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Building A Guiding Coalition For Change

Talk With Kotter
Writing that reads "Non-profit"

A seismic shift was afoot in the non-profit industry. Donors now had many more options for philanthropic giving and, thanks to the internet, they could give directly to any effort they wanted to support with ease. United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’s operating model had to change in order for them to continue to support their community. Employee-giving campaigns, the bread and butter of their funding, were shrinking year over year. The “community chest” model United Way was most known for was becoming less relevant. UWMD CEO Jennifer Sampson partnered with Kotter to think differently about the future – to foster enterprise-wide leadership development to poise the organization to face these challenges and whatever the next wave of change might be.

A key facet of this leadership development effort was building a Guiding Coalition. Effective leaders believe that it’s possible for transformation to come from within their team – through their existing people. UWMD is brilliant proof that it can be done. By building a Guiding Coalition, an organized network of passionate and energized employees, UWMD created an engine of innovation able to go after the opportunities spotted within the challenges facing the organization.

Additional key aspects of Kotter’s enterprise leadership development work with UWMD were to: 

  • Facilitate the identification of their Big Opportunity: the window of opportunity before them that was open right now, but would not be open forever.
  • Identify the strategic priorities most likely to move the opportunity from vision to reality.
  • Develop change leadership capability up, down, and across the organization to create a culture that can sustain these changes and other efforts in the future.
  • Position the Guiding Coalition network to address key issues in innovative ways, including a laser focus on data-driven decision making, migrating to more sophisticated technology, and enhanced internal communications.

The members of the Guiding Coalition contributed to the organization’s reinvention despite many already clocking 60+ hours per week while being super volunteers in their lives. In fact, the energy within the Guiding Coalition created an opportunity for previously unidentified leaders to emerge, unleashing talent in the organization that leadership previously had not known existed. With unbridled engagement, the members of the Guiding Coalition tested and implemented solutions, unpacking decades of “how we’ve always done it” thinking. A new intranet was developed, making the team more connected and less siloed, transforming culture and communication in service to employee engagement like never before. Their boldness to think differently enabled new initiatives to flourish, like a social innovation arm that invests funding, mentorship, and community connections to promising social enterprises positioned to do tremendous good. The payoff? The most successful fundraising year in the history of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. What’s more, leaders have emerged from every corner of the enterprise.

Hear United Way of Metropolitan Dallas describe how their Big Opportunity fuels the Guiding Coalition network, propelling the organization into a better future.


Of the organization applied to the Guiding Coalition


Funds raised within UWMD alone


In addition to UWMD, 8 other United Way cities across the US partnered with Kotter to build Guiding Coalitions