United Way of America Nonprofit organization

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United Way Worldwide
United Way Logo.svg
United Way Worldwide logo
Formation1887; 133 years ago (1887)
HeadquartersAlexandria, Virginia, U.S.
Region served
United States
Brian Gallagher
Main organ
U.S.A. Board of Trustees

United Way of America (now United Way Worldwide), based in Alexandria, Virginia, is a nonprofit organization that works with almost 1,200 offices throughout the country in a coalition of charitable organizations to pool efforts 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 main areas include education, income, and health.

United Way of America has been the largest non-profit organization by donations from the public, prior to 2016.[1]


The organization has roots in Denver, Colorado, where in 1887 Frances Wisebart Jacobs, along with other religious leaders, began the Charity Organization Society, which coordinated services between Jewish and Christian charities and fundraising for 22 agencies.[2] 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,[3] 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.[4] Walter Laidlaw's work with the United Foundation became the model for united funds nationally and eventually the United Way organization.

In 1928, a Community Chest organization was established in Cape Town, South Africa. (In 2015, continued neglect by United Way Worldwide, including legal and financial scandals, has led to no active United Way presence in the country and completely severed ties with Community Chest). 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. Amundsen, Chief Administrative Officer, served as interim president during a yearlong search.

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 known as the United Community Funds and Council of America (UCFCA) and in 1970 the organization was renamed United Way of America (UWA). It moved from New York City to Alexandria, Virginia in 1971.[5]

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 2002.[6] Chris Brian Gallagher, former head of United Way in Columbus, Ohio, accepted the job in 2002[7] and as president and CEO, Brian Gallagher was compensated over $1.5 million in 2012[8] with eight executives receiving over $300,000 in compensation in 2013.[9] In 2014, Brian Gallagher received $1.54 million in compensation while the organization experienced its largest worldwide loss in revenue, volunteers, and donors in many years.[10]

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.[11]

In May 2009, United Way of America and United Way International were integrated as one global entity, United Way Worldwide.[12]

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.[13]
  • 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.[14]

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.[15]
  • William Aramony, CEO of the national organization for over 20 years, retired in 1992 amid allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement, of which he was subsequently convicted. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison and fined $300,000.[16][17]
  • Ralph Dickerson Jr., a former CEO of United Way of New York City, was found to have used $227,000 in United Way funds for personal expenses during 2002 and 2003. He later agreed to reimburse the organization.[18]
  • 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 was sentenced to 27 months in prison.[18][19][20] Norman O. Taylor, Suer's replacement, was never charged with misconduct but was forced to resign.[18]

After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the United Way of Western Connecticut was criticized by some victims' family members for a lack of transparency in fundraising. According to those critical of the agency, the money was raised in a way that implied it would be used for the families, but then much of it re-purposed for broader community needs. As the organization focuses on community long term work, the United Way stated that majority was intended to go to non-exclusive, community support programs like counseling, after school or job-support programs; however, this angered those who felt the money should go directly to the families of those affected.[21]

See also


  1. ^ "A philanthropic boom: "donor-advised funds"". The Economist. March 23, 2017. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  2. ^ "history page on the United Way Web site". liveunited.org. Archived from the original on April 29, 2008.
  3. ^ Ohiolink, Biography of Whiting Williams (accessed August 29, 2013). See also Whiting Williams article.
  4. ^ https://reuther.wayne.edu/files/UR001289_WCL.pdf
  5. ^ "History of United Way of America – FundingUniverse".
  6. ^ David Cay Johnston (September 19, 2000). "United Way Faces Crisis As President Plans to Leave". The New York Times. p. A00019.
  7. ^ "Brian Gallagher | United Way Worldwide". www.unitedway.org. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  8. ^ "United Way Worldwide IRS Form 990 2012" (PDF).
  9. ^ "United Way Worldwide IRS Form 990 2013" (PDF).
  10. ^ "United Way Worldwide IRS Form 990 2014" (PDF).
  11. ^ "The Philanthropy 400". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. October 30, 2008. p. 10.
  12. ^ "United Way Worldwide" Hoovers Business Intelligence, company profiles
  13. ^ Our Partners
  14. ^ Leadership 18
  15. ^ John Kroll (August 15, 2011). "Balloonfest 1986, the spectacle that became a debacle: Cleveland Remembers (video)". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  16. ^ "Old Battles and New Challenges". Non-Profit Times. The Free Library. April 1, 2002. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  17. ^ Sam Fulwood III (April 4, 1995). "Former Head of United Way Is Convicted". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ a b c Strom, Stephanie (April 14, 2006). "United Way Says Ex-Leader Took Assets". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Ian Wilhelm; Brad Wolverton (March 18, 2004). "D.C. United Way Leader Sentenced to Jail Time by Brad Wolverton". Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved June 9, 2019.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  20. ^ Stephanie Strom (November 19, 2002). "Ethics ripped through the United Way of the National Capital Area". The New York Times. Charity Navigator.
  21. ^ Williamson, Elizabeth (May 25, 2019). "A Lesson of Sandy Hook: 'Err on the Side of the Victims'". The New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2019.

External links

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