Learn more about our history. And join us to build a better future.
A Woman, a Priest, Two Ministers and a Rabbi...
In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi got together... It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but they didn't walk into a bar; what they did do was recognize the need to work together in new ways to make Denver a better place.
Frances Wisebart Jacobs, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J.O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart and Rabbi William S. Friedman put together an idea that became the nation's first united campaign, benefitting 10 area health and welfare agencies. They created an organization to collect the funds for local charities, to coordinate relief services, to counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and to make emergency assistance grants for cases that could not be referred. That year, Denver raised $21,700 for this greater good, and created a movement that would become United Way.
Building Better Communities
Today's United Way is still bringing people, organizations and communities together around a common cause, a common vision, and a common path forward.
In many communities, we're the only nonprofit building up the cornerstones of education, financial stability and health—and the only nonprofit bringing people together from all walks of life to be a part of local solutions. We're engaged in more than 1,100 communities in 37 countries and territories, where people are powering big ideas and big action by donating, volunteering and speaking out through United Way.
It's a Team Effort
We're not doing it alone. United Way is able to make a lasting difference because we work together with strategic partners who share our vision. Across the world, 45,000 companies work with United Way to improve the communities where their employees live and work.
One of our most visible partnerships is with the NFL. Back in 1973, we joined forces with the NFL to boost awareness of what was then called social service issues. Together, we created public service announcements and programs featuring NFL players, coaches and owners.
From this partnership—the longest running of its kind—we drafted 39,000 people to serve as readers, tutors and mentors. Our nationwide Play60 campaign encouraged kids and families to make healthy food and exercise choices. And through Character Playbook, we're helping millions of students across America become stronger people and future leaders.
You can see our evolution through the lens of 211, a free and confidential hotline that helps millions of people find the local resources they need, 24/7, across the U.S. and Canada.
In 2000, we joined with the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems to successfully petition the Federal Communications Commission to designate 211 as a health and human services information hotline. Originally created by United Way of Atlanta, 211 is an easy-to-remember and universally recognizable telephone number. Today, trained call center operators in 96% of U.S. communities and across Canada field 21 million inquiries, connecting people with locally available resources.
211 has also grown into an essential short-term and long-term disaster resource, connecting people with information about evacuation routes and shelters before disasters; connect people with food, water and shelter in the short term; and helping people rebuild in the long-term.
Beyond 211, United Way has provided emergency assistance and relief in resonse to COVID-19, natural and man-made disasters across the world. We're in the community long after the first responders leave, focusing on interim- and long-term disaster recovery. It’s not a quick fix. For example, our Hurricane Katrina recovery team formally operated for 10 years at United Way of Southeast Louisiana. That experience enabled United Way to quickly activate relief and recovery operations in response to severe floods that hit the same neighborhoods just five months apart in 2016.
48 Million Lives
As we've grown up, we've become more than a fundraising organization. Rather than measuring our success in dollars raised, we measure our success in lives impacted.
United Way makes life better for more than 48 million people every year. We can do this because we're in our second century of service. Across the world, United Way is local leaders, local donors and volunteers investing in local solutions to improve the lives of neighbors. Ranked by Forbes as "America's Favorite Charity," United Way works hard to develop deep roots and trust in the communities we serve. That strong foundation provides us with the resources, reputation and relationships needed to bring people and organizations together around innovative solutions to society's toughest problems.
For example, we partnered with the Ad Council back in 2005 to create United Way Born Learning, the first early learning public service advertising campaign. Born Learning is no longer an ad campaign; to date, it has empowered more than 15 million parents and other caregivers with online tips, tools and other resources -- as well as in-person parent education -- to ensure kids start school equipped for success. We have now expanded Born Learning to thousands of children in Asia, Australia and Latin America.
$2 Billion Saved for Taxpayers
Another sign of United Way's evolution is our program that lets you file your federal and state taxes online for free, in English or Spanish. In 2008, we joined forces with H&R Block, the Walmart Foundation, Goodwill Industries International, and the National Disability Institute to launch a campaign designed to connect low-wage families and individuals with free tax preparation and filing assistance services.
Today, United Way's MyFreeTaxes has helped more than 1.3 million taxpayers claim nearly $2 billion in refunds and save $260 million in filing fees.
To Be Continued...
- As you can see, United Way is evolving -- but we haven't changed is our focus on improving lives and strengthening communities. There are lots of ways you can be part of this change. Join us!