The United Way is a unique structure that originated in the early history of the North American continent. It traces back to the year 1887 when in Denver, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi combined their efforts to establish the Charity Organization Society. Recognizing the city's welfare problems and the need for cooperative action, the four began work on a plan. The new organization embraced 22 member agencies, collecting funds for the charities and itself. It coordinated relief services, counseled and referred clients to cooperating agencies and in some cases made emergency assistance grants to people which it could not refer.
Out of this was born the concept to operate, not as a single charity, but as a federation of charities that would raise funds in one annual campaign to fund a wide range of services for the community. The one-campaign-for-all concept gradually took hold as the benefits became apparent. Volunteers would take part in the one campaign to benefit several agencies, while member agencies benefited not only through funding, but through more stable financing. The concept of a federated campaign became viewed as a more rational approach to seeking funds and a systematic way of dividing those funds.
During the early years of the 20th century, these federations were established in various cities in Canada. The Canadian Movement has operated over the years as Community Chest, Red Feather Appeal, United Appeal, United Community Fund and currently United Way. The United Appeal was formed in Nanaimo in June of 1958 and became the United Way in November 1980.
The United Way-Centraide (1) Canada is comprised of 125 members, 18 of which are in British Columbia. United Ways vary in size with the largest having a staff of over 100 and the smallest having no paid staff. A huge number of over 300,000 volunteers assist staff with a variety of functions. Some include: fundraising, allocations, governance and community outreach. United Way partners include: organized labour, corporations, self-employed professionals, all levels of government, youth and seniors.
In 2002, 125 local United Ways - Centraides reported campaign achievements
of more than $354 million. The amount raised represents a 6.2% increase
over 2001 campaign achievements. United Way - Centraide funds will be distributed
to more than 7,000 local charitable organizations and an additional 10,000
charities through donor directed giving. The mission of the national organization
is "To improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and
mobilizing collective action." Members reflect the particular focus
of their community through their own missions while reflecting their alignment
with the national mission.
While United Way began as a fundraising organization, United Ways across the country are shifting their roles to community building. They are creating new roles beyond the traditional responsibilities of fundraising and fund distribution. Further, as donors are demanding impact, the funds must be spent in response to the community's priorities. Hence, most United Ways are rethinking and reworking their fund distribution strategies in order to broaden their impact and be more reflective of their communities particular needs.
New program opportunities are helping United Ways to broaden its role as community builder. Programs such as Success-by-Six® and 211 Information & Referral, are responding to urgent community needs and are paving the way for some exciting new developments.
On the human resource front, the high velocity of societal change is impacting both United Way staff and volunteers. We are facing more complex communities with complex issues. The challenge will be to embrace a culture where caring is foremost, and where learning and intellectual curiosity is valued and rewarded.
Our donors are highly sophisticated and demand increased accountability - a demand to which, we as a Movement, are responding. Our campaigns are growing - but fewer people are giving more. Perhaps one of the most important trends of recent years is the centralization of corporate Canada and the centralization of corporate accounts.
This trend toward centralization has pushed the United Way to evolve technologically. Sophisticated software to manage our fundraising and fund distribution was developed in response and will facilitate our technological evolution.
As the Movement is comprised of local independent United Ways we continue to be challenged around interdependence and collaboration. We will continue to develop new ways to use the best of local autonomy combined with the best of Movement-wide collaboration.
In order to protect the integrity of the United Way "brand" and the Movement as a whole, a Membership Agreement has been designed and implemented. The agreement sets out minimum standards of operation, including ethical guidelines and trademark regulations.
The United Way Movement has come a long way since those early days. Millions of dollars have been raised and distributed to worthy human care programs throughout the country and specifically here in Nanaimo. The United Way Movement continues to evolve and grow in response to the needs of the country and the communities they serve.
From fundraiser to community builder, the United Way continues to improve
lives and build community. The United Way IS the Spirit of Community.