We think it is extremely important for complete consolidated financial information about United Way of Southern Illinois to be readily available to the public. You may contact our office to request full copies of our latest tax returns, and we will be happy to answer any questions you might have about it.
As you think about United Way of Southern Illinois (UWSI), it's important to keep in mind that we are an independent organization. We have ten Advisory Board zones, each governed by local volunteers from its communities, serving 14 southern Illinois counties. Each Advisory Board is represented by three members on our Board of Directors, which makes all of the financial, legal and operational decisions for UWSI.
Although we proudly commit ourselves to the rigorous set of "Standards of Excellence" suggested by the United Way Worldwide, we are not a subordinate "branch" or "chapter" of any national or state organization. Instead, we are members of a collaborative national network of independent United Way organizations, each of which voluntarily seeks to maintain the strict requirements for ethical conduct and operational efficiency that are necessary to be recognized for United Way membership. We each pay a membership fee to United Way of America - a fee fairly matched to our level of contributions - in order to have access to such benefits as:
- Advanced training opportunities and educational materials for our staff and volunteers
- A wealth of United Way campaign and brand management resources
- Innovative national programs that can be tailored to help solve local problems
- Expert advice from a broad range of nationally renowned consultants
- Opportunities to be a positive force in lobbying for legislative and regulatory changes to benefit our communities and help solve long-term community problems.
However, no one outside UWSI's region tells us what must be done with the donations we receive or how they must be spent. That's the job solely of the UWSI Board of Directors, who make decisions based on their knowledge of the United Way system and their intimate familiarity with the needs and wishes of the communities they represent.
As a consequence, the donations that generously support our work in southern Illinois do not flow to some remote location. They are not under the control of anyone beyond our region. They are carefully earmarked and kept secure in UWSI accounts in local banks - and they are controlled by the local volunteers who serve on their zone's Advisory Board and the UWSI Board of Directors.
For example, an unrestricted contribution made to UWSI from within our 14-county region will be held exclusively for the Advisory Board zone from which it was donated. To increase its power to make a significant community impact, it will then be joined with similar donations from that zone. Finally, it will be allocated to support only the work of local programs in that zone. And decisions about which organizations to fund and how much to award to them are made exclusively by the local volunteers from that zone's Advisory Board, which are reviewed and ratified by the UWSI Board of Directors. Unless someone specifically tells us to handle their donation differently, it will stay in their community!
Part of the money raised in the Advisory Board zones is used for "Management and General Expenses." Most of that money goes to support a small regional professional staff and central office location in Marion. The staff takes care of all the accounting and financial reporting for the Advisory Boards, as well as providing an extensive range of services to board members, volunteers, agencies and the public. Here are just a few of the things they do: order and distribute campaign supplies; create and produce original materials for local campaigns and special events; manage the web site you're now using; act as a point of contact for local and regional print and electronic media; manage local and regional mass mailings; provide regional coordination of special events and community impact initiatives; offer training for volunteers and workplace campaign coordinators; and help agencies publicize their work and their needs for support. The decision to turn almost all of the "detail" work over to a centralized staff in a single office is one that was made locally, by each Advisory Board, and not something that was imposed on them. The ten Advisory Boards have realized, for example, that it is much less expensive (in terms of both time and money) to pay for one annual audit of UWSI's combined and centralized financial operations than it would be to conduct ten separate annual audits to cover all of the zones in our region!
Aside from vigorously protecting confidential information about our donors, we truly practice a policy of "open door and open books" when it comes to our financial operations. We consider ourselves honored to be the trusted stewards of donations we receive - and we welcome intense scrutiny of our financial operations and decisions. We arrange each year for an independent audit to help us check our work and keep improving at the increasingly complex task of enhancing donor's choices and then tracking the course and impact of their contributions. We not only want to be strictly accurate and completely accountable when we handle financial matters. We also want to help create better ways for our donors to learn exactly what happens to their donations, from the point we receive them to the point when they make final community impact.