Each issue of Advantage features an “Impact Player” from United Way of Northeast Florida, as a means to highlight the contributions that local volunteers make to our community.
As the Lead Investor of United Way’s social innovation project, Upstream, Brightway Insurance Chairman David Miller is driving groundbreaking approaches to long-standing community challenges. A collaborative effort between United Way and the University of North Florida, Upstream pairs UNF students with coaches from United Way’s Stein Fellowship. Together, they develop ideas and devise strategies to solve community problems related to health, education and financial stability.
In early 2016, four of the 10 finalists will compete for a chance to receive grants of $2,500 each, which will provide seed funding to enable local nonprofits to find the root cause of critical issues and implement systemic change.
A number of years ago (former United Way CEO) Connie Hodges recruited me to serve on the board but even before that I had been working as president of a partner agency in town. One of the things that got me to zero in and appreciate the role that United Way plays in our community is the organization’s commitment to measurable outcomes. We all recognize there are lots of worthy causes. United Way, however, is uniquely positioned to bring people and resources together to create long-term sustainable change. Focused on education, income and health, three of the issues that matter most to our community, United Way holds itself and its partners accountable for results. And to me that was really important.
2) HOW HAVE YOU SINCE HELPED?
I’ve been on the board of directors for a number of years, and I just finished my term as the first chairperson for the Stein Fellowship, a multi-generational mentoring program that has been extremely helpful in developing business leaders who are engaged with the community through philanthropy.
3) WHAT PROGRAM(S) ARE YOU MOST INVOLVED IN?
Most recently, I’ve been involved with a new, social innovation project called Upstream. It’s about leveraging scarce resources to come up with innovative ways to solve enduring community challenges.
Upstream is designed to get to the root causes of problems in our community that we see downstream. There are 10 teams involved right now.
We’re looking forward to connecting more business leaders with the innovators of the future. Employers, like me, are always seeking talented individuals to join our teams. We want people who can think outside of the box, and the UNF students participating in Upstream possess the same dedication, diligence and creative thinking as my top recruits. I am inspired by the Upstream participants’ passion and enthusiasm. They are the people who will solve the next million dollar problem that faces our community.
4) WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THE PEOPLE WITH WHOM YOU CONNECTED?
Through United Way, I have had the pleasure of working with some of our area’s greatest leaders who all recognize that business success is directly related to a strong community. Because we give back to our community, we attract better employees, we grow our revenues and our customers see we have a greater purpose.
5) HOW DO YOU MEASURE OR DEFINE IMPACT IN THE COMMUNITY?
Some people focus on the problem. I have found that it can be more helpful to focus on what’s working. When you focus on what is working you can see greater accomplishments and turn those accomplishments into even more impactful achievements. Over time, your problems get smaller and smaller.
United Way engages large and small businesses through workplace campaigns, sponsorships and in-kind services. It establishes strong partnerships, maximizes effectiveness, evaluates initiatives and measures results. Brightway invests in United Way because it implements research-based initiatives that have a lasting impact.
6) HOW DOES UNITED WAY’S WORK MAKE OUR COMMUNITY MORE ATTRACTIVE TO BUSINESSES INTERESTED IN STARTING HERE?
United Way focuses on education, income and health because those are the building blocks of success. United Way understands that Jacksonville benefits when individuals and families are successful. When our neighbors get a good education, get good jobs that help them and their families become financially stable, are not worried about how they are going to pay the light bill or how they will afford their next meal, they are more likely to have healthy, productive lives. In partnership with United Way and the organizations it supports, businesses like Brightway are at the forefront of developing our future leaders – the people who are developing innovative pathways to success in the key areas of education, income, and health.
7) WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER SMALL-BUSINESS LEADERS INTERESTED IN ENGAGING WITH THE UNITED WAY?
You don’t have to be a big Fortune 500 company to make a difference. I encourage all small business leaders to share their expertise and give their time and resources to make our community even better.
All businesses are strapped for time and face the realities of having to make scarce financial resources stretch as far as possible. The amazing thing we have found is that the more time our people spend engaging in strategic United Way volunteering initiatives, the more the community supports our company – and that actually drives the bottom line more than the time and money we contribute.