By Ted Haynes, President of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma
Most of us understand the obvious benefits of giving to the Tulsa Area United Way: it helps others and makes us feel good. But how many of us consider the economic results of our gifts?
First, it’s worth noting that our United Way is among the most successful in the nation. Tulsa ranks 19 in per-capita giving and 36 in overall giving among more than 1,200 United Ways. Our United Way also has the fifth lowest overhead among all United Ways, operating with expenses of just 9.2 percent. These are statistics of which we can all be proud.
Our United Way has proved particularly adept at extending the face value of our contributions. For example, this year, many gifts can be doubled through challenges issued by local companies, foundations and other donors. New or increased gifts by small and medium-sized businesses, young professionals and others can be matched dollar-for-dollar. My employer – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma – has promised to match all new gifts from area insurance brokers.
During its 89-year history, the Tulsa Area United Way has raised more than $643 million for our community. This year, our goal is $25.2 million – the highest ever set for a single campaign. All of these dollars stay in Tulsa and reverberate throughout our economy.
Last year, funding allocated to the Tulsa Area United Way’s 61 partner agencies directly supported 3,065 jobs with an overall payroll of more than $147 million and total operating budgets of more than $232 million, according to an economic impact study conducted by the Community Service Council, in collaboration with OU-Tulsa and Oklahoma State University.
Utilizing industry-standard multipliers, 2,695 additional jobs were supported or created with a payroll of more than $285 million and a total revenue impact of more than $474 million.
Tulsa Area United Way partner agencies were able to leverage that support to generate additional funding. Last year, our United Way’s investment in these agencies resulted in more than $67 million in program fees and sales, $105 million in government grants and $39 million in contributions, according to the study.
The economic impact of our United Way is undeniable – there’s no doubt it is a vital part of our overall economy. That’s one reason to support the United Way.
For us at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, it also makes good business sense. We have found that supporting the United Way enhances team-building, elevates employee morale and provides us with an opportunity to make a broader impact on our community.
Supporting the United Way has obvious macroeconomic implications on our community. But what about making a difference at the micro-level? Currently, one in five Tulsa families lives at or below the poverty level. In the wake of the recent economic downturn, many working families are seeking help to make ends meet. A little help at the end of the month from food and clothing pantries can make all the difference. That’s what makes our community unique – we take care of each other. And that is the best reason I can think of to support the Tulsa Area United Way.