compelling

  • Build and remodel the brand through fresh and engaging design elements and messaging that is succinct and razor sharp

  • Help scale, grow and nurture community and donor engagement through a go-to-market strategy that incorporates both workplace campaigns and individual audiences

“The planning work we did with Laura and United Way isn’t all that different from what we deliver for many of Wray Ward’s clients,” noted Client Engagement Director Amy Conte, who led the agency’s partnership with United Way of Greater Charlotte. “They needed help refreshing their brand and refining their story. They also needed strategies to reconnect with their target audiences, including the city’s residents and major donors.”

A New Name for a New Way

The next charge? Developing a new name that would not only provide a launching point for a complete reimagining of the brand but also better align with the organization’s ongoing transition toward using place-based, grassroots partnerships to improve economic mobility and racial equity at the neighborhood level.

The new name — United Way of Greater Charlotte — helps clarify where a volunteer’s time or a donor’s dollars go and who they help.

“Our name is how the public identifies with us, and now they’re able to see just how close to home we really are,” said Yates Clark. “By supporting United Way, you are helping the individuals and organizations that serve Charlotte’s most marginalized populations and neighborhoods.”

Along with a new name, the campaign incorporates bold colors and dynamic photography that bring to life the energy and diversity found within Charlotte’s many communities. United Way also received strategic recommendations for using public relations, organic social media, email marketing and owned content to share its story and showcase the positive impact it has on local nonprofits. These integrated marketing strategies will also help United Way build and strengthen its volunteer, advocacy and donor networks.

“Through the EmpoWWer grant, Wray Ward helped us craft a succinct, clear brand positioning that we can lean on to help cultivate, educate, inspire, engage and activate volunteers and donors — creating the foundation needed to drive our work forward,” said Yates Clark.

In addition to United Way of Greater Charlotte, 2022 EmpoWWer grants were awarded to Charlotte Art League, PFLAG and Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays. To learn more about EmpoWWer and the grant application process, please visit

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