Approximately 50 social influencers gathered to tell the United Way story at #Unselfie19. See what happened.

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Photo courtesy of United Way from #Unselfie19

Earlier this month, the United Way of Central Alabama held its first ever influencer luncheon called #UnSelfie19.

Attendees included local bloggers, influencers, social media professionals and inspiring people from the Birmingham area. The event gathered the local digital community to learn about United Way’s programs and services.

Something new—bringing the digital community together

Maree Jones addressing #Unselfie19. Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

In late 2018, the United Way approached Maree Jones, a local social media guru. Their idea was to bring local influencers together to expand United Way’s story content through digital media.

“I was immediately intrigued and started researching as to the type of event that would be both feasible and beneficial for everyone involved,” said Jones. “Influencer outreach is traditionally difficult for nonprofit organizations due to budget constraints, but, through brainstorming and additional planning, we came up with a program that was educational in nature.”

Never done before

On February 7, nearly 50 local influencers participated in the United Way #UnSelfie19 event. The program was a first for Birmingham.

“To my knowledge, a program like this has never been done before in our area. Many of those in attendance were people who I’ve never met in person, but who I know well through online connections and social media. It was a pleasure to bring those digital relationships into real life and connect human-to-human, rather than device-to-device,” added Jones.

How Unselfie19 made a difference

Photo courtesy of United Way from #Unselfie19

Uniting the digital community is not an easy task, but that is what #Unselfie19 accomplished, through the power of storytelling. Maree challenged them to “unselfie” and focus on more “group selfies” that focus on current issues facing their communities.

For example, Teresa Odom, publisher of Southern Señora, a Hispanic lifestyle blog, was reminded of her own personal United Way story.

“Last fall, I went to work for United Way as a Loaned Executive Manager during their fundraising campaign,” stated Odom. “As I went out to make presentations about the importance of giving to UWCA, I realized how influential I could be with the stories I was telling. In fact, the best part for me was the stories I got in return from complete strangers who felt a connection to what I had shared. I started asking people—’what’s your United Way story?’ and I loved hearing their responses.”

“Attending the #Unselfie19 event brought all those wonderful and positive feelings back to me. The message was that we can all be influencers for good if we will just turn the iPhone around and take the focus off ourselves.

“We can all change the narrative in the communities where we live and find the good to share with our circles of influence and beyond.”

Putting a face on United Way

Francis Hare, CEO of Hare Communications, explained how #Unselfie19, and the stories about United Way, put a face on the United Way.

“It’s no secret the United Way is a great organization—I’ve long recognized that at a corporate level. The event put a face (in fact a lot of faces) on United Way—and, for me, made that truth real at a personal level. So many good people—and, more importantly, everyone I met was a true believer; which is a lot more than just a hard worker who loves his or her job. It’s ultimately what makes United Way a great organization.”

What’s next

Samuetta Nesbitt, Senior Vice President for Public Relations at United Way. Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

In the coming year, United Way intends to capitalize on the #Unselfie19 first ever gathering of bloggers, influencers and social media.

“We know these influencers are looking for story content and we want them to look to United Way for information on trending issues and solutions,” Samuetta Nesbitt, Senior Vice President for Public Relations at United Way.

Stay tuned to more stories about the United Way of Central Alabama’s good works and the difference they are making in our community.

Sponsored by:

Birmingham, United Way of Central Alabama

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.