Some frequently asked questions…and answers!
What exactly is the United Way and what does it do?
The United Way is a non-profit, 501 (c) 3 agency that first began helping residents of Beaufort County in the mid 1950’s. Today, through investment in over 30 non-profit partner agencies, direct service and referral through our Helpline, and administration of an Early Grade Reading tutoring program in eight local schools, we have a direct impact on the lives of over 32,000 people in need in Beaufort and Jasper Counties. Between our own programs and the programs we help fund through our agencies, we work to address and improve the basic needs, income, health and education of our community.
Does my donation to UW go to agencies all over the country?
No. All United Way organizations are independently incorporated – your investment in United Way of the Lowcountry will help residents of Beaufort and Jasper counties.
How much of my donation covers administrative cost?
Our administrative and fundraising costs, including staff salaries, represent approximately 13.7 percent of contributions. Rest assured that most of every dollar you contribute goes to initiatives and programs that help people and build a stronger community. Last year we raised in excess of $2.3 million. Our full financial audit and IRS Form 990 is available elsewhere on this site.
Who runs the United Way?
Our staff works with knowledgeable, well-trained volunteers who represent our diverse community. They carry out the planning and implementation of United Way functions.
• A volunteer board of directors sets policy and strategic direction.
• Various volunteer committees oversee financial practices and provide counsel on operational issues.
Our volunteer network is a key reason why our administrative and fundraising costs are among the lowest of any nonprofit. More of your contribution goes directly to help people. Our president and CEO is Tina Lamb Gentry. The Chair of the Board is Ashley Twombley, while the Chair-Elect of the Board is Mark O’Neil.
Who decides which agencies receive funding and how much they receive?
Knowledgeable volunteers and experts from our community serve on our Community Investment Panels. They are charged with carefully screening and selecting the programs funded by your contributions. Their recommendations are reviewed and approved by our volunteer board of directors. After selection, these programs are rigorously monitored to ensure they produce positive, measurable outcomes.
Why did you decide to start your own Early Grade Reading Program? In 2012 the United Way of the Lowcountry Board of Directors felt that the best way to make an immediate impact in the lowcountry was to start a tutoring program with local schools. Teachers work very hard in the classroom, but some students need extra attention that can only be provided by a one-on-one tutoring session, and our research showed that a solid education and the ability to read influenced a person’s decisions throughout their entire life. In short, good education leads to better health, income and stability. No other agencies were addressing the issue via in-school tutoring, so we felt that by initiating the Early Grade Reading Program we would be filling a void.
Why should I give to the United Way?
The United Way of the Lowcountry is the one organization who sees and helps complete the big picture. We are the recognized non-profit leader in identifying and addressing the needs of the community.
Further, we are outcomes-focused in everything we do. Your support helps:
• Helpline, where people in need receive both referrals and direct assistance. Through a unified, collaborative approach between United Way and our partner agencies, we are able to help those who may not otherwise receive it while also ensuring people do not abuse the system. Our goal is to provide temporary help for individuals who can once again become self-sufficient. Last year we received over 1,400 calls for help.
• Early Grade Reading, which provides reading tutors in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades in six Beaufort County and two Jasper County schools. By addressing the problem of illiteracy, we are able to improve the chances of success for students by the time they reach 4th grade – the crucial time-period to begin to fully thrive or fully falter in school. In the 2013-2014 school year, 95% of students in our program in Jasper and 98% of students in our program in Beaufort improved their reading test scores.
• Partner Agencies, where specific programs are funded through our investment. This covers programs like mobile meals, clothing for fire victims, shelter for abuse victims, affordable housing and others.
What other benefits are there to giving to United Way?
There are many benefits, including:
• Cost-effectiveness and the convenience of one charitable gift through United Way instead of separate checks or multiple transfers of securities
• Financial services and oversight of funds
• Trusting and knowing that your donations are being managed to provide specific outcomes
• Agencies do not always have the staff or resources to do professional fundraising and therefore rely on United Way’s expertise in fundraising
What are you doing to address the homeless population? Currently we can assist those willing and in need in securing a spot at a shelter in Savannah. For others, we are taking part in an overall discussion with other agencies and organizations aimed at providing a permanent solution here in Beaufort and Jasper. We are also taking the lead in identifying those who would benefit from the mobile shelter of a backpack and distributing the backpacks as they become available.