Frequently Asked Questions

General

WHAT DOES UNITED WAY DO?

United Way of Southeast Louisiana works to create opportunities for a good life for all members of our community by investing in programs that target community needs. We bring together people from across our seven-parish region—people from government, business, faith groups, nonprofits, and ordinary citizens—to provide a coordinated response so we can have a healthy quality of life, a strong workforce and brighter economic future. Whether your neighborhood was directly impacted by wind and water or is reeling from rapid growth due to new residents displaced by the hurricanes, United Way is working every day to meet the ever-changing needs in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington Parishes.

Your donation allows local health and human service agencies to serve people in our region each year. United Way agencies strengthen families, provide job counseling and training, offer affordable childcare, help the elderly, reduce and prevent health problems, help people overcome disabilities, build safer communities, provide disaster relief, prevent violence and more. United Way’s community wide fundraising effort is the most efficient way to maintain and improve these services. Money raised in the campaign is used in our region to help your neighbors and your family. 

United Way plays a catalyzing role that has resulted in new collaborative organizations such the Greater New Orleans Rebuild Child Care Collaborative (GNORCCC). We work with others, such as the New Orleans Saints and the Emergency Food & Shelter Program, to expand the pool of money to local health and social services. We also collaborate with other human service entities to improve and solve some of our community’s most pressing problems.

Post-Katrina, United Way of Southeast Louisiana adopted a more “hands-on” approach to providing health and human services. United Way provided refrigerated trucks, building materials, appliances, and double-wide trailers to organizations and communities that lost facilities.  United Way even operated the Plaquemines Parish Distribution Center, supplying returning residents with food, clothing, household goods and supplies, and books and toys for children.

In summary, other than raising dollars from the general working public to address large scale community problems in an organized fashion, United Way works with businesses, government and other organizations to improve the quality of life.

WHAT GUIDES UNITED WAY OF SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA?

Periodically, United Way solicits community input on current health and human service needs. Additionally, hundreds of service providers, interested citizens, other funding entities, and United Way volunteers provide insight. The community goals are developed from the information gathered at these meetings, a review of current activities and other research. This volunteer-directed research is used to determine the health and human services priorities where United Way funds will be invested. The current community goal areas are:

“Community Impact” is the tremendous potential of United Way to change our communities for the better with flexibility, funding and community involvement. United Way works with our partners to deliver programs and services that target community needs and provide building blocks for a good life: a quality education that leads to stable employment, sufficient income to support a family, sound mental and physical health and a safety net in times of crisis.

Our goal is to create long lasting changes that prevent problems from happening. Living United means being part of that change.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LIVE UNITED?

LIVE UNITED. It’s a credo. A mission. A goal. A constant reminder that we have the power to facilitate change. More, it’s a command. To give. To advocate. To volunteer. It takes everyone in the community working together. Whether you’re giving a monetary donation, advocating on behalf of these issues, or volunteering your time, you’re joining the movement for a brighter future.

I SUPPORT SEVERAL ORGANIZATIONS. WHAT DOES UNITED WAY DO THAT OTHER ORGANIZATIONS DON’T DO?

Other organizations address specific causes, problems, illnesses – all good and valid and needed. But only United Way addresses the needs of our community as a whole. Why? Because United Way asked the community what was important, what issues should be addressed. The answer: EDUCATION, INCOME AND HEALTH. That’s what you said was important to you and that’s what we’re getting done.

There are many valuable non-profit organizations in the area you may care about. United Way provides an opportunity for your one gift to support a variety of local needs, such as preventing substance abuse among youth, literacy and job training, affordable housing for working families and individuals, and emergency food and shelter. Through one gift to United Way, you can accomplish so much good!

You can also be assured that your gift to United Way goes directly to fund programs that help people most in need. United Way conducts periodic needs assessments to ensure donor dollars are addressing the most pressing community needs. We also monitor funded programs and initiatives annually to make sure they are efficiently and effectively improving people's lives and making a positive impact. United Way volunteers ensure that contributions are doing the most good in the community.

United Way also offers the convenience of payroll deduction through the support of local employers, allowing employees to give a substantial annual gift through small weekly contributions. You may also decide to give online through our site.

No organization does more with your contribution, many people choose to include United Way in their overall charitable giving plan.


Contributions

HOW CAN I CONTRIBUTE MONEY TO UNITED WAY?

Thank you for helping someone who needs you. Your employer may conduct a workplace campaign where you can make a contribution each year. If not, please donate online.

If you would like to set up a campaign in your workplace, please call (504) 822-5540. 

HOW CAN I BE SURE MY GIFT IS SPENT WISELY?
Local volunteer experts study community needs, set goals, review budgets and monitor agencies to make sure that donated dollars are used as wisely as possible. These volunteers, all of whom are actively concerned with the quality of life here, represent a cross-section of the community. This citizen review process is United Way’s assurance that contributions are being responsibly managed and monitored. The local United Way adheres strictly to stringent standards of accounting and financial reporting set for voluntary health and human services organizations.

WHY SHOULD I GIVE TO UNITED WAY RATHER THAN DIRECTLY TO AN AGENCY?

Community fundraising costs would more than double if every agency had to raise the funds United Way provides. Please support agencies you know, but also consider a “first gift” to United Way for the entire community network of services. It’s impossible to know which agencies your neighbors and family may also need some day.  

CAN I SPECIFY WHICH UNITED WAY AGENCY RECEIVES MY PLEDGE?

Yes. United Way will honor designations to any 501(c)(3) agency in Louisiana that provides health and human service. When you support United Way’s Maximum Impact Fund or one of our Impact Areas, you’re joining a powerful movement that will impact the region’s most important health and human service needs. Please ask your campaign representative for more information or call (504) 822-5540. 

Please keep in mind that donations to United Way of Southeast Louisiana support over 100 results-oriented local programs and services that are addressing the community's most pressing needs - which we monitor annually to make sure they are efficiently and effectively improving people's lives and making a positive impact. If everyone designated their gifts to their favorite agency, many services to those in need would not be available to the community.

I CAN’T AFFORD TO GIVE TO THE UNITED WAY.

Every gift to United Way of Southeast Louisiana, no matter its size, makes a difference in our community. Many people find that giving through payroll deduction allows them to make a contribution that fits their budget. One of the great advantages of giving through United Way of Southeast Louisiana is being part of a community effort that combines all of our giving to make the greatest impact on meeting the needs of people in our community.

MY SPOUSE/PARTNER GIVES FOR BOTH OF US.

United Way believes that charitable giving is a personal and voluntary decision. We also depend on each working person to make a generous gift. Each person has a community responsibility, and United Way agencies can only continue to provide human care services if each of us does our own part. We encourage each spouse/partner to participate in his/her employer's United Way workplace campaign. The combined total of both gifts may qualify you for leadership giving recognition.

OUR EMPLOYEES ARE LOW PAID; I DON’T WANT TO ASK THEM TO GIVE.

Almost universally, people have a need to help other people. Even a small amount each week can give an employee a sense of belonging to a larger community - - of making a difference. United Way feels that all employees should be given an opportunity to express themselves through charitable giving. Often, employees at the lower end of the pay scale are more likely to know what it’s like to need health and human services, and may better understand and appreciate United Way services.

I NEVER USE AGENCY SERVICES, SO WHY SHOULD I GIVE?

You never know when you, a member of your family, or a neighbor may need a United Way service. Job loss, loss of a loved one, illness, accidents, disabilities, family problems, natural disasters, mental disorders and the problems of growing up and growing old know no boundaries. Your gift helps ensure that United Way services are available when they’re needed.

A gift to United Way is an investment that benefits the entire community, not just one program, issue, or population.

When you consider the tremendous range of services provided by United Way funded programs, you or a family member may use one of the services at some point in time.

IS GIVING TO UNITED WAY VOLUNTARY?

Yes! Giving to United Way is strictly voluntary. United Way has a policy against coercion. We do not support any form of pressure on donors to give or requirements regarding how much to give. Education about how United Way agencies help is the best way to encourage contributions.

ARE UNITED WAY DONATIONS TAX-DEDUCTIBLE?

United Way of Southeast Louisiana is a federally registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation. As such, donations to the United Way are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by an individual’s or corporation’s circumstances. Donors who contribute $100 or more by check to United Way will receive an acknowledgment from United Way. A copy of the cancelled check and the acknowledgement together act as evidence of a donation for purpose of a tax return. Those contributing through payroll deduction in their workplace should keep a copy of their signed pledge card and maintain their last pay stub of the tax year or Form W-2 from their employer that summarizes the amount withheld for the United Way during their tax year. In the event that goods or services of more than a nominal value are received in exchange for a gift (such as buying an auction item), only the donation in excess of the value of the good or service is considered to be tax deductible. Donors are encouraged to consult their own tax professionals to determine the extent to which their donations are tax-deductible in their own circumstances. 


Agencies and Getting Help 

HOW CAN I GET HELP FROM A UNITED WAY AGENCY?

United Way has a referral service that will connect you to an agency to help you. Call the United Way supported 2-1-1 Information & Referral Line. Your call will be held in strict confidence. 

WHY DO HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICE AGENCIES SEEK THE SUPPORT OF UNITED WAY OF SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA?

Affiliation with United Way of Southeast Louisiana tells people that the agency is meeting strict standards in its services, its financial affairs and its accountability. In other words, it is playing an important role in providing necessary services to people in need. 

On average, United Way allocations account for 27% of the total budget of an agency’s program. United Way agencies may also receive endowments, grants, government funding, direct donations and service fees. In addition, this locally raised money often provides match money from other state and federal sources.

HOW DOES AN AGENCY OR ORGANIZATION BECOME A UNITED WAY FUNDING PARTNER?

Any registered not-for-profit agency that provides health and human services to the people of Southeast Louisiana and meets identified critical community needs and priorities may apply for United Way funding. Agencies must submit detailed financial statements, a certified audit, as well as information on programs and services to be provided. Volunteers review all applicants and make decisions about funding. For more information about applying, contact United Way staff.

United Way only invests donor dollars in results-driven programs that address our community’s most pressing health and human service needs. Many worthwhile agencies that help people may not meet United Way guidelines. Some agencies may not want the level of review or restrictions in fundraising that are required by United Way. Others may feel they can raise enough funds on their own.

WHY DO SOME AGENCIES CHARGE FEES FOR SERVICES?

United Way funded services are used by people at all income levels and in various states of need. Even through United Way’s support to agency programs is significant, from 3% to 90% of agency budgets, operating an agency often requires additional funding to maintain services. Charging fees to people who can afford to pay can provide some of these needed revenues, while also allowing the agency to help those who cannot pay.

I KNOW SOMEONE WHO COULDN’T GET HELP FROM A UNITED WAY AGENCY. WHY?

United Way cannot guarantee each individual will receive the assistance requested. Resources are limited, and many times the agency could be out of money, shelters might be full or waiting lists long. United Way is ready to investigate any instance where someone feels he/she has been refused help; just bring it to our attention. 

If you know someone seeking help, ask the person to call 2-1-1, or 1(800)749-2673, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This free, confidential service links people who need help with more than 3,100 local health and human service programs.


Administration

WHO RUNS OUR UNITED WAY?

United Way is a local, autonomous organization governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees whose members are respected community and business leaders. Policies, activities, procedures and programs we support are determined right here at home. The community volunteers who lead United Way come from all walks of life and reflect the cultural diversity of our area. United Way’s daily operations are handled by a small, knowledgeable professional staff that works closely with volunteers at all levels.

HOW ARE SALARIES SET FOR FULL TIME UNITED WAY PROFESSIONALS?

Salary ranges for paid staff are established and approved by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana Board of Trustees to be competitive in the local job market. Compensation is set at a level to attract and retain well-qualified executive and professional personnel. The salary of the president was set by a volunteer committee of business executives from the Greater New Orleans Area, based on their desire to attract the best possible candidates for the key management position. Executive salaries are set taking into account what other local United Ways from around the United States are paying to attract the best candidates, as well as what executives at comparable businesses would be paid locally.

HOW DOES UNITED WAY OF SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA KEEP COSTS LOW?

Many people are surprised to discover how economically and efficiently United Way of Southeast Louisiana is run. For every dollar raised, we spend about 18 cents on operating costs. These expenses include marketing and fund raising, accounting and other basic business functions. More importantly, they include all of the work we do to determine our community goal areas, distribute dollars to programs that address those goals, and monitor agency performance and results.

Good management practices, a high level of volunteer participation and leadership, and in-kind services donated by local organizations and corporations combined with United Way’s tradition of value and efficiency in raising resources means more of each dollar donated goes directly to helping those in need. 

In fact, we’re one of the most cost-effective charitable organizations you will find anywhere, according to standards set by national charitable watchdog organizations.

WHERE DOES THE MONEY COME FROM TO PAY FOR THE SPECIAL EVENTS HELD DURING THE UNITED WAY CAMPAIGN?

Meals and tickets to special events are paid by individuals or corporations in attendance. In addition, sponsors underwrite events to help offset costs.

HOW IS UNITED WAY ACCOUNTABLE?

United Way’s own operating budget is audited by an independent accounting firm and is carefully scrutinized by a panel of local community volunteers and United Way’s Board of Trustees.

HOW IS OUR UNITED WAY CONNECTED TO UNITED WAY IN OTHER CITIES?

United Way of Southeast Louisiana is independent and self-governing. The money you contribute stays here to help residents in our seven parish region. We are not connected to other United Ways except through “best practices” sharing with United Way Worldwide in Alexandria, Virginia. Our local Board of Trustees manages the fundraising and distribution of money raised here and assumes responsibility for the integrity and stewardship of our operations. 

HOW CAN I CONTACT UNITED WAY?

Send us your questions or comments by e-mailing info@unitedwaysela.org or calling (504) 822-5540. If you need help, please call the Information & Referral Line at 2-1-1.