Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)



What is United Way?

United Way is the world’s largest philanthropic network, raising around $5 billion per year. Its global mission is to fight for the education, income, and health of all community residents. United Way Worldwide (UWW), headquarters for the movement, is based in Alexandria, VA. UWW provides services and sets standards of operational excellence for local United Ways. UWW also works on broad national and international humanitarian issues.

United Way of Northern California (UWNC) is one of approximately 1,200 local United Ways in the United States. Another 600 local United Ways operate in more than 40 other countries. Each local United Way operates autonomously; all decisions about how money is raised and spent in each community are made by the local board of directors.

What does United Way of Northern California do?

UWNC provides direct support and services to residents of Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity counties. We also support the efforts of civic and nonprofit agencies doing good work in the areas of education, income, and health. We do so by:

  • Operating 2-1-1 in Shasta, Tehama and Siskiyou counties, and supporting the work of Help Central Inc., which operates 2-1-1 in Butte and Glenn counties. 2-1-1 is the dialing code for a social services helpline available for free 24/7, all year. The service also is available for all Northern California counties online at
  • Helping the community in emergencies like wildfires, and supporting long-term wildfire recovery
  • Providing financial support through the VITA free tax preparation program, CalSavers retirement savings program and Bank On for local individuals who do not have a bank account
  • Fundraising on behalf of the nonprofit sector
  • Awarding grants to nonprofit agencies
  • Operating Volunteer NorCal, a website that matches volunteers to nonprofit agencies
  • Leading Collective Impact initiatives that bring business, government, nonprofits and faith organizations together to tackle complex community issues
  • Supporting the Redding Shasta Homeless Continuum of Care and other efforts to help homeless individuals in our community

Who runs United Way of Northern California?

UWNC is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. The current chair is Sonia Aery, owner of an Allstate Insurance agency in Chico. Larry Olmstead, president & CEO, leads staff and reports to the Board.

How do I get help from United Way of Northern California?

If you live in Shasta, Tehama or Siskiyou counties, call 2-1-1. If you live in another county we serve, contact us by filling out this form: UWNC Services form. You can also call us at (530) 241-7521.


How can I donate to United Way of Northern California?

You can…

  • Click here to electronically give a one-time or recurring donation using your credit/debit card or PayPal account.
  • Using your cellular phone, text UWNC to 41444 to make a one-time or recurring donation with a credit/debit card.
  • Join our WORKPLACE GIVING campaign if offered by your employer. Donate through payroll deduction.
  • Drop off a check at our office. We are at 3300 Churn Creek Road, Redding, California 96002. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on weekdays.

Please call us at 530-241-7521 if you have questions or need more information.

How are donations spent?

Most money is sent out to the community through services to individuals, the 2-1-1 helpline and grants to nonprofit agencies. Overhead is kept to 15-20%; 25-35% is considered an acceptable norm in the nonprofit arena.

Will my donations help fund United Way operations outside Northern California?

No. Every dollar raised by UWNC is spent in our home region, unless a donor directs otherwise.

Why should I donate to United Way when I can give directly to the charity of my choice?

United Way encourages you to give as your conscience dictates. By giving to UWNC, you are assured that the money will be distributed locally, and to organizations that have been vetted carefully by our staff and our volunteer Community Impact Committee.

Are my donations tax-deductible?

Yes, to the extent allowed by law. UWNC is registered as a 501(c)(3) charitable entity by the Internal Revenue Service.

If I donate, are my personal details and financial information secure?

Absolutely. Unless compelled by law, we will not share your information with anyone – United Way Worldwide, other United Ways, other organizations – anyone. We will not sell lists of names to marketing vendors or anyone else. Our files are kept secure internally under strict protocols.

Mission and Programs

What is 2-1-1?

2-1-1 is designated by the Federal Communications Commission as the three-digit dialing code for health and human services information and referrals. United Way operates 2-1-1 NorCal, which provides this service in Shasta, Tehama, and Siskiyou counties. 2-1-1 is also available in Butte and Glenn counties, where it is operated by Help Central, Inc.

Callers reach live specialists who guide them to information about any health and human service needs. Most calls involve basic needs – food, shelter, utility bills and rent assistance. Mental health, alcohol and drug counseling and domestic violence also are frequent topics. Call specialists can quickly pinpoint where to get help, saving callers time and cutting through red tape.

2-1-1 specialists take calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Calls are free, confidential and can be handled in any language. Information also is available online for all Northern California counties at

What is Collective Impact?

Collective Impact is a structured approach to bringing different agencies, organizations and individuals together to work on a deeply entrenched, complex community issue, based on the understanding that no one entity can solve most community problems. The concept was introduced in 2011 in a Stanford Social Innovation Review article written by John Kania and Mark Kramer, who identified five key “conditions” for organizations involved in a successful Collective Impact initiative:

  • Common agenda
  • Common progress measures
  • Mutually reinforcing activities
  • Communications
  • Backbone organizations that provide administration, coordination and support

United Way has endorsed and implemented Collective Impact as a means of driving change. As an example, UWNC was the backbone agency for the Prosperity Initiative, a Shasta County-based project aimed at breaking cycles of poverty.

How does UWNC choose which agencies to support financially?

Our volunteer Board of Directors approves grant disbursements, based on recommendations from the Community Impact Committee, which is composed of volunteers from across different sectors who are highly respected for their community involvement. Preference is given to organizations offering programs that are aligned with education, income and health, and other stated priorities of UWNC. Organizations must match other criteria, including possessing a track record of successful program implementation.

How does my organization apply for a grant?

From time to time UWNC issues Requests for Proposals for various grant opportunities. To learn more click here:  If you have a specific program you would like to pitch email

Does United Way offer volunteer opportunities?

Yes, and we encourage all to get involved and make a difference in the community. Generally, three types of volunteer activities are available:

  1. Volunteer leadership – service on our Board of Directors or a Board committee such as Community Impact, Finance, Governance or Campaign (fundraising). If you are interested, contact Larry Olmstead at
  2. Outreach – attending events and spreading the word about the mission of United Way and/or 2-1-1. Contact Outreach Manager Cherish Padro at
  3. Events –  including VITA and community based events, contact Cherish Padro at