Frequently Asked Questions




United Way is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) agency that brings people together to create a thriving community. We partner with local nonprofits, businesses, government and social service agencies to address our community's most pressing needs.

While our office is located in Tacoma, United Way of Pierce County supports the entire Pierce County community. We make an intentional effort to fund programs and initiatives that serve the whole community and while we recognize that some areas need more help than others, we are committed to making sure the needs of the entire county are reflected in our work.

United Way of Pierce County is a professionally staffed organization with oversight by our volunteer board of directors. Our Board of Directors represents many different areas of the community including labor, nonprofits, education and corporations. The volunteers serving on our board approve all policy and investment decisions made at United Way of Pierce County.

There are 1800  community-based United Ways across the world and each is separately incorporated and independently governed by local volunteers. Many of these organizations are similar in their mission and structure, but some are very different.

We pay an annual membership contribution for the rights to use the name and logo and support broader community impact goals through United Way Worldwide, an umbrella organization that attacks the same problems on a national and global level, and provides guidance, training and development services to local United Ways. These dues are less than 1 percent of each dollar contributed. Contributions raised in our county stay here and decisions about which programs to invest in and which partnerships to pursue are made here in our local community.

United Way of Pierce County is focused breaking the cycle of poverty by removing barriers and focusing on long-term solutions. We work to create strong families, stable individuals and successful kids, which in turn, will help our community, thrive.

Thanks to our generous community, last year we raised a total of $7.102 million dollars through revenue from workplace campaigns, including individual and family donations, grants and in-kind donations.

United Way of Pierce County is one of the most cost-effective organizations in the country. While we do have a low administrative fee, the unique work of United Way allows us to turn every dollar donated into $1.25 invested in the community. Our average administrative rate over the past five years is 17.5 percent. You can trust your gift is being used wisely, as the Better Business Bureau has recognized United Way of Pierce County as a Western Washington Charity Seal Holder through their Wise Giving Guide based on our rate, transparency, and efficiency.

United Way combines financial gifts with grants, in-kind product donations and volunteer service to amplify gifts further. The work of United Way also leverages local, state and private funding to make your donation do even more. United Way of Pierce County researches the issues, advocates for state funding, secures grants for local efforts and administers vital programs like South Sound 2-1-1.

While we are known for our fundraising efforts, many people do not know that United Way leverages gifts received to turn a $1 gift into over $1.25 in value to the community.

There are many organizations out there doing great work in their area of specialty. What is unique about the work of United Way of Pierce County is that we don’t just help with one need. After nearly 100 years as a leading non-profit organization, we recognize that a person in need typically has more than one need. We also don’t just fund programs: we work collaboratively with other nonprofits and municipalities to look at the systems that support those issues. We collaborate to examine places where our efforts intersect to identify and fund gaps in the system. We also support both approaches with our advocacy and volunteer efforts, resources like the South Sound 2-1-1 call center that links thousands of individuals in Pierce County each year to needed services.

Before United Way of Pierce County invests $1 in a program, our volunteers thoroughly research the program, the agency and the services it provides to determine which services best meet the needs of people in our community.  After an investment is made, those volunteers continue to evaluate the program and make sure that your money is being used wisely and affecting lives.

United Way’s Investment Review Panel volunteers have the important job of studying the human service needs, strengths and resources in Pierce County. These local volunteers review applications for funds, visit programs and research issues to determine which services best meet the needs of people in our community. Who decides? Local volunteers, people like you.

All programs funded through the United Way of Pierce County investment process are required to document and report annually on pre-agreed upon outcomes. All investments to advance collaborative work in areas such as early learning, housing, health care and economic security have agreed-upon quantifiable outcomes.

Gifts that are not designated by the donor to another nonprofit through our community campaign create the Breaking the Cycle Fund. The majority of our 10,000 donors do not designate their gift, so the Breaking the Cycle Fund creates a sustainable base of resources to keep over a hundred human service programs serving people in need in Pierce County.

Giving to the Breaking the Cycle Fund is the best way to help the most people. Your gifts to the Breaking the Cycle Fund are investments in Children and Families, helping them reach their potential and be successful. Your gift to the Breaking the Cycle Fund also supports our most vulnerable by providing basic needs and supportive services.

No. Designated and undesignated gifts to United Way of Pierce County are distributed separately.

Every gift counts. When you reach out a hand to one, you influence the condition of all. Even a modest pledge per pay period can help provide vital services to people in need in our community. By giving though payroll deduction, you can spread your gift throughout the year. Your gift, combined with that of your friends, neighbors and co-workers, adds up and can truly make a difference in our community.

You can also volunteer your time through United Way's Volunteer Center or donate new and gently-used goods.

While you may not access the services funded by United Way of Pierce County, we all can benefit from a thriving community. By investing in children and their families, we empower them to break the cycle of poverty, which will ultimately result in better neighbors, a more employable workforce and fewer people who rely on services for their basic needs. Additionally, you, a family member, friend or coworker may have already used the services of United Way partner agencies without realizing it.

You can give securely online by credit card. You may also mail a check to:

United Way of Pierce County
1501 Pacific Ave, Suite 400
Tacoma, WA 98402

South Sound 2-1-1, operated by United Way of Pierce County, can connect you to vital community resources—from job training programs and childcare to counseling services and financial assistance. Staffed by trained referral specialists, this confidential help line is free.

Just dial 2-1-1 from any landline or access the 2-1-1 database via our web site or the 2-1-1 app.

United Way of Pierce County offer many Volunteer Opportunities. We match thousands of people annually to volunteer projects with United Way community partners throughout Pierce County. Volunteers help these nonprofits achieve their missions and make a lasting difference in our community.

Agencies interested in United Way funding can apply for a grant during the application process. United Way of Pierce County funds on a three-year cycle and applications will be accepted in the summer of 2019.

Companies in Pierce County are making a difference by partnering with United Way. Learn more about how you can get involved by contacting Missy Zenczak at (253) 682-1805 or