Frequently Asked Questions

I have heard of United Way, but I don't know what you do. What do you do?

United Way has been an integral part of Kent County for nearly 100 years. We have grown with this community and have always played a unique role in connecting community resources to pressing community needs through direct programming, community engagement, and partnerships with local nonprofit agencies, companies, donors, volunteers, and numerous collaborations. 

Why should I give to United Way?

Our Community Investment Fund supports more than local nonprofit organizations that are reducing poverty and social inequities through community-wide issues like affordable housing, food security, violence prevention, workforce development, and education. With an emphasis on accountability, we vet and review all funded programs in the areas on quality programming, governance, finance, and administration to make sure that your gift is invested in the most effective and efficient way possible. 

Can I designate where my contribution goes?

Yes! Although your contribution makes the largest impact when it is undesignated and directed to our Community Investment Fund, if you prefer to designate your money directly to one of our partner agencies or any other health and human service agency, you are free to do so.

Does United Way condone pressure in giving?

No. Contributions to United Way are voluntary. Acts of coercion in any form are unacceptable. This is very important to us. We believe that the most responsive contributors are those who are informed about the important work we do. An effective communications program, conducted by committed volunteers and supported by a well-planned campaign, encourages an enthusiastic response. 

I have given generously in the past. Why should I increase my gift?

The economic reality confronting our region has left more people needing help, many of whom have never before had to ask for assistance. At the same time, local agencies and programs are faced with dwindling resources as they try to help a growing number of families and individuals. Increased contributions are needed to keep up with rising costs, need, and service organizations struggling to keep pace.

I would like to help, but I can't afford to make a large contribution.

Any amount makes a difference! A payroll deduction pledge allows you to make a generous contribution in manageable portions each pay period. There is strength in numbers, and the impact of your donation is magnified exponentially when combined with the contributions of your co-workers, friends, and neighbors. 

I pay my own way. I'm not going to use these services, so why should I support them?

Maybe you’ve never needed help, but statistics show that you or a member of your family probably have or will rely on United Way or one of our community partners at some point in your lives. Giving to United Way ensures that there is a place to turn in times of need – whenever that might be! Even if you never need to use the services directly, you get back your investment in other ways, too: Your child’s school is better, because more students are ready to learn; your neighborhood is safer, because more residents make a productive living; and, our community is healthier, because more people have access to health services. When more individuals and families are stable, our community as a whole thrives.

Aren't all United Ways the same? There was a controversy in the news about my old United Way that concerns me. 

We are part of a network of 1,800 United Ways across the world, each of which are independent organizations governed at the local level. Funds raised by Heart of West Michigan United Way stay in our community and are allocated by local community members. We are focused on reducing poverty in West Michigan. We welcome your review of our annual report and financial statements.

What are Heart of West Michigan United Way's administrative costs?

Our administrative and fundraising costs are 13 percent. That is below the national average for nonprofits, which is 17 percent. We also help hundreds of other nonprofits maintain low overhead rates by providing volunteers and facilities management

We also ask you to pay attention to other factors of our performance: transparency, governance, leadership, and results. Our organization has been working to increase the depth and breadth of the information we provide to donors in these areas so as to provide a much fuller picture of Heart of West Michigan United Way’s performance.

What is Heart of West Michigan United Way’s perspective on pro-life and pro-choice or other controversial issues?

Heart of West Michigan United Way and its funded agencies depend on the goodwill and contribution of all of our citizens. Since United Way cannot survive in a climate of controversy or divisiveness, it must appeal to those parties involved in major community or national conflicts to keep United Way free from involvement with such issues. Leaders of both “pro-choice” and “pro-life” organizations agree that United Way must be kept outside this struggle. They recognize the harmful effect to the total community if groups on either side of this issue were to use United Way as means to foster their viewpoints. 

Heart of West Michigan United Way, a local autonomous organization independent of any other United Way, has taken no policy position on abortion. It neither advocates the right to abortion or the elimination of abortion as a legal right. We focus resources on programs for children, adults, seniors, and families that align with outcomes established in education, family stability, and financial security.

Learn more about exactly where your investment goes.

Why is United Way restricting funding to non-Medicaid clients (under the Mental/Behavioral Health focus area)?

  • The number of Medicaid-covered clients has increased
  • Reports from the CHIA agencies and other medical facilities reflect that they continue to serve non-Medicaid clients
  • It is our intent to assist agencies in serving this non-Medicaid population

For an invitation only category, can I submit a proposal that includes a collaboration with “non-invited” agencies?

Yes, if you feel the collaboration strengthens your proposal.


If you have more questions, please email us at!