Executive director Nancy Sattler on how Northwoods United Way is changing lives
From Northwoods Commerce magazine
BY TIMI ECKES, EDITOR
Retirement wasn’t quite what Nancy Sattler expected.
Before moving to the Northwoods, the Kenosha native lived in the nation’s capital, having built a career with companies that ran bookstores on college campuses.
“When I left the Washington, D.C., area, I was regional director, overseeing 18 campuses on the East Coast,” she recalls. She moved here six years ago, intending to retire. “However,” Sattler says, “after one year I was getting antsy and started to get involved in the community more.”
That marked the beginning of a new chapter in Sattler’s life. She served on the Northwoods United Way board of directors for a couple of years and then accepted the executive director job, a position she has held for three years. “Companies that I’d worked for in the past were always big supporters of United Way,” she explains, “so I was very familiar with how it supports the communities it represents.”
United Way has long been known for raising and distributing funds to charitable organizations, but many people aren’t familiar with what United Way does. Its work is multi-faceted, providing support for a variety of initiatives in the U.S. and around the world. Local United Way branches support programs that help meet local needs, focusing on improving education, income and health.
Sattler notes that the organization plays an important role in the business community, too. The number of businesses that partner with Northwoods United Way varies from one year to the next, she says, but about 30 have conducted employee pledge drives or held events to raise money for the organization.
“Partnering with Northwoods United Way means much more than raising money for a good cause,” Sattler says. “This is an opportunity for businesses to have a profound impact on our local community, while reinforcing their reputation as good corporate citizens. There have been studies that show that an employee has a more positive image of a company when it supports a cause they believe in, thus helping to increase loyalty and productivity.”
In supporting local branches of United Way, many companies encourage their employees to donate to the organization through payroll deductions. It’s an effective way to raise funds, but does have its critics. An online search indicates that at some companies, encouragement to donate may become what some employees, who prefer to give to charities of their own choice, perceive as pressure. It’s an issue that United Way Worldwide addresses on its website, stating in part, “We don’t want campaigns using undue pressure in any way, shape or form. That’s not who we are, and it’s in direct conflict with our operating standards … We recommend that workplace fundraising be led by peers, not managers. And we discourage the practice of setting 100 percent participation as a campaign fundraising goal.”
Sattler, however, does encourage 100 percent participation goals, noting that it doesn’t matter how much money an employee gives. Workplace giving is one form of participation, but other forms include volunteering or giving to agencies not supported by United Way.
For those who choose to donate by payroll deductions, Sattler points out that an employee can give, for example, $500 per year, but because the donation is divided over the year, they won’t really feel the impact of the deductions. And, she says, those participating in payroll deduction donations can specify the agency or category of agency to which they prefer to donate.
“In addition, by giving to one agency – Northwoods United Way – you can be sure that your gift is being used to support many areas in the community,” she says. “One of our criteria for funding states that an agency we support must provide for a need in one of these categories: basic needs, health and wellness or strengthening children and families.”
No matter which side of the payroll deduction debate one takes, the deductions provide a good portion of the billions of dollars donated to United Way annually.
Virginia-based United Way Worldwide and local United Way branches partner with global, national and local companies, along with educators, governments, civic and faith groups, nonprofits, labor and health organizations, and more. With millions of donors and volunteers around the world, there’s no doubt United Way’s worldwide organization and local branches change lives in a variety of ways. United Way’s services affect millions of people worldwide and include programs that support job training and self-sufficiency, shelter and food services, programs for the disabled and elderly, affordable preschool and afterschool programs, and many, many more initiatives – even an effort to end human trafficking and slavery.
For its part, Northwoods United Way serves Oneida, Forest and Vilas counties. Northwoods United Way came within $5,000 of meeting its 2016 goal of raising $165,000, and much of that money came from businesses that help support the organization. The money will be used in 2017 to fund 26 Northwoods agencies. Among the agencies that received funding in 2016 are Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Camp Fire USA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Headwaters Inc., Family Resource Connection, local food pantries and many more. Donations are used in a variety of ways and in 2016 they helped fund 30 summer camp scholarships for those who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend; the purchase of food at area food pantries for 850 people; the staffing of a 24-hour crisis hotline for victims of domestic violence; staffing at an area homeless shelter; services for 475 people with developmental needs; care and support for Alzheimer’s patients and their families; the delivery of 40,000 meals to elderly people in the area; and much more.
That’s a lot for any organization, but Sattler is a one-woman show, handling the accounting, marketing, fund raising and community outreach, all within 20 hours each week, from the organization’s downtown Rhinelander office.
In addition to the work of raising funds and distributing them to more than two dozen agencies, she says, “I am partnered with Oneida County Health Department to teach the Strengthening Youth & Families courses on Thursday nights.” United Way, she adds, is a resource for people who need help but don’t know where to get it. There’s no shortage of people in need: “Our United Way 211 line received over 1,000 calls from people in our area last year,” Sattler says.
Every year, she and the Northwoods United Way’s volunteer board of directors meet and identify goals. “This year, we are looking to strengthen our brand recognition within the three counties,” Sattler says. “We are also focusing on increasing fund raising through social media and web pages.
“Overall, my goal is to keep the Northwoods United Way as a leader in our communities, an agency that people think of when they want to volunteer or donate, or that they can come to when they need support. I want to continue to make an impact in the lives of the people where I live, work and play.”
As executive director of Northwoods United way, that’s just what she does. In addition to obtaining funds through donors, Northwoods United Way holds annual events that raise funds and enhance life in the community. There’s the Ice Fishing Jamboree in February; the Legionnaire Mud Run in July; Stuff the Bus, which encourages donations of school supplies at the beginning of the school year, which in turn distribute the supplies to students in need; and Leaderfest, the first of which was held in August 2016. This event offers guest speakers and leadership training to those attending.
Although Nancy Sattler’s retirement plans took an unexpected turn, she doesn’t seem to mind.
“I am very lucky to have a position that has helped me learn more about my community and the surrounding areas,” she says. “It’s been great to help make an impact in a region I care so much about. I also enjoy the variety of work that I do and the people that I meet every day. We have so many caring and supportive individuals and businesses in the Northwoods.”
For more information about Northwoods United Way, call (715) 369-0440 or visit northwoodsunitedway.org. To learn more about United Way Worldwide, visit unitedway.org.
To read more stories in the current edition of Northwoods Commerce, pick up a free copy in newsstands throughout the Northwoods, or in the Star Journal office, 24 W. Rives St., Rhinelander.