Driving Change: Now and Into the Future

Understanding history—and evolving from it—helps us meet community needs in new ways.

by Jennifer Zammuto, Heart of Illinois United Way

As the Heart of Illinois United Way celebrates 100 years of support from our volunteers and donors this year, our responsibility is to look back, understand what and who we were, and learn how to grow. Reflecting on our past provides us the opportunity to evaluate how we can drive change now—and into the future. But change can be difficult, even when we believe in the end result. 

You know the feeling when you switch phones, drive in a vehicle you aren’t used to, or when major life or business changes take place. Your world can feel like it will never be the same. You might wonder when life will feel normal again. Getting comfortable with the discomfort of life’s ups and downs helps us prepare for change and builds our resiliency. 

An Art and Science

Understanding why change happens, recognizing the benefits and pitfalls, knowing what resources are available to us, and implementing and measuring our outcomes can help us manage change. But there is a human component to change that doesn’t always follow logic or processes. This is where history and change go hand in hand. When we understand where we have come from, we can identify barriers and find ways to inspire trust and help our community, employees and families to embrace change. 

Change is an art and a science. We cannot ignore the data and processes, nor can we forget the way change makes us feel as we manage through it.

When we were founded in 1921, our mission was to raise funds for charities. As time went on, our donors asked for more—more transparency, more alignment with critical needs, and more line of sight to the results. In order to continue to provide value to those in need, as well as to our investors and community, we had to change. We did not manage that alone—our incredible volunteers and employees worked collaboratively to find the right way. And we continue to do that today. 

Built to Last

We evaluate critical health and human care trends locally and apply this ongoing research to our grant process. Our partner agencies are asked to meet and report results based on established outcomes—changes to their clients’ knowledge and behavior. This invests our community’s contributions strategically and results in a measurable change in the lives of those in need. 

For 100 years, the Heart of Illinois United Way has proven that we are built to support central Illinois in times like these, no matter the challenge. By working collaboratively, we serve our community better than we ever could alone. Through the generosity of our donors and volunteers, we continue to support the education, financial stability and health needs of people throughout central Illinois, while adapting our work to provide a strong and sustainable future for our community. 

History is a chronicle of who we are and were, how we change, how our businesses evolve, and how our community develops. Our history is critical. Ignoring it sets us back. Understanding it makes us who we are today—and evolving from it will help us meet community needs in new ways that lead to future success. PM

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