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United Way of America

United Way Worldwide
United Way Worldwide logo
Headquarters Alexandria, Virginia
Region served United States
President Brian Gallagher
Main organ U.S.A. Board of Trustees

The United Way Worldwide, based in fundraising and support. United Way's focus is to identify and resolve pressing community issues, and to make measurable changes in 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 communities differ. The main areas include education, income, and health.


  • History 1
  • Common focus areas 2
  • National partnerships 3
  • Scandals and criticism 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The organization has roots 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 (later these organizations were joined together and renamed to United Way Worldwide). 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, 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 yearlong 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 Worldwide 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

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 recovery and rebuilding in 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 in exchange for 10 or more volunteer hours with local nonprofit organizations. The concert is organized by a given campus and their local United Way. The program's mission is to raise awareness across the nation that young people can make a difference by joining their efforts to help meet their communities' needs. The goal in part is "helping develop the next generation of active community leaders", according to the website.[8]

The 10,000 Hours Show was founded in the fall of 2002 by undergraduates at the University of Iowa. Ben Folds performed the first show 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 each community, the issues United Ways address are determined locally. 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 in permanent housing who previously were on the streets.[9][10]

National partnerships

  • The ongoing 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 Worldwide have enjoyed a cooperative relationship
  • Leadership 18 is a coalition of long-established charities, faith-based organizations, and social and health groups that support and promote people's safety, health, well-being and social and economic development across America.

Scandals and criticism

  • In 1986, The United Way of Cleveland, Ohio, held an event called Balloonfest '86, setting a world record by releasing 1.5 million balloons. Unfortunately, the event had disastrous consequences, wreaking havoc at Burke Lakefront Airport and Lake Erie, causing injury to animals and contributing to two fishermen's deaths.[11]
  • [13][12]
  • Ralph Dickerson Jr., a former CEO of United Way of [14]
  • Oral Suer, CEO of the Washington, D.C. chapter, was convicted of misuse of donations in 2004. He pleaded guilty to theft of almost $500,000 and is in prison.[15][16][17][18]
  • Norman O. Taylor, Suer's replacement, was never charged with misconduct but was forced to resign.[19]
  • United Way of the National Capital Area attracted criticism for its funding[20] of controversial anti-vaccine group NVIC, including social media campaigns[21] and an online petition.[22]

See also


  1. ^ history page on the United Way Web site
  2. ^ Ohiolink, Biography of Whiting Williams (accessed August 29, 2013). See also Whiting Williams article.
  3. ^ a b Funding Universe: Company Histories-United Way of America
  4. ^ "United Way President Betty Beene Resigns" Philanthropy News Digest, September 19, 2000
  5. ^ Barrett, William B.: "United Way's New Way" Forbes magazine, January 16, 2006
  6. ^ "The Philanthropy 400".  
  7. ^ "United Way Worldwide" Hoovers Business Intelligence, company profiles
  8. ^ a b University of Iowa website: 10,000 Hours Show
  9. ^ Los Angeles Times: September 12, 2012-Kobe Bryant to host walk to fight homelessness by Mark Medina
  10. ^ "United Way Of Greater Los Angeles Hosts 7th Annual HomeWalk".  
  11. ^ John Kroll "Balloonfest 1986, the spectacle that became a debacle: Cleveland Remembers (video)" The Plain Dealer August 15, 2011
  12. ^ "Old Battles and New Challenges" Non-Profit Times, April 1, 2002
  13. ^ Sinclair, Matthew: "William Aramony is Back on the Streets" NonProfit Times, March 1, 2002
  14. ^ Strom, Stephanie:"United Way Says Ex-Leader Took Assets" New York Times, April 14, 2006
  15. ^ Chronicle of Philanthropy: May 17, 2004-D.C. United Way Leader Sentenced to Jail Time by Brad Wolverton
  16. ^ United Way of Central Virginia: FAQ-Was former United Way of America president, Bill Aramony, convicted of fraud?
  17. ^ Strom, Stephanie:"United Way Says Ex-Leader Took Assets" New York Times, April 14, 2006
  18. ^ Michael G. Daigneault, Esq. "Ethics ripped through the United Way of the National Capital Area. " ASAE Center for Association Leadership, May 2004
  19. ^ New York Times: April 14, 2006-United Way Says Ex-Leader Took Assets by Stephanie Strom
  20. ^ United Way of the National Capital Area NVIC page[1]
  21. ^ YouTube video criticism UW/NVIC link[2]
  22. ^ Online petition to stop funding the anti-vaccination group National Vaccine Information Center[3]

External links

  • Official Webpage of United Way
  • National Website of 2-1-1 which connects people with important community services and volunteer opportunities, spearheaded by United Way and AIRS.
  • National Website of BornLearning a public engagement campaign that helps parents, caregivers and communities create quality early learning opportunities for young children led by United Way and other partners.
  • Combined Federal Campaign
  • Charity Navigator Rating - United Way Worldwide
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