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United Way FAQ's

What is United Way?

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that brings people together to help solve issues that affect our entire community. One of our strengths is our partnerships with other local nonprofits, businesses, government, and other community stakeholders. No other organization has the “bird’s-eye view” that United Way does. We focus our work in the areas of education, health and financial stability (including basic needs).

Is United Way a local or a national organization?

First and foremost, we are LOCAL. We are governed by a local board of directors, our staff is local, and our service area is Lee County only. But we are also part of a network of local United Ways under the umbrella of United Way Worldwide, which provides support services to local United Ways. UWW is not involved in local decisions or governance.

How did United Way get started?

In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers, and a rabbi recognized the need to work together in new ways to help their community. They created an organization to collect funds that would benefit 22 local charities, raising $21,700; this was the forerunner of the modern United Way. In 1913, the first Community Chest was founded in Cleveland, and many more rapidly followed; in 1963, the name “United Way” was adopted for the Community Chest organization. United Way of Lee County was formed in 1960.

What does United Way do?

United Way helps families become self-sufficient and helps children be successful in school. We provide lots of community services, too. People who are looking for local resources can check out NC 2-1-1, our information and referral service, and volunteers can go to to find opportunities for service all over Lee County. United Way has a partnership with FamilyWize to provide free discount prescription cards to anyone who would like one; click here for more information or to download a card.

What communities are served by United Way of Lee County?

United Way of Lee County serves both Lee and Harnett counties in central North Carolina. Our office is located in Sanford, NC.

How do I know that my money stays here?

It is the policy of United Way of Lee County that donations be used to assist Lee and Harnett County residents only, unless the donor specifically requests that the donation be sent elsewhere. 

Can I designate my gift to a particular organization?

Yes. Our United Way accepts designations to any 501(c)(3) organization, whether it is local or not. However, we encourage donors to make undesignated gifts in order to help the most people.

Why should donors give an undesignated gift?

An undesignated gift allows you to help more people than a gift to a single agency ever could. Because community problems are interrelated, and because families often need help with more than one issue, a gift to United Way’s Community Fund is the best and most efficient way to meet these needs. 

Who decides which agencies should be funded?

Volunteers like you! Each spring, local volunteers serve on Community Investment Teams, which thoroughly review funding applications and make funding recommendations to the United Way Board of Directors. The Board (also all volunteers) makes final funding decisions. 

What kind of impact are you making in our community?

Our Super Summer Reading program provides books to children who love to read, but who do not have books of their own at home. We partner with Lee County Schools on this initiative; book bags are given to the students during the last week of school. Reading the books over the summer helps the children keep their skills sharp, so they come back to school in the fall ready to learn. In 2019, we served 300 students, and we hope to expand the program even more!
Through our United Way programs and our partnerships with other local nonprofits, we touch almost 40,000 people in Lee County each year. That’s more than half of the people who live here. These are some of the ways that United Way and our community partners are making a difference:
  • Over 1,400 victims of domestic violence were provided with shelter and supportive counseling services
  • 62 families experiencing homelessness had shelter, case management, and help finding permanent homes of their own
  • Over 25,000 residents were helped with food and other emergency assistance
  • 406 local volunteer needs were met by people just like you!