United Way mythbusters, you asked, we busted

Part Two: This column is the second in a two part series dedicated to busting the myths sometimes associated with United Way. I busted five common myths last month and I’ll address another five below. If you missed part one, please visit www.UnitedWaySWMN.org for details.

Myth #6: United Way of Southwest Minnesota doesn’t tell you where funds are invested.

Answer: Incorrect.

FACT: United Way of Southwest Minnesota has been certified in accountability and awarded the Charities Review Council “Meets Standards” Seal. The Certification and Seal indicate that we meet all 25 of the Council’s Accountability Standards. The Accountability Wizard addresses a nonprofit organization’s performance in four critical areas: Public Disclosure, Governance, Financial Activity and Fundraising Practices. By participating in the Accountability Wizard, nonprofit organizations demonstrate responsibility, integrity and transparency to constituents.

We are also listed as a certified organization on the online Giving Guide of the Council’s Smart Givers Network, www.smartgivers.org and in the Council’s Smart Giver newsletter distributed to households, businesses and nonprofits. The Council’s Smart Givers Network is the one source of unbiased information where smart givers go for resources on informed giving. The general public can use this website to investigate an organization’s mission and programs and verify that the organization meets widely accepted standards.

You may also review our organizations most recent audit, annual report and 990 on our website at www.UnitedWaySWMN.org. These documents detail program investments. You can also email us at unitedway@unitedwayswmn.org to request a copy.

Myth #7: Donations to United Way of Southwest Minnesota support church-related activities.

Answer: Wrong.

FACT: United Way of Southwest Minnesota community partner programs offer a wide range of services including some that might be affiliated with a local church or churches. These programs are supported because they meet a critical community need. United Way of Southwest Minnesota funds only health and human service programs, not religious activities.

Myth #8: United Way of Southwest Minnesota only supports programs for the poor.

Answer: Incorrect.

FACT: United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. In southwest Minnesota, we focus on health, education, financial stability, hunger and safety & well-being. More than 50,000 local people are being served in 2017-18 through United Way of Southwest Minnesota initiatives, community partner programs and partnerships. We never know when we might be in need of help, and everyone benefits from living and working in a healthy community.

Myth #9: I only have a few dollars to give and that can’t possibly make a difference.

Answer: Incorrect

FACT: Every dollar just like every person makes a difference. When combined those funds are a force for good in our community. United Way of Southwest Minnesota depends on the generous support of everyone in the community. By everyone doing their part, we can continue to provide these critical services to those in need. More than 3,000 individuals, families, service organizations, clubs, schools, foundations and businesses contributed to our previous campaign. Gifts ranged in size from less than a $1 to tens of thousands of dollars. When many entities give it adds up and makes a remarkable difference throughout the region.

Myth #10: I’ve seen a chart on the Internet which states United Way hardly gives any money to those who need it and their CEO is vastly overpaid. I’d rather give funds to organizations on the chart “on the top half” because they are the only ones doing things right.

Answer: Wrong.

FACT: We believe donors have the right to contribute funds to organizations and causes that make a difference and an impact. The chart referenced (and others similar to it) that appear on social media is inaccurate for ALL charities listed. Accurate information should always be pulled from a nonprofit’s 990, audit and annual report. Reputable charities make them available on their websites. This information is also a matter of public record. Those documents include information such as what are charities spending funds on, top staff pay level, etc., etc. The United Way of Southwest Minnesota is our own independent nonprofit organization reporting to our own local board of directors. You can view our 990 and financials on our web-site at www.UnitedWaySWMN.org. You will also find a list of our current board of directors and staff on the site. Our auditor is Dana F. Cole & Company with a local office located in Marshall. Our organization was awarded the Charities Review Council Meet Standards seal which addresses a nonprofits performance in: Public Disclosure, Governance, Financial Activity and Fundraising Practices. You can also view our profile at www.smartgivers.org.

United Way of Southwest Minnesota takes pride in the fact that 84 cents of every dollar donated is invested in local people and programming. Data taken from our 2015-16 audit shows our overhead ratio, computed using the net method at 16 percent. Of that percentage, 10.36 percent is local fundraising expenses and 5.64 percent is local administrative expenses.

For more information about your local United Way visit www.UnitedWaySWMN.org.