Frequently Asked Questions

What is Heart of West Michigan United Way?

At Heart of West Michigan United Way, we unite community resources to reduce poverty in Kent County. Our staff, volunteers, donors, and agency partners are committed to creating lasting, sustainable changes that transform lives and build a thriving community for us all.

United Way has been an integral part of Kent County for 100 years. Since 1917, we have raised and invested $500 million into Kent County. 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?

Your gift, combined with the gifts of others, makes it possible for us to help families rise out of poverty and thrive in our community. Our Community Investment Fund supports local nonprofit organizations that are reducing poverty and social inequities through solving community-wide issues like affordable housing, food security, violence prevention, workforce development, and youth 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 all or a portion of your gift 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 active contributors are those who are informed about the important work we can do together. An effective communications program, conducted by committed volunteers and supported by a well-planned campaign, encourages an enthusiastic response.

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 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 that are struggling to keep pace.

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 has 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 good living; and, our community is healthier, because more people have access to healthy food. 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 is independent and 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 non-profits, which is 17 percent, and well below the Better Business Bureau’s standard of 35 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 to provide a much fuller picture of Heart of West Michigan United Way’s performance.

Does United Way sell or trade list information of its donors?

No. United Way maintains its own database of supporters and will under no circumstances sell or trade this information to any individual or organizations, public or private. 

What is Heart of West Michigan United Way’s perspective on controversial or political 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 all political parties or organizations agree that United Way must be held outside of this struggle. They recognize the harmful effect to the total community if groups on either side of issues were to use United Way as means to foster their viewpoints.

Learn more about exactly where your investment goes.


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