Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is United Way?
A: Over 100 years ago, community leaders in Denver, Colorado saw the need to help local charities raise funds through one, centralized body. Today, the United Way functions in a similar manner, though on a much grander and more ambitious scale. By leveraging the power of a centralized organization, United Way raises funds for hundreds of local charities and spearheads a multitude of programs designed to focus on specific areas, such as parental education and financial empowerment, that helps empower people to improve their lives. Because of its experience and depth of knowledge in a wide variety of areas, United Way raises funds more efficiently and effectively then individual charities acting alone. The United Way movement includes approximately 1,400 community-based United Way organizations. Each is independent, separately incorporated, and governed by local volunteers.
Q: What makes United Way unique?
A: United Way’s goal is to create long-lasting changes by addressing the underlying causes of problems. We don't just address the symptons of a problem. We go deeper to get at the underlying causes.
Q: What does United Way money do for the community?
A: United Way dollars help create opportunties for a better life for all. From emergency programs that feed the hungry, to shelters for the homeless, to job training designed to help adults better their lives and the lives of their families, local United Ways work with their communities to ensure that every need is being met. And results are quantifiable. For example, in North Central Massachusetts, over 140,000 services were delivered last year alone.
Q: How does United Way raise money?
A: United Way raises its dollars through workplace giving. We ask people to donate a small portion of each paycheck, which is deducted every pay period and invested in important community programs. United Way also raises money via direct mail and from corporations and private individuals. In addition, many individuals and corporations use Personal or Corporate Statement Accounts. These accounts are designed to allow donors to manage their charitable giving through one convenient account and utilize the expertise of United Way staff to launch new initiatives or be proactive.
Q: Can my United Way contribution address a particular area of need?
A: Yes, by selecting to target your gift to a specific geographic area on your pledge card, your donation will go toward funding one of the most critical need areas for that respective geographic region. You will have UW’s assurance that your money will be invested in local programs that meet the highest standards for improving the quality of life in our community.
Q: Why do some participating agencies charge for their services?
A: United Way agencies operate on a not-for-profit basis. Your contributions help make services available to all at lower costs. Those who can afford to pay for all or part of a service at a not-for-profit rate are asked to do so. This makes it possible for the UW to have funds available to insure that no one will be refused because they cannot afford to pay for the needed services.
Q: Isn’t it cheaper for me to just give directly to the charity of my choice?
A: If you want to give a one-time gift directly to one charity, it might be easier for you to do so directly – United Way supports your desire for charitable giving no matter how you choose to make it. For many donors, they appreciate the fact that United Way directs their gift to the highest priorities in the community. In addition, the Community Impact Fund only funds programs of the agency (no overhead). The other significant advantage of supporting your community through the Community Impact Fund is that the Community Investment Division (made up of staff and volunteers) review each and every program quarterly for outcomes.
In addition, United Way has four initiatives that are helping feed families, teach children how to read and empower young people. The advantage of giving through United Way is that it provides you with a convenient service by deducting a small amount of money from your paycheck at a time – allowing you to possibly contribute more than you might be able to in a one-time gift and giving you a chance to make a bigger difference to people in need.
Q: Why should I invest in United Way when I never use any of the agency services?
A: You might be surprised to learn how many organizations that touch our lives are supported by United Way donations. It is also important to recognize the value a healthy community represents to all of its citizens.
Q: What agencies are funded, and who decides?
A: United Way volunteers from the local community (this could be you!) identify agencies and programs that provide needed services. They may include many well-known agencies as well as grass-roots organizations that would not be able to provide important services without United Way funding.
Q: Does United Way provide direct services?
A: United Way serves local health and human service programs by offering low-cost community impact via centralized fundraising and expert leadership. As parts of its mission to serve our communities, United Way organizes and leads the creation of research and reports that analyze problems and present solutions. In addition, United Way is leading the way in our community through several key initiatives:
- To inspire greater volunteerism, United Way launched United Way Volunteer Center
- To help youth achieve their full potential it pioneered United Way Youth Venture programs, which has subsequently spread across the country.
- So all children are ready for school, we brought Dolly Parton Imagination Library to our community.
- To help residents find help, United Way launched Mass 211, a free, 24-hour referral rescource.
- To keep children and families from going hungry we launched United Way Combat Hunger, which is packaging meals for local food pantries.
- To help those who may not qualify for government assistance, but are struggling we have United Way Supplemental Basic Needs Initiative.
- We all know that healthcare cost can be a challenge, that is why we brought FamilyWize to the community. This free prescription card provides savings on medicines.
Q: How does United Way distribute money?
A: United Way relies on local community volunteers and highly trained staff to make these decisions. We fund a safety net of services so people can count on help when they need it. United Way also funds new initiatives and programs with special grants and seed money.
Q: How does United Way operate?
A: United Way is led by a volunteer board chair who oversees a volunteer board of directors. This board is responsible for setting and approving policy and expenditures by United Way. Hundreds of other volunteers work in local companies and organizations to run fundraising campaigns.
Q: How much does United Way give to charity and how much goes toward your overhead?
A: This is one of our donors’ and volunteers’ most important concerns. United Way has low overhead and directs approximately 80% of each donated dollar directly to programs. Compared to other charities, we're a leader in low-cost community impact.
Q: How do I receive documentation of my gift for tax purposes?
A: Nonprofit organizations are required to provide receipts for all gifts of $250 or more, and at United Way of North Central Massachusetts a confirmation of your gift will automatically be sent to the home or work address provided for any gift of $101 or more. For gifts under $101 or to prove full payment on a payroll deduction contribution, the end of year pay stub can be used or a confirmation can be requested from United Way.
Q: What is the Alexis de Tocqueville Society?
A: The Alexis de Tocqueville Society for donors who contribute $10,000 or more a year to the United Way.