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  • What Are United Way Partnerships, and How Can They Help Your Nonprofit?

The United Way in America is synonymous with both the ideas of charity and philanthropy. Not only was it one of the first genuine charities in America, but it collects more philanthropy than any other in the world today. According to Forbes, it pulled in $3.9 billion in revenues for the fiscal year ending in June 2017. Read on to find out what United Way Partnerships are and how they can help your nonprofit, too! (Forbes)

That funding is mainly funneled to community-based affiliates focusing on fighting “for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community” (from their published mission statement on unitedway.org). Since each local affiliate can choose the best way to accomplish that mission (Charity Navigator gives United Way 3 out of 4 stars), United Way revenues are usually rated as highly effective, going right to where the best impact possible can be made.


united way partnerships


Usually, local United Ways choose to re-grant their revenues to local nonprofits, schools, and community-based organizations. If you are doing any work to promote the health and stability of your community, you might look into what funding your local United Way has for you! Here is what you need to know exactly about United Way Partnerships and how to go about being a part of their partnership network.

Also read: Make Your Nonprofit Known Locally

The History of the United Way

Interestingly, the United Way was formed in the 1800s by religious leaders that bound together in a truly American spirit to help their community despite their theological differences. Four people founded what is now the United Way in Denver in 1887, according to their official organizational history.

A local woman, a priest, two ministers, and a rabbi got together to raise funding under a common cause. They raised $21,700, redistributed to 10 health and welfare agencies to help people most in need. They now have more than 1,300 local affiliates in the US and hundreds more in 40 countries.

The United Way also is special because they all but invented workforce campaigns. Partnering officially with more than 100 corporations and hundreds more local companies, the United Way encourages employees to form their own campaigns to encourage giving in the community. The majority of their billions of dollars of annual philanthropic collections comes from these campaigns.

The United Way and Community Partners

Funding from these corporate and employee giving campaigns is then channeled with other donations to a United Way Fund for that area. Generally, the Funds have boards comprised of local volunteers that objectively review community partner proposals and re-grant funding to sponsored organizations.

United Way Partnerships

Every local United Way is different, but for the majority, you can apply to be a sponsored partner of the United Way. Then you can apply for their grants or other funding opportunities.

  1. First, find your United Way. You can just enter a zip code in their finder tool or click on a country if you are outside of the US. For example, when I plug in my home zip code, 19335, I get the contact information for my Pennsylvania County’s United Way.
  2. Read about what your local United Way does. When I go to the United Way of Chester County website, I read that they help 101,000 people annually via 60 organizations. They had hundreds of corporations run employee giving campaigns in 2016-2017.
  3. See if they give program grants. My United Way does indeed give grants – in all three pillars of the United Way (education, health, and financial independence), to nonprofits, schools, and health agencies.
  4. If you fit with their programs, look for a contact or a form to become a partner – and be eligible for their annual funding round. For my United Way, all you have to do is fill out contact forms and get in touch with the campaign manager.

If you find that your United Way gives program grants as well, it would be wise to call and ask if you are eligible for a grant. Also ask if you fit into their funding priorities! You can even see if you can get a meeting with them, to better understand their work and build a fundraising relationship.

You do want to cross-reference donor lists before you dive into building a fundraising partnership. Look at their corporate donor list. Some corporations will disqualify you from a grant or sponsorship if you receive United Way funding.

Also read: Should You Start A Nonprofit? Five Questions To Ask First

Summary – Check to see if a United Way Partnership can help your nonprofit!

In short, United Way funding covers a broad base of categories that can include any kind of education, health, or poverty relief programming meeting your community’s needs.

They have the system to leverage millions of dollars from local corporations. Your nonprofit or school probably does not. For example, my United Way raised $648,138 from Johnson & Johnson in their 2016-2017 campaign. That is unique philanthropy to which you otherwise would not have access.

The fact that it is available to you, if you qualify and fit with the local priorities for service and support, is amazing. The United Way is truly serving our neediest community members with the oldest, and possibly best, fundraising system possible.  If you can be a part of it, you will only be more special.

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