Valley of the Sun United Way | Frequently Asked Questions
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A. Valley of the Sun United Way has served the needs of individuals and families in Maricopa County since 1925. We are building caring communities where each person has the opportunity to achieve the aspirations we all share: a good education for our kids, a safe place to live, food on the table and the security of financial self-sufficiency. Because of our wide array of partnerships we effectively create change on two levels: 1) drive systemic change that impacts entire communities; and, 2) transform individual lives. We do this by bringing together partners from every sector – public, business, non-profit and faith-based organizations – to get things done. Together, with your support, we will achieve three vital Community Objectives: Ensure Children and Youth Succeed, End Hunger and Homelessness and Increase the Financial Stability of Families and Individuals.
A. Your support enables us to partner with parents, schools, businesses and non-profits to ensure all children and youth are ready to succeed in these key transitions:
- Ready for kindergarten
- Reading at grade level by third grade
- Graduating from high school
- Prepared for college and career
A. For young children we:
- Improve access to, and affordability of, quality early care and education programs
- Develop strategies and best practices in professional development for early child care and education programs
- Provide comprehensive support and services to child care providers and primary caregivers in targeted communities
A. For youth and teens we:
- Improve access to and quality of youth development programs
- Improve student performance through strategic partnerships with schools and businesses in targeted communities
- Improve post-secondary readiness and workforce readiness
A. Valley of the Sun United Way increases financial stability by:
- Educating individuals about personal finances
- Providing workforce preparation services to low-income adults
- Increasing access to public benefits
A. Valley of the Sun United Way ends hunger by:
- Supporting the food distribution network to obtain and distribute food to meet demand
- Increasing outreach efforts to enroll eligible individuals in nutrition programs
- Ensuring children have nutritious breakfast, lunch and evening meals available year-round
- Supporting stable food assistance for seniors and home-bound individuals
A. Valley of the Sun United Way ends homelessness by:
- Providing permanent supportive housing solutions for chronically homeless individuals
- Providing emergency and basic needs services for individuals experiencing homelessness
- Increasing access to shelter, housing and services for individuals at risk of homelessness
A. To advocate means to champion a cause and Valley of the Sun United Way invites you to become an advocate in our community. We advocate for:
- Policies that support quality early learning opportunities, provide access to quality childcare, and increase parent involvement opportunities to ensure school readiness for young children.
- Best practice and research-based policies focused on improving high school graduation rates and college readiness.
- Policies that help families achieve financial security through financial education and asset-building opportunities.
- Policies allowing families to easily navigate assistance programs, eliminating barriers and unnecessary bureaucracy.
- Policies that protect and strengthen the human service safety net for the growing number of families in need of assistance.
You can speak out to improve our Community Objectives, or share information about social issues with friends or family, or wear our LIVE UNITED shirt to show your support for United Way. You will drive systemic change that impacts entire communities and transforms individual lives.
A. When you choose to donate directly to Valley of the Sun United Way you will be supporting our three Community Objectives:
- Ensure Children and Youth Succeed
- End Hunger and Homelessness
- Increase the Financial Stability of Families and Individuals
Because of our wide array of partnerships we effectively create change on two levels: 1) drive systemic change that impacts entire communities and, 2) transform individual lives. United Way does what no one single organization can do alone – guide local community members to achieve their potential through education and become self-sufficient by earning a stable income. Plus, with the ease of payroll deduction, you will transform individual lives.
A. Valley of the Sun United Way is a local, autonomous nonprofit organization. Like the more than 1,200 United Ways across the country, we are governed by a local volunteer Board of Directors. Valley of the Sun United Way pays nominal dues to United Way Worldwide in exchange for important cost-saving services such as staff training, community research information, campaign materials, national marketing partnerships and ongoing consultation.
A. Since inception, United Way has mobilized the caring power of individuals and organizations to improve lives across the U.S. Valley of the Sun United Way has served the needs of individuals and families in Maricopa County since 1925 and is the largest non-profit investor of health and human service programs in Maricopa County. Because of our wide array of partnerships we are not only invest in successful health and human service programs, we are also create solutions that: 1) drive systemic change that impacts our entire community; and 2) transform individual lives every day.
A. Maricopa County does in fact have two United Ways, each with distinct roles, serving the human care needs of local residents. Mesa United Way raises money and helps provide assistance only within the City of Mesa. Valley of the Sun United Way raises money throughout Maricopa County, except for the City of Mesa, and provides services county-wide. Valley of the Sun United Way offers donors a variety of giving options to accommodate individual giving preferences, and honors designations to Mesa United Way, any other United Way or qualified health and human service non-profit organization.
A. Valley of the Sun United Way incurs costs for fundraising, marketing and common business operations such as accounting, human resources and overall organizational management. As careful stewards of our donors’ contributions, Valley of the Sun United Way operates with the utmost efficiency and effectiveness. Less than 10 percent is spent on administrative cost and approximately 90 percent is invested in community initiatives which transform individual lives and impact entire communities.
Compared to the average of 15 percent* administrative costs reported by large non-profits, Valley of the Sun United Way is one of the most efficient non-profits in the country.
*According to Charity Navigator, a trusted authority on non-profits ratings, reports the benchmark “maximum” overhead is 35%, with the average overhead rate for the top large nonprofits at more than 15%. (2013)2003 McKinsey & Company Study as reported by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
A. Local human care programs that receive United Way funding go through rigorous review and evaluation by Resource Management Committee members. Each committee is comprised of trained and knowledgeable community volunteers who carefully monitor community needs, meet with local health and human service agencies and review each agency’s program funding request. United Way staff facilitates the review process and provides research, technical assistance and expertise to ensure volunteers have the resources and support to make informed decisions.
Recommendations from the Resource Management Committees are reviewed by Advisory Councils in each of our Community Objectives to ensure alignment with our community goals. Next, Community Impact Committees look at funding across all of United Way’s strategies to ensure funding aligns with our Community Objectives. Finally, Valley of the Sun United Way’s Board of Directors must approve all funding recommendations. This entire process guarantees your donation goes toward human care programs that are proven to obtain results and improve lives.
A. Valley of the Sun United Way prides itself on being a trustworthy and accountable organization. A volunteer committee of financial experts meets year-round to monitor the organization’s financial position. Collectively, we maintain high standards of operation and are reviewed each year by an independent auditor, who verifies that our financial statements are sound. In addition to posting our Form 990 on our website for public review, we are an active member of the Better Business Bureau and a past recipient of its Ethics Award, which recognizes businesses for maintaining high ethical standards and accountability in their business practices.
A. People concerned about foreclosure can contact a free 24-hour Arizona Foreclosure Prevention Hotline to obtain information and get connected with local community resources. Call the hotline at 877.448.1211. Callers are transferred to one of the 13 state-approved mortgage counseling services, which can offer advice and services for local residents. For Community Information and Referral Services call 211 or 1.877.211.8661 or visit www.211arizona.org for additional help.
A. To encourage collective impact, Valley of the Sun United Way brings together partners from every sector – public, business, non-profit and faith-based organizations – to get things done. Together, with your support, we will achieve three vital Community Objectives that no one organization can do alone:
- Ensure Children and Youth Succeed
- End Hunger and Homelessness
- Increase the Financial Stability of Families and Individuals
We will drive systemic change that impacts entire communities, and transform individual lives across Maricopa County.
An undesignated donation directly to Valley of the Sun United Way builds caring communities where each person has the opportunity to achieve the aspirations we all share: a good education for our kids, a roof over our heads, food on the table and the security that comes with financial independence.
A. For the last several years Valley of the Sun United Way has talked about partnerships differently.
We partner with hundreds of businesses, organizations and individuals to achieve our Community Objectives. Some partners receive funding, while others do not. These partners bring the expertise, resources and commitment needed to achieve our Community Objectives: Ensure Children and Youth Succeed; End Hunger and Homelessness; and, Increase the Financial Stability of Families and Individuals.
As a result of the ongoing evolution of our work, Valley of the Sun United Way is focused on doing much more than funding the efforts of other agencies and organizations. We will create systemic change and transforming individual lives around our three Community Objectives. We will continue to fund partners through an investment process and will align funding help achieve our shared Community Objectives.
Additionally, we will also be working with partners (traditional and new) in different ways - as grant partners, on pilot projects, on collaborative partnerships, etc. Many of you have already been engaged in some of these activities.
A. Nonprofits are subject to a certification process and must meet the following minimum standards:
- Registered by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit organization
- Provide health and human care services, or health and human service program(s)
- Comply with all applicable Arizona state laws and regulations including the maintenance of corporate status as designated by the State of Arizona’s Corporation Commission
- Comply with applicable Federal laws including the USA Patriot Act and other counter terrorism laws
- Governed by a local board of community volunteers
A. Valley of the Sun United Way and our community partners (historically referred to as “Partner Agencies”) collaborate to create solutions to address our community’s most pressing social issues. The relationship with our traditional partners is unique. It is characterized by cooperative efforts in community problem solving, measurements of progress toward community problem solving, communication, and more. These partners are responsible for adhering to a number of compliance criteria in order to receive United Way program funding, including:
- Be a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation
- Provide health and human service programs
- Have active, rotating volunteer leadership that represents diverse elements of the community
- Demonstrate sound financial and program management and be willing to make full disclosure
- Provide timely financial and program outcome measurement
- Annual compliance documentation required to be on file with Valley of the Sun United Way, including current USA Patriot Act certification form
The ongoing Resource Management Committee review process of program performance is a primary consideration in making funding decisions. In addition, United Way continues to work toward strong alignment between programmatic outcomes and our three Community Objectives: Ensure Children and Youth Succeed, End Hunger and Homelessness, and Increase the Financial Stability of Families and Individuals. By aligning our investments in these critical areas we believe we can drive systemic change that impacts entire communities while transforming individual lives every day.
A. United Way-funded programs operated by traditional partners (historically known as Primary Partners) are reviewed through a volunteer-driven process governed by a number of committees that monitor finances and agency performance. Valley of the Sun United Way staff facilitate the process as well as provide research, technical assistance and advisory expertise to ensure volunteers have the resources and support to make informed decisions.
A. Donors are given options for investing in our community. These choices include donating directly to Valley of the Sun United Way, the most proactive way to create systemic change and transform individual lives. Donors may also choose to invest in one or more of United Way’s three Community Objectives: Ensure Children and Youth Succeed, End Hunger and Homelessness or Increase the Financial Stability of Families and Individuals. United Way also honors a donor’s choice to designate to a specific non-profit agency as long as it meets required criteria.
A. Yes, your contribution is tax deductible if you itemize your deductions. You may also qualify for a state tax credit by designating a portion of your donation United Way’s Financial Stability /Helping the Working Poor fund. Please contact a United Way representative for more information or visit our website at vsuw.org.
A. We encourage a contribution to Valley of the Sun United Way because it is the best way to support a diverse range of human care programs to serve our community’s most pressing needs. United Way develops and invests in best practices to maximize every dollar. You may still restrict your contribution to any 501(c)(3) health and human service organization as long as the organization meets set criteria. To verify if an agency meets United Way’s criteria, please call the agency certification line at 602.631.4813. All calls will be returned within 48 hours.
Q. Last year, I contributed directly to the Helping the Working Poor Fund (AZ Credit for Donations Made to Qualifying Charitable Organizations) and qualified for a tax credit. Is that option still available? What are the benefits of choosing this option?
A. Valley of the Sun United Way’s Helping the Working Poor fund provides job-skill training, affordable child care, educational opportunities and more to the working poor in our community. These are individuals and families with low wage jobs that just can’t make ends meet. By donating a portion of your United Way contribution in the Helping the Working Poor fund, you help people increase their self-sufficiency. In the past, this credit was only available if you itemized deductions on tax forms filed with the State of Arizona. Now, anybody can claim the credit, even if they do not itemize deductions. You could receive a state tax credit of up to $800.* To take advantage of the Helping the Working Poor state tax credit, you simply:
- Direct up to $800* for married couples ($400 for individuals) to United Way’s Helping the Working Poor fund
- Provide your name, home address and phone number on your pledge card in order to receive an acknowledgement for your tax records
- For more information about United Way’s Financial Stability/Helping the Working Poor and the State of Arizona tax credit, call 602.631.4800.
*Arizona State Income Tax credits of between $400 and $800 are available based on your income tax filing status. Valley of the Sun United Way is not a tax advisor. As with any financial recommendation, contact a qualified tax professional for expert advice on your specific tax situation.
A. Through 2014, the Department published a list of umbrella organizations, which included Valley of the Sun United Way (VSUW). As noted on azdor.gov, as of 2015, the Department no longer publishes a list of umbrella organizations, however, taxpayers’ contributions to an umbrella organization still may qualify for the “Credit for contributions to qualifying charitable organizations”, provided that 100% of the donations still are directed to Qualifying Charitable Organizations (QCOs) that are certified by the Department.
One of the options that VSUW provides for its donors is an option to designate a contribution to VSUW’s Helping the Working Poor (HWP) Fund. VSUW then directs 100% of the contributions to the HWP Fund to QCOs that are certified by the Department. Accordingly, donations to VSUW’s HWP fund qualify for the “Credit for contributions to qualifying charitable organizations”.
A. Valley of the Sun United Way does not certify agencies for the Contribution to Qualifying Charitable Organizations, also known as the Helping the Working Poor Tax Credit. The tax credits and agency certification are determined by the Arizona Department of Revenue.
Valley of the Sun United Way has a Helping the Working fund that supports our Community Objective to Increase Financial Stability for Families and Individuals. The funding we receive from donors who choose to take advantage of the charitable tax credit is put into our Helping the Working Poor fund and is used to fund financial stability programs at agencies that have been certified by the state.
A. All non-profits must meet certain criteria to be eligible for United Way funding. One of the fundamental requirements is that the organization provides health and human care services or administers a qualifying health and human care program. Currently, United Way-funded programs at Gabriel’s Angels provide individuals support through animal therapy. Experts believe therapy involving loving animals provides important mental and physical stimulus as well as offers a nurturing environment for people facing crisis.
A. Valley of the Sun United Way takes opportunities to recognize loyal donors through our Loyal Contributors Program. This program identifies, thanks, and communicates with long-time donors who have positively impacted the lives of so many people through their support. If you’ve been giving for five years or more, we want to recognize your commitment. Please visit vsuw.org/loyal to register if you do not currently receive Loyal Contributor Program communication from Valley of the Sun United Way. If you do not wish to be contacted, please let us know and we will remove you from the contact list of loyal donors
A. The need is enormous and every contribution helps. Even a modest contribution per pay period helps improve the lives of many struggling families, individuals and children throughout the Valley. By investing in our community through payroll deduction, you can spread your contribution over the coming year—making it more manageable than a one-time contribution.
You may also choose to get involved by volunteering or advocating with United Way. As a volunteer and advocate you can lend your time, muscle and voice to help champion a cause. As a volunteer you can actively get involved with United Way’s WeekEnd Hunger Backpack assembly, Project Connect events or a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site or volunteer for our Million Minutes Volunteer Reading Challenge. As an advocate you can share important information about key social issues with others. To learn more about volunteering with United Way, please call 602.631.4873, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit vsuw.org/volunteer for more information.
A. Generation United is a Valley of the Sun United Way affinity group for professionals under 40, in age or spirit, who want to get more involved in the community through volunteerism, advocacy and networking opportunities. As part of Valley of the Sun United Way, Generation United provides unique access to the top non-profit, business and government leaders in the Greater Phoenix area. You can sign-up online at genunited.org.
A. The Women’s Leadership Council includes women from around the Valley who are interested in sharing their leadership, expertise and passion to support and promote programs that provide a platform for the success of children, youth and families in our community. Members learn about issues impacting the community, connect with women business and community leaders to solve problems facing Maricopa County and receive recognition as advocates of change.
Women must give at least $1,000 annually directly to United Way's ensuring children and youth succeed community objective. Donors who give $1,000 or more each year to United Way are also recognized as Champion Leadership Givers. This level of leadership offers incentives for donations directed to United Way donation. Contact us at email@example.com to learn more, or visit vsuw.org/wlc.
A. Planned Giving, also referred to as Legacy Society, allows donors to include Valley of the Sun United Way in their estate plan. It’s a memorable and unique arrangement that allows the donor to create a legacy that will benefit individuals and families. An endowment at United Way assures a long-term vision for Maricopa County.
Legacy Society furthers United Way’s mission by encouraging estate gifts that provide perpetual support of health and human services. While the annual United Way campaign significantly impacts immediate needs, estate gifts can provide continuous support and flexibility to meet emerging needs of our community well into the future. For additional details, visitwww.vsuw.planyourlegacy.org.
A. Valley of the Sun United Way is pleased to recognize thousands of dedicated donors as Champion Leadership Givers. This group of champions invests $1,000 or more each year directly to United Way to help us achieve three vital Community Objectives:
- Ensure children and youth succeed
- End hunger and homelessness
- Increase the financial stability of families and individuals
Champion Leadership Giving offers special incentives such as, special volunteer events including family opportunities, a chance to win a US Airways gift card, membership in our Women’s Leadership Council for those women or spouses who are interested, invitation to a United Way Tocqueville event for those donors who give a total gift of $5,000 with a minimum of $2,500 undesignated donation. To learn more call 602.631.4919 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A. First, on behalf of Valley of the Sun United Way, we apologize for the fact that you did not receive the attention you needed. We would like the opportunity to speak with your friend, family member neighbor, etc. and find out why he/she was not assisted. Although we attempt to help everyone who requests assistance, sometimes we are unable to address their specific situation for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the service they are seeking is not provided in our community, or they don’t meet the eligibility requirements of the agency providing the program, or, they are requesting assistance outside of the scope of services provided.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, call 211 or 1-877-211-8661 for Community Information and Referral Services. You can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week or visit 211arizona.org. Help is available in English and Spanish.