Will United Way Shift Affect Youth Groups?

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Some youth-serving organizations might benefit, while others might lose, under the United Way of America’s decision to focus its spending on three core areas: education, health and income.

The pledge, announced last month, takes the national office’s measures of success away from fundraising and spending, focusing instead on 10-year goals related to the three priorities. Two major goals will be to cut the high school dropout rate in half and to increase the number of Americans who are considered healthy.

The impact of the pledge depends largely on the willingness of the 1,300 United Way affiliates to go along with national headquarters. Those sites are responsible for approving most of the $4 billion spent annually by United Way, and the national office does not have the power to mandate their spending priorities.

Local affiliates who follow the pledge might beef up spending on youth-serving programs, many of which target education and health. But organizations with less quantifiable ties to those issues, such as art and music programs, might have something to worry about.

United Way CEO Brian Gallagher told The Washington Post that the national organization will focus all of its training, development and best practice work on the three issues, and all funding from its national partners will be leveraged for projects in those areas.

The pledge applies only to unrestricted funds. Donors who direct money to specific nonprofits through local United Ways will still be able to do so.

Contact: (703) 683-7871, www.liveunited.org.


  • Tracey

    Wow! It’s weird to read what our youth serving staff here at our local United Way have already been feeling. We have a solid youth program that serves over 45 youth serving agencies here and yet I sense the change of focus and lack of concern for what our staff does here within the last 6 months. Hmmm…….