Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question about United Way? Check the list of frequently asked questions below or feel free to contact us.

About United Way

United Way of Calgary and Area exists to improve local lives.

United Way brings people together to solve complex social issues and improve local lives. We partner with local experts and community ambassadors, strategically invest to create lasting social change, and collaborate to ensure no one is left behind. United Way invests in programs and collaborations with common outcomes, brings people together to coordinate systems change, and designs solutions that address root causes to create lasting social change. Collectively, this work deepens community impact.

All donations to United Way stay local, where they are invested in agencies, initiatives, and programs in Calgary and the surrounding area — including Airdrie, Chestermere, Cochrane, High River, Okotoks, and Strathmore.

No. Canada has over 80 United Ways that are autonomous and operated by a voluntary Board of Directors within the communities they serve. While we are part of a worldwide movement that allows us to maximize efficiencies and cost advantages, each United Way works locally to raise funds and invests in its own, local community.

Yes. United Way works with government at all levels to create, improve, and redefine what a strong network of support looks like for our community. Part of this work can be advocating for policies that address underlying causes of social issues. These types of changes create lasting social change for vulnerable populations. While the ultimate goal is to prevent these issues from happening in the first place, United Way recognizes that policy barriers exist at municipal, provincial, and federal levels. By advocating for change around these social policies, United Way can advocate for vulnerable people, create a more significant impact in our community, and ensure everyone has the opportunities to thrive.

Supporting United Way

Your investment with United Way stays local and is strategically invested right where you live, work, and raise your family. When you donate to United Way, you’re supporting more than one local agency or service—you’re supporting an entire local social service sector working together to improve lives and ensure people have access to the supports they need the most, when and where they need them.

Donating to United Way supports multiple agency partners, strategic programs, research, and building capacity in the sector to efficiently and effectively serve the community. As the connector to corporations, agencies, donors, volunteers, and governments, United Way is uniquely positioned to understand our community’s greatest needs and align resources to create lasting change.

United Way also holds itself accountable to donors, rigorously measuring and monitoring investments, and reporting back to donors on the impact of their donation annually. United Way generates high return on community investment and works collaboratively to create the greatest possible impact.

United Way of Calgary and Area complies with the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Donor Bill of Rights and is committed to protecting the privacy of your personal information. The information you provide is used to assist in the administration and acknowledgement of your gift, to issue tax receipts, and to fulfill your information questions. We do not release donor names unless requested by the donor. Learn more in our privacy policy.

Never. No one should feel pressured to give, and everyone should be able to make their own, informed choice.

If you provided your email, you should have received your tax receipt automatically. If you can’t find it, or have any questions about your tax receipt, please contact our donor services team by calling 403-410-2576 or email uwtaxes@calgaryunitedway.org.

Administration costs

Thanks to our volunteers, United Way of Calgary and Area has one of the lowest fundraising costs in Canada. In 2020, United Way estimates fundraising and related operating costs will be between 14 and 16 per cent. This is well below the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)’s acceptable level of 35 per cent. Administrative costs, in part, also fund initiatives that drive systems change and capacity building of the social sector—work that brings great value to our community.

United Way files an annual T3010 with Canada Revenue Agency and our financials are audited annually by an independent auditor. To see United Way’s detailed financial statements, visit calgaryunitedway.org/financials.

Our fundraising and administrative costs increased after holding steady for five years because of the disruption to the non-profit sector, and we are responding to the changes that go along with that. We are working hard to contain costs and leveraging efficiencies, while maintaining and increasing access to vital community services.

The non-profit sector, including United Way, is experiencing significant disruption as online giving evolves, philanthropic trends change, and demographics shift. While these changes have impacted donations to charities, the demand for social services is increasing. People who once donated to local organizations are now relying on their services. This already constrained environment has been exacerbated with the economic impact of COVID-19, high unemployment rates, and ongoing economic turbulence.

While United Way has not been immune from this disruption, we have chosen to lean in and embrace new technologies, new ways of innovating, and new ways of working. To adapt and keep pace with consumer demand and expectations, United Way is strategically investing in social and digital innovation opportunities—which will enable United Way to further support the social sector in the future. It is important to note that funds which support agency program investments are NOT being used to support our digital transformation.

United Way has been able to keep fundraising and administration costs relatively flat and continue significant investments into the community during this time by drawing on reserves.

United Way continues to have one of the lowest fundraising costs among charitable organizations.

All salaries at United Way, including senior management, are benchmarked against other Canadian non-profit organizations of similar size and scope. United Way of Calgary and Area is in compliance with the required T3010 regulatory reporting to CRA for its executive compensation; the latest T3010 data can be viewed on the CRA’s website.

United Way holds itself accountable to its donors, and invests donated resources as wisely, efficiently, and effectively as possible, generating a high return on community investment. We rigorously monitor and report on the impact of our investments so donors can be confident their investment is making a positive difference.

In addition, United Way routinely earns top rankings from a variety of organizations that benchmark against other Canadian non-profits of similar scope and size. United Way has a 4/4 star rating on Charity Intelligence for our financial and reporting transparency, accountability to donors, and overhead costs. MoneySense’s Charity 100, which rates 100 of the biggest charities in Canada based on finances and transparency, rated United Way as an A+ charity in 2019. United Way of Calgary and Area was also ranked among the top 10 charities on Maclean’s list of top 100 rated charities in Canada.

We encourage people to explore measures of success of a charity for its effectiveness, efficiencies, and transparency, in addition to its finances.

United Way relies on volunteers, collaborations, strategic partnerships, and economies of scale to find efficiencies. In 2019, over 34,000 volunteers contributed their time and we worked with more than 80 local agencies to deliver programs to achieve common goals. Corporations can also send an employee to work at United Way for four months, helping increase the number of staff every fall at no cost to United Way. Partnerships also ensure donations go further in the community through numerous sponsorships, pro-bono, and discounted rates on things like advertising and marketing materials.

Designating to other charities

Donor choice or “Donor Designation” is an added service United Way offers to its donors that allows them to direct their gift to any registered charity in Canada. United Way’s core business is about making a measurable difference by focusing on our community priorities. The time and resources devoted to processing donor choice designations are costly and take us away from dedicating time to support our core business. The $16 processing fee offsets the administration cost and ensures United Way can continue to meet the needs in our community.

There is a cost to United Way to provide this service. The designation fee remained unchanged for more than 12 years, despite administrative processing costs increasing over the same time, and an adjustment was required to help offset these costs. As United Way is fundraising on behalf of the designated agency, no additional fee is taken off your donation by your designated charity.

Funding and investment decisions

As part of United Way’s stewardship of donor dollars, there is a rigorous process in place to ensure the best investment of resources. Experienced staff and volunteers make investment decisions based on community needs, research, and funding criteria. United Way invests to minimize duplication among programs and looks for measurable results, quality performance, and innovative approaches to solving social issues.

All United Way investments are guided by our Board-approved Community Impact Strategy and annual reviews are conducted. For co-funded programs and initiatives, we work with governments and other funders to ensure funding is complementary and not duplicating existing efforts.

For signature initiatives, like All In for Youth and Community Hubs, investment decisions are guided by conditions needed for collective impact to achieve large-scale social change: a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support organizations.

Like many charitable organizations in Calgary, Alberta, and Canada, United Way has felt the influences of a turbulent economy, the digital revolution, and changing philanthropic trends. With the current disruption in the social sector and the impact of COVID-19, United Way has had to reconsider budgets and community investments, and shift its direction towards a more holistic approach to deepening community impact.

Yes. Some programs are designed as pilots and specifically funded for a pre-determined duration. Other reasons for discontinuing funding may include an agency’s governance, accountability, outcome measurement shortfall, or simply no longer requiring United Way funding due to other funding sources, such as government grants. Before ending funding, United Way always engages in discussion with the agency to explore options that may help remedy performance or accountability issues, implement efficiency building strategies, or engage United Way volunteers to assist with governance, financial management, or program delivery.

Sasha HullFrequently Asked Questions