United Way Revenue Dips 4% Nationally

September 29, 2016       Mark Hrywna      

More than half of United Ways reporting data for 2015 showed declines in fundraising, with the national number dipping more than 4 percent last year. Some of those with the largest percentage increases were responding to immediate crises.

Total support for United Way’s 1,164 affiliates nationwide was about $3.708 billion for the 2015-16 year that ended in June, roughly 4.25 percent less than the $3.872 billion reported in the previous year.

Of the 997 affiliates that reported data to United Way Worldwide (UWW) for both last year’s campaign and the previous year, about 579 had a decrease and 416 that had an increase; two affiliates reported the same figures for both years. There were 423 affiliates that reported at least $1 million in support and 619 that reported at least $500,000. The median percentage change year-over-year was -2.1 percent (Heart of Arkansas United Way, Little Rock, Ark.).

For the first time in almost a decade, Seattle, Wash.-based United Way of King County (UWKC) was not the top affiliate by total support and did not eclipse $100 million. Its $38 million decline accounted for almost one-quarter of the network-wide decline, or 1 percent of overall support. The significant swing in the campaign total is the result of a shift in how UWKC recognizes gifts that are designated to 501(c)(3) organizations, according a spokeswoman. Employee giving campaigns, like the Microsoft Gives campaign, historically were accounted for on a pledge basis but now gift processing is based on cash receipt and UWKC only recognized cash receipt of gifts given directly to it.

The top 10 affiliates by total support in the 2015-16 campaign year were:

The top 10 affiliates garnered total support of almost $758 million, more than 4 percent less than the same affiliates reported in 2014. The top 10 accounted for more than one-fifth of the overall support reported. The top 20 affiliates by revenue also saw a decline, of about 3.84 percent, from $1.246 billion in support to $1.198 billion in 2015. The top 20 comprised just about a third of the $3.547 million in total support.

United Way chapters responding to local crises were among those that had the largest percentage increase in support.

San Bernardino, Calif.-based Arrowhead United Way nearly tripled support, from $1.6 million to $4.6 million. Much of the difference – more than $2.4 million – was raised for the San Bernardino United Relief Fund in response to a terrorist shooting in December. Arrowhead paid out 100 percent of the funds without taking an administrative fee and the funds were counted as part of the organizations’ total revenue but did not appear in the campaign total, according to President and CEO Doug Rowand. Otherwise, the campaign was very similar to the previous year.

A committee of 15 community members researched best practices developed by other communities that had experienced shootings to determine how best to distribute the funds to those affected by the terrorist act, Rowand said.

Greater Douglas United Way has been on an upswing in recent years, growing from about $626,000 in support in 2011-12 to $1.135 million in last year’s campaign. The Roseburg, Ore.-based affiliate also raised more than $1.25 million through its UCCstrong efforts, for relief and recovery related to the Umpqua Community College shooting in October 2015 that killed eight students and a professor, Executive Director Bryan Trenkle said.

In response to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., United Way of Genesee County almost doubled support, $4.2 million to $8.2 million. CEO Jamie Gaskin said the agency sought to address immediate needs in the community while partners on the community foundation side tackled long-term issues related to the water crisis.

UW of Genesee County expects an additional $600,000 annually for the next four years as a result of a $3 million, five-year commitment through the United Auto Workers (UAW) and General Motors (GM).

“United Way’s role in this crisis really was about the immediate response whereas partners in community foundations focused more on the long-term health needs of children,” Gaskin said.

Gaskin said they’re still receiving revenue related to the crisis response but about 80 to 90 percent of giving related to a disaster happens in the first 90 days, which has been true in Flint. The local United Way benefited from people donating and raising money around the country, which then was facilitated through regional United Ways to the Flint-based affiliate, Gaskin said.

“Frankly, the network we have across the country through United Way was an incredible asset because what happens is, folks from across the country really wanted to help and clearly understood that United Way was a safe conduit to connect back,” he said.

The water crisis will require a massive infrastructure investment during the next decade to correct in the long-term and that’s happening, Gaskin said, noting congressional action just this week. “Philanthropy in this case can only go so far to correct the problem. We can’t fill that gap but we can complement it,” he said.

Among affiliates with at least $500,000 in support, the top 10 increases by percentage were:

  • Flint
  • King County
  • Roseburg
  • San Bernardino
  • Umpqua Community College
  • United Way