Improve your community by supporting your local United Way
Your donated dollar makes an impact on What Matters
My entire life I've been encouraged to give something back, to help those not as fortunate as me, to think of others. First it involved putting pennies in my Sunday School envelope every week to help children around the world. In school it became getting involved in civic clubs selling donuts on Saturday mornings to raise money for various causes or working at a car wash for local charities. Once I was old enough to join the workforce it was part of the business plan for my employer to support the March of Dimes, Jump Rope for Heart Association and/or Relay For Life to fight cancer. All great causes.
Eventually I had the opportunity to work for The United Way, an organization about which I only had a passing awareness. It turned out to be one of the most satisfying experiences of both my professional and personal life. It is a one stop shop for donating to a variety of good causes in the immediate area where you live. Every local United Way is a group of charities chosen every year by a committee of volunteers from each specific community based on criteria the committee defines for itself.
When I worked as a United Way executive director in my own community, I had people come into my office and tell me they wouldn't give to United Way because when they lived somewhere else there were organizations in United Way that they did not agree with and didn't want to support. I would show them the list of our UW agencies to check and see if there were any they couldn't support. "Oh, I thought all United Ways were the same," they would say. No. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each local community selects the not for profits they want to be supported by their donations each and every year. If the community's priorities change or a charity fails to meet the standards set, the local United Way can add or subtract member agencies every year. And those decisions are not made by the UW national organization, they are made by volunteers from the immediate area being supported by those donated dollars.
There are a lot of great causes in the world. And if you make donations through your payroll deductions at work, you have an almost unlimited number of charities to choose from year after year. I used to tell the people in my area, when you are choosing who to donate to, please remember, your United Way agencies are going to be working to help people in your community whether you support them or not. I'm talking about Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters, homeless shelters, food pantries, crisis centers for abused women, Red Cross, Boys and Girls Clubs, legal aid, Special Olympics - organizations that make your community a better place to live for everybody. So before you check the block to send your $1 per paycheck to Save the Whales or Orphans in East Africa, please remember that when your friends and neighbors need help, it's not going to be Save the Whales that comes to their aid. It's going to be your local charities. And even among those you can specify which ones you want to donate to for the year.
Another thing I like about United Way is the fact that there is a national standard any organization must meet to become a UW agency and receive donations. This safeguard protects your good intentions when you donate your hard-earned dollars from being misused or going to less than worthy causes. So even though members of your community review applications, make site visits, and conduct interviews of the charities wanting to receive donations from United Way, there are national standards that must be met both for those charities, but also for the United Way organization in your local community. There are checks and balances, outside audits, and requirements the local United Way must meet to use the UW brand.
This is an organization that stretches your donated dollar absolutely as far as it can go to improve the local community for everyone who lives there. There are many good causes in the world. This one does what matters most for as many in need as possible - close to home.
I highly recommend it.