FAQs

Valley of the Sun United Way | Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Valley of the Sun United Way?

How are you fighting poverty in our community?

How are you fighting poverty for kids in our community?

How are you ending hunger?

How are you ending homelessness?

How are you increasing financial stability of families?

I understand what you mean by give or volunteer, what do you mean by advocate?

Why should I donate to Valley of the Sun United Way?

Is United Way a national or local organization?

What does Valley of the Sun United Way do in addition to raising money?

Why are there two United Ways in Maricopa County?

What is Valley of the Sun United Way’s overhead costs?

How do I know that my donation will help those who need it most?

How is Valley of the Sun United Way held accountable?

Many people in our community are worried about foreclosure. Where can people turn to for help or information?

Why should I give directly to Valley of the Sun United Way instead of designating my donation to another non-profit organization?

I noticed that you no longer refer to your partner agencies as 'Primary Partners'. Why the change?

What criteria must nonprofits meet in order to be eligible for donor designated funds?

What criteria must Valley of the Sun United Way Partners meet to be eligible for funding?

How are Valley of the Sun United Way Partners held accountable?

How much influence do I have over how my contribution is invested?

Is my United Way contribution tax deductible?

The agency I want to support is not listed. Can I still restrict my contribution to that particular agency?

Last year, I contributed directly to the Helping the Working Poor Fund and qualified for a tax credit. Is that option still available?  What are the benefits of choosing this option?

I do not see Valley of the Sun United Way on the IRS list for qualifying charitable organizations. Is it a qualifying charitable organization?

Does Valley of the Sun United Way choose which agencies qualify for the state Helping Working Tax Credit?

Does United Way fund animal organizations?

Why do you want to know how long I’ve been giving?

I am already on a tight budget. How can I afford to give?

What is Generation United?

What is Women United?

What is Planned Giving (or Legacy Society)?

What is Champion Leadership Giving?

I had a friend, family member or neighbor who reached out to United Way but did not get help.
 

Q. What is Valley of the Sun United Way?

A. Since 1925, Valley of the Sun United Way has unified diverse partners, donors, business supporters, nonprofits, government and faith-based communities to build a stronger Valley for us all. No other organization unites as many people to fight poverty in as many ways.

We fight poverty by connecting volunteers to their passions, uniting donors who want to create solutions, and working with select communities, empowering them to develop their own action plans. We use every dollar, every volunteer hour and every bit of your support to ensure kids succeed in school, end hunger, end homelessness, and increase financial stability of families.

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Q. How are you fighting poverty in our community?

A. We fight to break the cycle of poverty by:

  • Preparing kids for success in the kindergarten   
  • Preparing kids to read at grade level by 4th grade
  • Providing quality programs after-school and in the summer
  • Preparing kids for college and career
  • Fighting to end hunger in the classroom and at home for families
  • Fighting to end homelessness
  • Fighting to increase the financial stability for families

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Q. How are you fighting poverty for kids in our community?

A. We fight for kids by:  

  • Improving access to quality early child care, fostering childcare center quality improvement, improving caregiver training, access to child care scholarships and School Readiness Kits in select communities
  • Helping kids read at grade level by 4th grade with Vello, an online 1:1 reading tutoring program and Read On initiatives in select communities
  • Improving quality after-school and summer programs focused on mentoring, resiliency skills, education supports for students
  • Partnering with Thriving Together schools to ensure students are prepared for college and career

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Q. How are you ending hunger?

A. Valley of the Sun United Way ends hunger by:

  • Supporting the emergency food network to obtain and distribute food to help meet the community’s need, including emergency meals
  • Ensuring children have nutritious breakfast through Breakfast in the Classroom, lunch and evening meals available year-round and WeekEnd Hunger Backpacks during the school year
  • Partnering with select neighborhoods to develop and implement long-term, community-driven solutions that end hunger

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Q. How are you ending homelessness?

A. Valley of the Sun United Way ends homelessness by:

  • Providing rapid rehousing or permanent supportive housing solutions for chronically homeless individuals
  • Providing emergency shelter and basic needs services for individuals experiencing homelessness Increasing access to shelter, housing and services for individuals at risk of homelessness

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Q. How are you increasing financial stability of families?

A. Valley of the Sun United Way increases financial stability by:

  • Providing workforce preparation services to low-income adults
  • Training financial coaches on building savings, budgeting and financial education to work one-on-one with community members

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Q. I understand what you mean by give or volunteer, what do you mean by advocate?

A. To advocate means to champion a cause. We invite you to become an advocate in our community. We advocate for:

  • Policies that support quality early learning opportunities, provide access to quality child care, 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, share information about social issues with friends or family, or wear our LIVE UNITED or VIVE UNIDO shirt to show your support for United Way. Your voice drives the fight to break the cycle of poverty in Maricopa County.  Stay current with the latest issues we care about at vsuw.org/advocate.

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Q. Why should I donate to Valley of the Sun United Way?

A. No other organization unites as many people to fight poverty in as many ways. 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 simplicity of payroll deduction, you can help break the cycle of poverty with ease.

  When you choose to donate directly to Valley of the Sun United Way you join the fight for local kids, their families and the neighborhoods where they live.

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Q. Is United Way a national or local organization?

A. Valley of the Sun United Way is a local, autonomous non-profit organization. Like the 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.

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Q. What does Valley of the Sun United Way do in addition to raising money?

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. No other organization unites as many people to fight poverty in as many ways.  We bring partners together from every sector – public, private, non-profit – to do what no single organization can do alone: create solutions that transform individual lives and drive systemic change that impacts entire communities.

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Q. Why are there two United Ways in Maricopa County?

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.

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Q. What is Valley of the Sun United Way’s overhead costs?

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 cents of every dollar goes back into the community to improve lives throughout the Valley.

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)

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Q.  How do I know that my donation will help those who need it most?

A. Local human care programs that receive United Way funding go through rigorous review and evaluation by Valley of the Sun United Way. This is a competitive process, and programs are selected based on their performance against specific measures that demonstrate impact for individuals and families experiencing poverty.  Our Community Impact Committee reviews funding across all of United Way’s strategies to ensure funding aligns with our organizational goals.  All funding recommendations are presented to, and approved, by our Board of Directors.  This extensive process ensures donors’ dollars are invested in human care programs that are proven to obtain results and transform lives.

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Q. How is Valley of the Sun United Way held accountable?

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.

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Q. Many people in our community are worried about foreclosure. Where can people turn to for help or information?

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.

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Q. Why should I give directly to Valley of the Sun United Way instead of designating my donation to another non-profit organization?

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 ensure kids succeed, end hunger, end homelessness, and increase the financial stability of families and individuals, breaking the cycle of poverty in ways no one organization can do alone. 

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Q. I noticed that you no longer refer to your partner agencies as 'Primary Partners'. Why the change?

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 break the cycle of poverty. Some partners receive funding, while others do not. These partners bring the expertise, resources and commitment needed to break the cycle for every child, individual and family in our community by ensuring children succeed in school, ending hunger and homelessness, and increasing 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 fight for families, we fight for kids, and we fight for neighborhoods. We do this by continuing to fund partners through an investment process and aligning funding to our goals.

Additionally, we will also be working with partners (traditional and new) in different ways - as grant partners, on pilot projects, on collaborative partnerships, etc.

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Q. What criteria must nonprofits meet in order to be eligible for donor designated funds?

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, non-profit 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

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Q. What criteria must Valley of the Sun United Way Partners meet to be eligible for funding?

A. 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 organization
  • 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

In addition, United Way continues to work toward strong alignment between programmatic outcomes to break the cycle of poverty. We do this by continuing to fund partners through an investment process and aligning funding to our goals.  Together, we will ensure kids succeed, end hunger, end homelessness, and increase the financial stability of families breaking the cycle of poverty in ways no one organization can do alone.

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Q. How are Valley of the Sun United Way Partners held accountable?

A. Local human care programs that receive United Way funding go through a rigorous review and evaluation by Valley of the Sun United Way staff. This is a competitive process, and programs are selected based on their performance against specific measures that demonstrate impact for individuals and families experiencing poverty.  This helps ensures donors’ dollars are invested in human care programs that are proven to obtain results and improve lives.

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Q. How much influence do I have over how my contribution is invested?

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 break the cycle of poverty. Donors may also choose to invest in one or more of our focuses to achieve that goal - ensure kids succeed in school, end hunger, end homelessness, or increase the financial stability of families. United Way also honors a donor’s choice to designate to a specific non-profit agency as long as it meets required criteria

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Q. Is my United Way contribution tax deductible?

A. Yes, your contribution is tax deductible. 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/hwp.

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Q. The agency I want to support is not listed. Can I still restrict my contribution to that particular agency?

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.

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Q. Last year, I contributed directly to the Helping the Working Poor Fund and qualified for a tax credit. Is that option still available?  What are the benefits of choosing this option?

A. Yes, donations to Valley of the Sun United Way’s Helping the Working Poor fund, qualify for the “Arizona State Tax Credit for Donations Made to a Qualifying Charitable Organization”. The 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 to helping the working poor, you help people increase their self-sufficiency and you could receive a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit this tax year. Donate up to $400* for individuals and up to $800* for those filing jointly. You don’t have to itemize deductions to claim a credit for contributions to a Qualifying Charitable Organization.

  • Provide your name, home address and phone number on your pledge card  or online at vsuw.org/hwp in order to receive an acknowledgement for your tax records
  • For more information about United Way’s Financial Stability/Helping the Working Poor fund and the Arizona state tax “Credit for Contributions to a Qualifying Charitable Organization”, call 602.631.4800.

* Valley of the Sun United Way is not a tax advisor. As with any financial recommendation, contact a qualified tax professional for advice on your specific tax situation.

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Q. I do not see Valley of the Sun United Way on the IRS list for qualifying charitable organizations. Is it a qualifying charitable organization?

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”.

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Q. Does Valley of the Sun United Way choose which agencies qualify for the state Helping Working Tax Credit?

A. Valley of the Sun United Way does not certify agencies for the Arizona state tax “Credit for Contributions to a Qualifying Charitable Organization. Agency certification is determined by the Arizona Department of Revenue.  

Valley of the Sun United Way has a Helping the Working fund that supports our goal to break the cycle of poverty for families by increase financial stability and more.  The funding we receive from donors who chose to take advantage of the “Credit for Contributions to a Qualifying Charitable Organization” is put into our Helping the Working Poor fund.  Each contribution goes to battling homelessness and hunger and helping children and families succeed.  These programs have been certified at qualifying agencies by the Arizona Department of Revenue.

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Q. Does United Way fund animal organizations?

A. One of the fundamental requirements for United Way funding is that the organization provides health and human care services or administers a qualifying health and human care program. As with all donations, United Way honors a donor’s choice to designate to any 501(c)(3) health and human service organization as long as it meets required criteria.

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Q. Why do you want to know how long I’ve been giving?

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.

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Q. I am already on a tight budget. How can I afford to give?

A. The need is enormous and every contribution helps. Even a modest contribution per pay period or monthly online helps improve the lives of many struggling families, individuals and children throughout the Valley. By investing in our community through payroll deduction or monthly online, 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. You can volunteer for United Way’s School Readiness Kit assembly, Project Connect events, or deliver WeekEnd Hunger Backpacks to local schools. As an advocate you can share important information about key social issues with others. To learn more about volunteering with United Way, please call 602-631-4800 or visit vsuw.org/volunteer.

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Q. What is Generation United?

A. Generation United is a Valley of the Sun United Way affinity group for young professionals, who want to get more involved in the community through volunteerism, advocacy and networking opportunities. 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.

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Q. What is Women United?

A. Women United is a network of women who support United Way by giving, advocating, volunteering and inspiring others to create lasting change in our community.  Members are able to connect with like-minded women, network and expand personal and professional opportunities; engage in volunteer events geared toward United Way’s work in breaking the cycle of poverty; serve as ambassadors for United Way and give $1,000 annually toward breaking the cycle of poverty for kids, their families and the neighborhoods where they live. Contact us at womenunited@vsuw.org to learn more, or visit vsuw.org/womenunited.

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Q. What is Planned Giving (or Legacy Society)?

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.

The Legacy Society furthers United Way’s mission by encouraging estate gifts that provide perpetual support of health and human services. The Legacy Society is for those who have made arrangements for a bequest or planned gift to Valley of the Sun United Way. 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, contact Lisa Groves at 602-631-4806 or via email at lgroves@vsuw.org.

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Q. What is Champion Leadership Giving?

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:

  1. Ensure children and youth succeed
  2. End hunger and homelessness
  3. 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 leadership@vsuw.org.

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Q. I had a friend, family member or neighbor who reached out to United Way but did not get help.

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.

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Contact Us

Phone

602.631.4800

Address

3200 East Camelback Road, Suite 375
Phoenix, AZ 85018-2328

Contact Us

Volunteer Info

volunteer@vsuw.org

General Info

information@vsuw.org