Changes in store for United Way

As a way to regain the trust as a leader among charitable
organizations, United Way executives across the U.S. overwhelmingly
approved recently an upgrade of the organization’s financial
standards beginning with the 2002 campaign.
As a way to regain the trust as a leader among charitable organizations, United Way executives across the U.S. overwhelmingly approved recently an upgrade of the organization’s financial standards beginning with the 2002 campaign.

In the meantime, officials with the United Way of San Benito County are working toward ending the chapter’s independent status to become a member of the national organization.

The local chapter raised more than $100,000 during the 2001-02 campaign as United Way organizations across the nation generated $3.95 billion to help local communities meet their needs.

United Way has faced criticism for accounting practices that included duplicate counting by some chapters and misreported administrative expenses.

“They have a few black eyes they’re dealing with,” said Kathy Johnson, director of the United Way of San Benito County.

Under the new guidelines, all local chapters will report revenue and expenses to the national organization for independent review.

Mary Damm, president of the local chapter, said they have complied with all the standards and keep their records current.

“We have our checks and balances,” she said.

The United Way of SBC has been an independent group over the years. But for the last six months the board of directors has been working toward full membership with the national organization – something the board hopes will be a positive move.

“Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not,” Johnson said. “However, the board is leaning towards membership and believes the overall benefits will outweigh the downside.”

Johnson said a slight disadvantage of national affiliation is that a small portion of local allocations – less than one percent – would be given to the national organization.

Another downside to membership is many potential donors may still have an image that funds are not being handle properly, Johnson said.

“It has cleaned up since, but donors still may not want to give because of the association,” she said.

On the plus side, the chapter would have access to teaching videos, posters and the United Way’s list of national contributors.

“As a member, we would be a part of the redistribution of the funds they receive,” Johnson said. “As an independent, we’re not eligible for that portion of that gift.”

With the new financial guidelines, Johnson expects there will be more reporting involved reporting and as a member the local chapter would be required to do a formal independent audit.

“It’s not an unreasonable request to have more accountability for your donors,” she said.

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