A trinity of United Way’s philanthropic societies make great change for Birmingham

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J. Mason Davis hopes the society named in his honor makes big strides in Pre-K education.. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA) affinity groups move the needle in areas of our community where social services are lacking. As UWCA rolls into the peak of the #HopeHappens campaign, we’re shedding light on three leadership organizations that strive to fulfill UWCA’s greater goal of making a positive community impact by improving the lives of others through quality education, financial stability, better health, and access to services.

First, what is an affinity group?

UWCA affinity group members give at least $1,000 to UWCA and align their shared interests with goals that will help achieve health and safety needs across Central Alabama.

J. Mason Davis Leadership Society

J. Mason Davis Leadership Society 2019 launch event. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

Under a year old, the J. Mason Davis Society already holds a heavy legacy from its namesake. J. Mason Davis is an exemplary attorney and known as a champion of diversity and opportunities for all. He was also United Way’s first Black board chairman.

The society aims to carry on Davis’ vision by giving young leaders in the local Black community a seat at the table. They’re currently trying to meet United Way’s mission while directly impacting underserved Black communities with programs in education and entrepreneurship.

“My vision of this society is that we really elevate Birmingham and show that there is a very generous philanthropic group of African Americans and Black people that care about the community. We’re trying to make a positive impact across all ages and sectors.

We’re looking for service and networking opportunities for the Black community. Periodically, the society will look at what we can do to bring in money for a specific cause within the Black community.”

Leah Davis, Relationship Manager, J. Mason Davis Society
The society is always looking for ways to make an impact in places like this daycare that collaborates with United Way’s Success By 6 initiative. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

Although the pandemic caused detours in many of the society’s plans, Leah is confident about the change it will bring in the Magic City. In just a few short months, she’s had the opportunity to learn from local leaders.

“Since August, I’ve met some really cool movers and shakers—it’s opened my mind to how resilient and generous people are. Birmingham is one of the most generous communities in the nation. I’ve really seen that working with donors.”

Young Philanthropists Society

YPS members volunteer with a number of nonprofits across Central Alabama. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

You don’t have to be “young” to join the Young Philanthropists Society (YPS), just young at heart. While most members tend to be in the millennial age-range, no one is required to show a birth certificate.

“YPS consists of young professionals who live in Central Alabama and want to make sure they prioritize philanthropy with their careers. Something not separate, but that builds their legacy.

We want to bring individuals in our community together who identify as young philanthropists. YPS gives them opportunities to get involved with their community through career opportunities, networking and social events.”

David Kinstley, Relationship Manager, Young Philanthropists Society
UWCA affinity groups YPS
Two members at a signature YPS Happy Hour event at Ghost Train Brewing. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

In addition to providing networking opportunities for those who have servant hearts, YPS gives back directly to our community through various activities. Some of these include packing weekender backpacks with the Community Foodbank of Central Alabama for children who face food insecurity and facilitating the delivery of Angel Tree gifts to families in need.

A particularly innovative moment took place in the midst of pandemic shutdowns. YPS partnered to meet the needs of Meals on Wheels. However, the philanthropic society still managed to simultaneously participate in their signature YPS happy hour event.

“We asked YPS members to purchase a box of Boost or Ensure in exchange for a cocktail to-go kit. So, we were able to offer supplement nutritional support to seniors who need it the most.

It was really cool because we were able to take someone who’s truly impacted by the pandemic, fulfill the need in a safe and socially-distanced and acceptable way, and stay true to the YPS way.”

Women United

As UWCA’s first affinity group, Women United has kept its three-prong approach of educating members, providing networking opportunities and opening doors to volunteer activities.

“Our mission centers around connecting women and keeping them connected to United Way. We want to be fully known and we want to know them fully.

If they understand what we’re doing for our community, and they understand where we’re coming from, then we’re going to make a connection.”

Amy Scofield, Major Gifts Officer, Women United
UWCA affinity groups
The organization participates in a school supply drive every year. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

Women United hosts lunch and learns, coined “Women United Wednesdays,” once a quarter. These events showcase United Way’s work around different areas of need through their partners, programs and Bold Goals initiatives. At one event members realized there was a deficit in an annual school supply drive and decided to fill the gap. This group is in its third year.

“Women are hard workers. Women are active. We’re going to get the job done. If you plant a seed, women will come to give their time. In my mind, Women United members’ eyes are open and they’re learning something new.”

Will you join these UWCA affinity groups in supporting a vital mission? Donate time and funds to UWCA’S #HopeHappens campaign and see good accomplished in Birmingham.

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