Frequently Asked Questions | United Way of Southeast Louisiana

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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions 

General

What does United Way do? 
What areas does United Way of Southeast Louisiana serve? 
What guides United Way of Southeast Louisiana? 
Who is ALICE?
What does it mean to LIVE UNITED? 
I support several organizations. What does United Way do that other organizations don’t do?

Contributions

How does United Way turn $1 donated into $4.37 in community impact?
How can I contribute money to United Way? 
How can I be sure my gift is spent wisely? 
Why should I give to United Way rather than directly to an agency?
Can I specify which United Way agency receives my pledge?
I can’t afford to give to the United Way.
My spouse gives for both of us. 
Our employees are low paid; I don’t want to ask them to give.
I never use agency services, so why should I give?
Is giving to United Way voluntary?
Are United Way donations tax-deductible?

Agencies and Getting Help 

How can I get help from a United Way agency? 
How does an agency or organization become a United Way funding partner?
Why do some agencies charge fees for services?
I know someone who couldn’t get help from a United Way agency. Why? 

Administration

Who runs our United Way? 
How are salaries set for full-time United Way professionals? 
How does United Way of Southeast Louisiana keep costs low?
Where does the money come from to pay for the special events held during the United Way campaign? 
How is United Way accountable?
How is our United Way connected to United Way in other cities?  

General

What does United Way do? 

United Way of Southeast Louisiana fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community we serve.
 
Our mission is to eradicate POVERTY in Southeast Louisiana and achieve a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and economically stable.
 
United Way makes our communities stronger. We make kids better students. We make households more financially capable. We make more opportunities for high-wage jobs. We make better, more equitable access for everyone to the things that make our lives, our neighborhoods, and our communities safer and healthier. Simply put, we make the community more vibrant for all.
 
United Way makes your dollar work smarter. We help agencies that are already excellent service providers become members of our collective impact movement. We find experts partners who are aligned with our Blueprint for Prosperity and believe in collaborations and accountability for measurable results. We make more significant changes than any one of us could accomplish on our own when we come together for the same reason with the same goal – eradicating poverty. 
 
United Way makes pathways to prosperity. When you invest in your community through United Way, you help more children get ready to learn and stay on course in school. You help more individuals lead more financially stable lives. You help more people become eligible for living wages. You help more households get on track and stay on track. You help more communities become strong, vibrant, and equitable for all. 

What areas does United Way of Southeast Louisiana serve? 

We are proud to serve seven parishes including Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, and Washington.

What guides United Way of Southeast Louisiana? 

The Blueprint for Prosperity, United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s plan to eradicate poverty in Southeast Louisiana through collective impact, guides all of our efforts. The Blueprint drives our investments in  programs and collaborations that provide long-term solutions focused on ending poverty. We are inspiring others to adopt our vision; informing others with data and innovative practices so they can accelerate their own impact; and initiating new collaborations where there are gaps.
 
It is only through proactive collaboration that we can create equitable communities where everyone is healthy, educated, and financially stable.

Who is ALICE?

ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) represents thousands of often overlooked households in our communities who work hard, but struggle to get by. 
 
ALICE is your neighbor, family member, and friend; your waitress, office manager, cashier, and child care worker. ALICE works hard in low-wage jobs that keep our communities running, but don’t pay enough to make ends meet. 
 
The United Way ALICE Report, issued every two years, upends the conventional view of financial stability in Southeast Louisiana, as reported by unemployment numbers and jobs reports. The reality is, nearly one in two households in our region is unable to afford basic expenses, including housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, cell phone access, and taxes. Review key findings from the ALICE Report and learn how United Way is supporting ALICE households here.

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. But only United Way addresses the needs of our community as a whole. Why? Because we believe that only through broad, systems-level change, can we break down the barriers that hold individuals back and create pathways to prosperity for all. 
 
One gift to United Way supports a variety of local needs, such as preventing substance abuse among youth, literacy and job training, affordable child-care, and emergency food and shelter. You can also be assured that your gift to United Way funds programs and collaboratives that help people most in need. United Way conducts periodic needs assessments to ensure donor dollars are addressing the most pressing community issues. We also monitor funded programs, initiatives, and collaboratives annually to make sure they are efficiently and effectively improving people's lives and making a positive impact. 
 
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 can also give online through our website.
 

Contributions

How does United Way turn $1 donated into $4.37 in community impact? 

No other organization can help so many individuals in so many ways through one donation. United Way was able to turn every dollar donated in 2017-18 into $4.37 in impact in 2018-19 and beyond. We leverage your donation with grant funding, advocacy for smart policy, and volunteerism to provide maximum community impact. 

How can I contribute money to United Way? 

Thank you for investing in your community through United Way. 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 in our community, represent a cross-section of Southeast Louisiana. 
 
This review process is United Way’s assurance that contributions are being responsibly managed and monitored. Our local United Way adheres to stringent standards of accounting and financial reporting set for 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 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. 
 
United Way also makes your dollar work harder. We leverage your donation with local grant funding, advocacy for bipartinsan policy, and volunteerism to provide maximum community impact. (see How does United Way turn $1 donated into $4.37 in community impact?)
We also hold agencies accountable. United Way funded programs are required to report data on their outcomes twice a year and are evaluated annually. We fund only trusted, proven programs to ensure that your gift is creating the most good possible in our community.

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 services. 
 
Please keep in mind that non-designated donations to United Way of Southeast Louisiana support more than 70 local programs and services that are addressing the community's most pressing needs. These programs and services are monitored 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 important services would not be available to those in need.

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 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. 

Our employees are low paid; I don’t want to ask them to give. 

Almost universally, people want to help others. 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’s impact. 

I never use agency services, so why should I give? 

You never know when you, a member of your family, a coworker, or a neighbor may need a United Way service. One unexpected financial emergency – like job loss, natural disaster, medical emergency, vehicle repair – can tip a household into poverty. 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.

Is giving to United Way voluntary? 

Yes! Giving to United Way is strictly voluntary. United Way has a written 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 $250 or more to United Way by check or credit card 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? 

Dial 2-1-1 to reach Via Link’s 2-1-1 Information & Referral Line. Via Link/2-1-1 will connect you to an agency that can help. Your call is strictly confidential. 

How does an agency or organization become a United Way funding partner?

Any registered nonprofit agency in our service area that provides health and human services, is aligned with our Blueprint for Prosperity, and addresses critical community needs and priorities identified by United Way may apply for funding. Funding is allocated in three-year cycles, with the most recent being 2019-22. The application process begins with a Letter of Intent submission - a brief proposal of programs to be funded. If accepted into the full proposal phase, agencies are provided application trainings. 
 
As part of the application process, agencies must submit audited financials and information on programs and services to be provided. Trained volunteers review all applicants and make decisions about funding. For more information on the grant process, visit UnitedWaySELA.org/Blueprint-Prosperity-Programmatic-Grants.
 
Beyond funding, United Way frequently partners with nonprofit agencies and government entities to leverage our collective resources and meet unfilled community needs.

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 3-50% of an agency’s budget) agencies 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 short on cash, the shelters might be full, or the waiting lists too long. United Way is ready to investigate any instance where someone has been refused help; just bring it to our attention. 
 
If you know someone seeking help, ask the individual to call 2-1-1 or 1(800)749-2673. This free, confidential service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and links people in need with more than 3,500 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 22 cents on operating costs. These expenses include marketing, fundraising, advocacy, internal initiatives, 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, volunteer participation, in-kind donations, and United Way’s tradition of efficiency in raising resources mean more of each donated dollar goes directly to helping those in need. 
 
In fact, we’re one of the most cost-effective charitable organizations you will find, 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.
 
We also hold our funded partners to a high standard of accountability. Our grants are issued for up to three years – with annual renewal dependent on performance. Grantees submit data on the results of their program(s) twice a year and are evaluated annually. We also conduct site visits over the course of the funding period. 

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 local 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. 
 
 
Contact United Way:  email info@unitedwaysela.org or call [504] 822-5540
Need Help?  Dial 2-1-1
 

 

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