United Way of America

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United Way of America
United Way Logo.svg
United Way of America logo
Headquarters Alexandria, Virginia
Region served
United States
President
Brian Gallagher
Main organ
U.S.A. Board of Trustees
Website unitedway.org

The United Way of America, based in Alexandria, Virginia, is a non-profit organization that works with more than 1,200 local United Way offices throughout the country in a coalition of charitable organizations to pool efforts in fundraising and support. The focus of United Way is identifying and resolving pressing community issues, as well as making measurable changes in the communities through partnerships with schools, government agencies, businesses, organized labor, financial institutions, community development corporations, voluntary and neighborhood associations, the faith community, and others. The issues United Way offices focus on are determined locally because of the diversity of the communities served. However, the main focus areas include: education, income, and health.

History[edit]

The organization has roots in Denver, Colorado, where in 1887 church leaders began the Charity Organization Society, which coordinated services and fund raising for 22 agencies.[1] Many Community Chest organizations, which were founded in the first half of the twentieth century to jointly collect and allocate money, joined the American Association for Community Organizations in 1918. The first Community Chest was founded in 1913 in Cleveland, Ohio,[2] after the example of the Jewish Federation in Cleveland—which served as an exemplary model for "federated giving". The number of Community Chest organizations increased from 39 to 353 between 1919 and 1929, and surpassed 1,000 by 1948. In 1948, Walter C. Laidlaw merged the Community Chest and other Detroit charities to form the United Foundation.

In 1928, a Community Chest organization was established in Cape Town, South Africa — the first United Way outside North America.[3] By 1974, there were enough United Way organizations internationally to demand the kind of support provided by the national organization, United Way of America, and United Way International was born. Its staff spoke eight languages, with a Board of Directors from more than seven countries, working with member organizations in 45 countries and territories outside the US.

By 1963, and after several name changes, the term United Way was adopted, but not everyone chose to use it. After Walter C. Laidlaw fell ill, William Aramony became CEO of the national governing body which was known as the United Community Funds and Council of America (UCFCA) and in 1970 the organization was renamed United Way of America (UWA), and moved from New York City to Alexandria, Virginia in 1971.[3]

After Aramony's departure in 1992, Kenneth W. Dam was named interim CEO until Elaine Chao was selected as UWA's second President. Betty Stanley Beene took over in 1997 and stayed until 2001.[4] Chris Amundsen, Chief Administrative Officer, served as interim president during a year-long search. Brian Gallagher, former head of United Way in Columbus, Ohio, accepted the job in 2002[5] and was still president and CEO at the end of 2011.

In the 2007 Philanthropy 400, United Way of America was again the largest charity in the United States, with 1,285 local United Ways reporting over $4.2 billion in contributions, a 2.2% increase over 2006.[6]

In May 2009, United Way of America and United Way International were integrated as one global entity, United Way Worldwide.[7]

Common focus areas[edit]

United Ways identify and build on community strengths and assets, help individuals and groups with specific community interests find ways to contribute their time and talents, support direct-service programs and community-change efforts, and advocate public policy changes.

All of this is done in collaboration with diverse partners. Depending on the issue and how the community chooses to address it, United Ways work with schools, government agencies, businesses, organized labor, financial institutions, community development corporations, voluntary and neighborhood associations, the religious community, and others. The United Way of America has also worked with local United Ways along the Gulf Coast to sponsor four Alternative Spring Break programs in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 to help with the recovery and rebuilding of the areas devastated by hurricanes Ivan, Katrina, and Rita. Since 2008, the United Way of America has teamed up with the United Way of Southeastern Michigan and produced Alternative Spring Break programming in Detroit.

United Way also helps to promote other community service projects through their Alternative Spring Break Programs, such as the 10,000 Hours Show (10K). This is a program designed to motivate young people to become involved in community service projects by providing an incentive; free concert admission by providing 10 or more volunteer hours to local non-profit organizations. The concert is organized by a given campus and their local United Way and can be attended for free by anyone who puts in enough hours. The mission of the program is to raise awareness across the nation that young people can make a difference by joining their efforts to help meet the needs of their own communities. Their goal in part is based on "Helping develop the next generation of active community leaders", according to their website.[8]

The 10,000 Hours show was first founded in the fall of 2002 by undergraduates at the University of Iowa. Ben Folds performed the first show, held in the fall of 2003, and it raked in a total of 13,573 hours completed by over 600 volunteers. Since then, there have been a number of other successful shows.[8]

Because of the unique conditions in diverse communities, the issues United Ways address are determined locally. However, some common themes emerge:

  • Helping children and youth succeed through engagement
  • Strengthening and supporting families
  • Improving access to health care
  • Promoting financial stability

Recently, the United Way has also placed an emphasis on eradicating homelessness with an annual Greater Los Angeles' HomeWalk. Kobe Bryant has hosted the walk for several consecutive years. Nearly 50,000 walkers have participated and raised over $4 million to help fight homelessness and successfully placed 14,000 people into permanent housing who previously were on the streets.[9][10]

National partnerships[edit]

  • The on-going partnership with the National Football League began in 1973 when the NFL and United Way of America came together to discuss the possibility of using the NFL's network contract airtime to promote United Way during game telecasts. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle recognized the partnership as a viable means of communicating the good works of United Ways while putting faces on a league of players hidden by helmets.
  • National partnerships with over 100 corporations are formalized through the National Corporate Leadership Program.
  • Since 1946, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and United Way of America have enjoyed a cooperative relationship
  • Leadership 18 a coalition which represents long-established charities, faith-based organizations, and social and health groups that support and promote the safety, health, well-being and social and economic development of people across America.

Scandals and Criticism[edit]

  • In 1986, The United Way of Cleveland, Ohio, held an event called Balloonfest '86, setting a world record by releasing one and a half million balloons. Unfortunately, the event had disastrous consequences, wreaking havoc at Burke Lakefront Airport, and Lake Erie, causing injury to animals and contributing to the deaths of two fishermen.
  • William Aramony, CEO of the national organization for over 20 years, retired in 1992 amid allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement, for which he was subsequently convicted and sentenced to prison.[11]
  • Ralph Dickerson Jr., a former CEO of United Way of New York City, was found to have used United Way funds for personal expenses during 2002 and 2003. He later returned the money.[12]
  • Oral Suer, CEO of the Washington, D.C. chapter, was convicted of misuse of donations in 2004.[13][14] Norman O. Taylor, Oral Suer's replacement, was never charged with misconduct but was forced to resign.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]