Revenue Up But Public Support Declined For United Ways

November 16, 2017       Mark Hrywna      

Total revenue for the United Way Worldwide and its 1,142 U.S. affiliates nationwide increased by more than 1.5 percent last year despite a decline of 4.5 percent in public support.

United Way Worldwide reported revenue of $3.927 billion for the 2015-16 campaign year, up from $3.866 billion in 2015. Public support dropped for the third straight year, from $3.708 billion in 2015 to $3.539 billion last year. Total revenue was still up year-to-year because of a 7.3 percent increase in government support, from $257 million to $275 million, and positive investment income of $112 million, as compared with negative $98 million in the previous year.

The data cover the fiscal year that encompassed the fall 2016 United Way campaign. For an affiliate on a calendar year, that would be January-December 2016 while an affiliate on a June-July fiscal year would mean July 2016 to June 2017.

United Way of Greater Atlanta reported the highest public support total for the second year in a row. It was the only affiliate to eclipse the $100 million threshold in contributions. Support was up 2.4 percent from $105.5 million to $108 million. The rest of the top 10 affiliates by public support were:

• Greater Twin Cities United Way, Minneapolis, Minn. — $86,829,297, down 10.1 percent from $96,631,970;

• United Way of Greater St. Louis — $81,863,191, up 0.1 percent from $81,809,516;

• United Way of Greater Houston — $78,930,659, up 0.2 percent from $78,792,978;

• United Way of Greater Cincinnati — $64,584,893, down 6 percent from $68,690,814;

• United Way of Greater Los Angeles — $64,338,374, down 10 percent from $71,475,287;

• United Way of Metropolitan Dallas — $61,125,781, up 0.8 percent, from $60,611,358;

• United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County — $58,660,959, down 1.4 percent, from $59,472,359;

• United Way of Metropolitan Chicago — $56,897,668, up 6.5 percent, from $53,415,184; and,

• United Way of Central Indiana — $54,219,879, up 4.7 percent, from $51,780,407

The top 10 affiliates reported aggregate total support last year of $715 million, accounting for about 20 percent of all affiliate support. That’s about 1.7 percent less than the previous year’s total of $729 million for the top 10.

The top 20 affiliates accounted for almost one-third of all support, totaling $1.17 billion.

Two of the largest affiliates had layoffs earlier this year. Greater Twin Cities United Way shed about 5 percent of staff after a spike in donor-designated gifts and 20 percent of staff was laid off after a restructuring at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. The increase in donor-designated gifts created a $6-million shortfall for Twin Cities despite exceeding its fundraising goal by $2.2 million.

Of the 404 affiliates that reported totals for each of the past two years, about 250 affiliates reported decreases in public support last year compared with 156 that reported increases.


Of the 404 affiliates that reported totals for each of the past two years, about 250 affiliates reported decreases in public support last year compared with 156 that reported increases.

The average public support reported was $7,656,907, which most closely resembled Milltown, N.J.-based United Way of Central Jersey’s $7,618,066, ranked 96th among the 404 affiliates.

The median percentage change among affiliates was a drop of 2.35 percent (United Way of Cleveland County in Shelby, N.C., and United Way of Douglas County in Lawrence, Kansas.) The median support was $2,763,174 (United Way of Sheboygan County, Sheboygan, Wisc., $2,778,600, and United Way of Lowcountry in Beaufort, S.C., $2,747,747)

Two affiliates that were among those to report the largest percentage increase in support received a boost in response to flash floods that struck West Virginia in June 2016. The top 10 increases by percentage:

• United Way Greenbrier Valley, Lewisburg, W.V. — 535 percent, $177,416 to $1,126,813;

• United Way of Saginaw County, Saginaw, Mich. — 91.2 percent, $972,862 to $1,860,248;

• Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, Sunbury, Pa. — 89.1 percent, $601,290 to $1,136,941;

• United Way of Henderson County, Hendersonville, N.C. — 60.1 percent, $1,664,603 to $2,665,416;

• United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, Tucson, Ariz. — 56 percent, $5,159,801 to $8,050,606;

• United Way of Santa Fe County, Santa Fe, N.M. — 54.2 percent, $2,042,483 to $3,148,667; and,

• United Way of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara, Calif. — 50.9 percent, $3,566,027 to $5,380,008;

• United Way of Acadiana, Lafayette, La. — 50.9 percent, $3,566,027 to $5,380,008;

• United Way of Southern West Virginia, Beckley, W.V. — 40.1 percent, $921,023 to $1,290,595; and,

• United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Farmingdale, N.J. — 38.3 percent, $2,206,403 to $3,051,311.

The huge increase in support for United Way Greenbrier Valley and United Way of Southern West Virginia was in response to flash floods that hit the area. Almost $1 million in designated contributions went to the two-person affiliate in Lewisburg, W.Va., which helped more than 460 families to either address immediate needs or support long-term recovery, such as repairing, rebuilding or razing homes. Contributions also helped families purchase things like kitchen appliances and furniture or used vehicles. The United Way Rental Renewal Program provided relief for families who were renting their homes when the floods occurred.

Joanne Troutman

We recognized, and our board long recognized, our revenues declining for many years like other United Ways and clung to the model of workplace giving, doing things what we’ve always done them.Joanne Troutman

Sharp increases among other affiliates last year were the result of more benign actions like mergers and bequests.

United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties was the result of a merger between two previously independent, separate affiliates that came together as of July 1, 2016. It was among a number of United Way mergers last year, including United Way of the Bay Area and United Way Silicon Valley, also in July; and Franklin-Grand Isle and United Way of Chittenden County forming United Way of Northwest Vermont, effective May 30, 2016. Montgomery County United Way also folded into United Way of Greater Houston in early 2016.

In some cases, the spike in support wasn’t the result of any disaster or catastrophe but unexpected planned gifts. For United Way of Henderson County, the financial boost was the result of receiving two bequests totaling almost $1 million.

Another affiliate credited the United Way’s transition to a new model described as community impact strategy, focusing on impact areas of health, education, and financial stability.

“We recognized, and our board long recognized, our revenues declining for many years like other United Ways and clung to the model of workplace giving, doing things the way we’ve always done them,” said Joanne Troutman, CEO of Sunbury, Pa.-based Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way. The affiliate has done away with campaign chairs and goals because they’ve been struggling with revenue for a number of years.

The community impact model wasn’t popular at first, Troutman said, crediting her predecessor with the vision to move in that direction.

“For a lot of United Ways, as they move to community impact and priorities, people don’t universally agree with that,” she said, because some organizations don’t always make the cut for grants.

Susquehanna Valley began to move in that direction about seven years ago, taking United Way’s priorities and developing them specifically for the local community, according to Troutman. “It’s not enough to say you have 50 people you will feed at the soup kitchen for food bank; what are you doing to create behavioral change and make a substantial difference in people’s lives,” she said. “It took folks awhile to catch up,” Troutman said.

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