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Frequently Asked Questions
I hear that United Way is heading in another direction. How is it different from what they used to do?
United Way was founded many years ago to raise money in an annual community-wide campaign for a large group of local non-profit agencies. The money was divided among the agencies and they used it as they needed it. However, with changes in technology, the economy and marketplace, United Ways all over the country were becoming less and less effective. Donors could easily choose whom to support on an agency web site – they didn’t need a “middle man” to collect their gifts. In addition, the problems in our communities were not improving. Millions of people still suffered from homelessness, hunger and lack of decent employment and health care. The process wasn’t working. That’s when United Ways realized that they had been raising money for years to treat symptoms rather than root causes. This realization prompted a major shift in philosophy – from fundraiser to community problem solver. River Valley United Way, along with thousands of other local United Ways, began to research issues in the community and set priorities. We began to ask questions like, “Why are people homeless and how can we help them to find a home and become self-sufficient?” If they are homeless because they can’t find a job, then we need to help them become employable and find employment. If they are homeless because they don’t understand how to budget, then we need to teach them budgeting skills. Building more or larger homeless shelters with more beds does not tackle the root causes of being homeless. Building more shelters simply provides more resources for a hot meal and cot for the night. In order to accomplish this kind of lasting community change, we are shifting our focus from what agencies need to what our community needs. We have to become much more than a fundraiser. We have to become a researcher and educator on community issues, a full partner in addressing those issues and an expert in measuring whether we’re making progress. It’s a huge change, but one that makes sense for the community.
Why is United Way focusing on impacting only education, income, and health?
United Way has chosen the targets of education, income, and health because they are the building blocks for a good life. Education is essential to getting and keeping a job with a livable wage and health benefits. An income adequate to pay for today’s necessities and save for the future provides families some sense of financial stability. Access to quality health care keeps children on track in school and adults productive at work. Remove any one of these building blocks and the other two topple.
United Way has a theory about how to create changes of this magnitude. It begins with declaring bold goals. When the stakes are high, Americans will rise to the occasion. That leads to partnerships, the second critical element. We have to think differently about partnerships and set aside special interests if we want to make real progress. This work requires collaboration across all sectors: big businesses, small businesses, elected officials, nonprofits, academia, the faith community, the labor movement, the media, parents and neighbors. Working together, we can accomplish things that no organization, no individual and no government can accomplish on its own.
Imagine the power of partnerships with all these sectors in each of the 1,400 United Way communities. Each community is different so each community has to work on what is important to them in education, income and health.
What percentage of the campaign funds go to United Way’s overhead?
River Valley United Way, overhead expenses for 2012 will represent 22 percent of the campaign. The expenses include all campaign supplies and expenses, year-round community planning, year-round community service and agency relations, as well as year-round billing and collection of pledges. This is far better than the 35 percent endorsed by the Better Business Bureau and the National Charities Information Bureau.
Last year our campaign result was lower than previous years and directly affects the overhead expense. The tough economy that has affected businesses and families alike also affected our campaign results. Our decisions about financial support of local agencies are based on the agencies’ outcome measurements.
Why does United Way need paid staff?
United Way is led by volunteers who commit their time, talent and resources to our agency and the charities supported by the campaign. Staff is needed, however, to coordinate volunteer efforts, manage United Way programs and provide professional expertise and support services. River Valley United Way has two full-time staff members.
What financial safeguards/check and balance are in place at United Way?
Because United Way serves as the financial steward of the public's money, we have many checks and balances in our operations:
River Valley United Way has both a Finance Committee and an elected Treasurer that are charged with overseeing and determining the appropriateness of all financial matters related to United Way.
River Valley United Way contracts with a local accounting firm to conduct an audit annually. The Board of Directors reviews and approves the audit and IRS Form 990, “Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax” form.
Checks are reviewed and counter-signed by the Treasurer, or other board officer, and the Executive Director.
Financial statements of United Way are provided to the Board of Directors for review and approval at each of the 11 monthly meetings.
All financial accounts are placed in local financial institutions.
River Valley United Way annually complies with the membership eligibility criteria contained in the United Way Worldwide bylaws and also adheres to the rules and guidelines of the United Way Worldwide Member Trademark License Agreement.
United Way’s Board of Directors approves the distribution of all dollars raised during the annual campaign as well as all administrative and fundraising costs.
How do I know that my gift is spent wisely?
More than twenty volunteers from the community and the River Valley United Way Board--representing all donors--study agency budgets, audits, programs, goals and achievements each year. These volunteers, who make up the Community Investment Committee, determine allocations for the coming year. Meanwhile, United Way is constantly working to ensure that the community’s needs are being met without duplication of services and waste of dollars. The financial records of River Valley United Way and of the charities it supports must be reviewed annually by independent CPA auditors. Small agencies with less than $99,999.00 revenue may opt for a CPA financial review in accordance with United Way guidelines.In addition, United Way requires partner agencies and programs to submit annual reports that include progress on the outcome measurement, budget and demographic information on clients served.
There is one United Way charity that I really like. Shouldn’t I give all my money directly to that agency?
By contributing to United Way, you efficiently fund a network of local health and human services. If everyone gave funds to just one cause, such as food for the hungry, there would be an overabundance of food but insufficient funds to support an emergency shelter, quality childcare facilities, safe and educational after-school programs, access to medical care or shelter for victims of domestic violence. The spending plans of all the member agencies, as well as the community’s needs, are taken into consideration when the Board of Directors approves the annual allocations based on the review panel’s recommendations.
Why should I give when I know someone who was turned down for help by a United Way agency?
River Valley United Way funds programs that assist people through approved local non-profit agencies and programs. If a person feels he or she was mistreated or turned down unfairly by a United Way-funded program in our service area, please contact us at the United Way and give us a chance to explore the circumstances of the case. We need to know the specific situation, the agency, the time and date, the agency staff member and the individual who had the problem so that we can check into it thoroughly and provide a response. If the problem was in another county, we urge you to contact that county’s United Way. It is important to remember that each United Way is locally administered and operates independently of every other United Way.
Doesn’t United Way just help the poor of the community? It doesn’t help people like me or my family or friends, does it?
United Way helps thousands right here at home. That includes the needy as well as folks of all income levels who simply need help after a natural disaster; whose children learn life-enhancing skills through Scouting; or who need shelter from domestic abuse.
I was pressured several years ago to give to United Way and I still resent it. Does United Way support those tactics?
United Way neither condones nor accepts coercion to give. It is counterproductive to the concept of volunteer giving, it creates long-lasting hostility, and it reduces contributions in the long run. Occasionally, individual volunteers who are committed to the United Way system overstep the delicate boundary, going beyond educating potential donors and asking for a contribution and instead using pressure tactics. ASKING a potential donor is a must. Pressure to give is a negative and against our policy.
Does United Way support abortions? Or Planned Parenthood?
No agency or program of River Valley United Way funds abortions or Planned Parenthood.
I heard that most of the money that is given to United Way is sent outside the community. Is that true?
False. River Valley United Way is a totally local and independent organization. We are operated and administered by a local Board of Directors made up of community volunteers. All decisions regarding fund raising, community planning and the distribution of campaign dollars are made by local board members. About 99 cents of every dollar stays here in Pope, Johnson & Yell Counties. The remainder goes to:
Arkansas United Way Professional Association. AUWPA provides data on needs, coordinates United Ways in Arkansas, monitors legislation, works with federal and local governments, co-partners in statewide disaster relief efforts and provides training for River Valley United Way staff and board members. These dues are $100.00 per year.
United Way of Worldwide dues. UWW, in turn, helps provide visibility through its national advertising programs and offers additional resources, services and training opportunities for staff and board members. These dues are 1% of our annual campaign total.
My employees all work part time or earn minimum wage. I don’t want to ask them to contribute. Will they donate?
Minimum wage earners and part timers are frequently among the highest percentage contributors to United Way. One reason they give is that they have personally benefited from many United Way agency services. No one should be pressured to give, but everyone should be given the opportunity.
Why should I take our company’s time and resources to run a United Way campaign?
Because the United Way agencies provide services for your employees and their families that improve their quality of life and help make them better employees. Moreover, United Way agencies meet human service needs for all residents of Pope, Johnson and Yell Counties, which helps make the River Valley a better place to live and work.
What is required of my company when conducting a United Way campaign?
Generally, companies offer their associates the opportunity to give through payroll deduction. United Way staff can tailor campaigns to meet the needs of individual companies.
Some other suggestions for successful campaigns are:
Presentations at pre-scheduled company meetings conducted by United Way staff, board members and/or Campaign Chair (10-15 minutes)
Appointment of a company employee to serve as the company’s Campaign Coordinator and to work with the United Way staff
Agency speakers can be scheduled to participate in company meetings (30-45 minutes)
In addition to conducting a company campaign, how else can my company support the United Way?
Other ways companies can support United Way:
Become a sponsor of a fundraising or coummunity event. United Way staff should be contacted to see which opportunity fits your company’s preference
Participate as company volunteers at local agencies and wear company shirts to identify your group of volunteers
Post on the company’s street-side billboard from September to November the public message: “Support the United Way Campaign”
Provide a grant or in-kind donation for technology upgrades, computer equipment, printing of campaign materials or other needs of United Way
Request from United Way a "We Support United Way" cling-on and display at the glass entrance way to the company
Organize a fundraising event for United Way at the company or in the community
Serve on the Community Investment (Allocations) Committee to determine annual allocationsto agencies and programs
Serve as an expert on one of the Impact Councils: Education, Income, or Health
Serve as a volunteer on one of the United Way committees
Why does United Way take on new agencies when it is difficult to raise enough money for the agencies it already has?
The people of the River Valley entrust United Way with their gifts of over half a million dollars every year. Community volunteers on the Board of Directors and Community Investment Committee are extremely sensitive to competing needs in our service area and endeavor to redistribute the money responsibly on behalf of all contributors.It is sometimes said that River Valley United Way supports various local agencies, but - more accurately - it supports needs in the community through programs. These programs are designed to produce positive impacts in three primary areas: education, income, and health. For the 2013 funding year, 27 agencies applied for funding for 36 programs. United Way's support for each of these programs is committed on a calendar year basis. Each program must reapply for program funding annually and demonstrate the impact it has in one or more of the focus areas. And annually, Community Investment Committee volunteers:
Re-examine the River Valley's most pressing needs,
Re-evaluate the performance and resources of the programs seeking funds,
Develop a ranking of the programs most closely meeting the community’s needs,
Estimate how much money the upcoming campaign might realistically generate, and
Recommend funding levels for each program.
This approach keeps the emphasis on what matters most and the allocations process responsive to changing needs and resources.
Has United Way stopped funding the Boy Scouts?
As mentioned earlier, the funding recommendations made by the Community Impact Committee are annual recommendations. As such, a program may or may not receive funding in any given year. When the Boy Scouts programs apply for United Way funding, they are given an equal measure of consideration by the committee. The Boy Scouts did not apply for 2013 funds.
Are all United Ways the same?
There are approximately 1,400 United Ways across the USA that exist in their respective communities to build partnerships and leverage resources to create plans for long lasting community change. Though United Ways share a logo and have similar missions, each United Way is independently incorporated and is led by local staff and volunteers. The work of each United Way is determined by its community needs.
Why should I give to the United Way?
Charitable giving is a personal and voluntary decision and the United Way encourages you to do what is most comfortable to you. A gift to the United Way is an investment that benefits the entire community, not just one program, issue or population.