Why is United Way special among the many requests for donations?

United Way is one of the best ways to care for people in our community.  As the single largest campaign effort in the Greater Williamsburg area, the United Way funds 28 programs run by 15 major nonprofit human service providers.  The United Way campaign helps nearly 20,000 people each year living in the Greater Williamsburg community.

Why should I give to United Way rather than directly to individual nonprofits?

United Way provides a number of benefits to the donor as well as to the nonprofits that it supports.

First, donors can give to multiple nonprofits and programs through one donation. Second, volunteers from our community monitor and evaluate agencies to make sure they spend your money on priority programs that are truly making a difference in our community.  United Way funds specific programs that address the needs of Williamsburg citizens; it does not fund blanket agency budget requests.  Our volunteers also help coordinate agency efforts to eliminate duplication of services and to make sure that community resources are being used most efficiently.

Giving through the United Way helps the agencies too.  Many organizations that do good work don’t necessarily have the resources to promote themselves. The United Way helps end this disparity by distributing funds to needed programs, regardless of agency size or prominence.  And when United Way does the fundraising, it frees up agency staff time so they can spend more time on achieving their missions. 

Who runs the United Way?

Experienced volunteers who live in your community run the United Way as members of our Board of Directors.  The Volunteer Board of Directors represents all segments of the community including local employers, employees, homemakers, and retired citizens. They set goals, organize campaigns, collaborate with other funders and local government, determine United Way policies, and ultimately build a stronger community able to meet the needs of its residents. The United Way Board of Directors distributes funds to agencies and monitors agency budgets and programs. Their service enables the United Way to maximize contributions so that the maximum amount from every dollar you give goes directly to help people who need it.

How do you divide the campaign funds? 

Every year, a team of over 50 experienced, local volunteers from all walks of life, spend many hours studying the budgets and programs of each applicant agency to make recommendations for funding. These volunteers base their recommendations on community needs and priorities, the money available from the annual campaign, and the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency’s programs.  United Way’s volunteer Board of Directors makes the final decisions on distribution of campaign funds.

Why should I give when I never use agency services?

It’s possible that you or your family may not use any of the 28 programs provided through your United Way support. Many people contribute because they want to maintain important services in the Greater Williamsburg area including special advocates for children, emergency shelters for abused women and children, hospice care, adult literacy programs, home repair for low-income families, and nutritious meals for the disabled and elderly.

United Way funded programs make the Greater Williamsburg community a more responsible and compassionate community. Programs are not just for the poor or homeless; they are also for our neighbors and friends who need a helping hand through hard times.

Can I designate my gift?

Yes. However, United Way of Greater Williamsburg encourages donors to make unrestricted pledges because unrestricted donations are distributed where needed by experienced volunteers who understand local needs and who monitor agencies to make sure your money is well spent.  Designations to specific United Way agencies and other local 501(c)(3) health and human service organizations are honored.  However, if you would like to designate to a non-United Way agency, the agency must be registered with the IRS and with the Commonwealth of Virginia as a non-profit with a 501(c)(3) tax status. The donor must provide an agency address or phone number for all non-United Way designations.

I feel like I’m being pressured to give to United Way.

Neither the United Way nor its volunteers think that people should be forced to give.  PRESSURE DEFEATS THE VERY IDEA OF VOLUNTARY GIVING.  United Way hopes that people will give because they understand the importance of building a strong community and because they feel United Way is one of the best ways to help people in need.

I heard that United Way staff has large salaries, why do they need my money? 

United Way of Greater Williamsburg is committed to being a transparent non-profit organization. The Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC) requires that non-profit agencies maintain an administration to expense ratio of 25% or less. Expense ratios are reported on IRS Form 990 each year. United Way of Greater Williamsburg publishes their most recent 990 on their website at www.uwgw.org. In 2013, the United Way of Greater Williamsburg had an overhead expense ratio of 15.79%.

Other reliable sources, such as GuideStar and The American Institute of Philanthropy, caution that looking at overhead numbers alone can be misleading.  A low overhead (or low expense ratio) does not mean that an organization is providing valuable services. The best determinate of the effectiveness of any organization is how well it performs its mission. The mission of the United Way of Greater Williamsburg is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of community. We work toward this mission by investing in community programs, engaging volunteers, and providing services to nearly 20,000 people in our community each year.