Our Impact - United Ways of California

Our Impact

United Ways advance opportunities for people to lead successful lives by focusing on the three key building blocks of a good life: education, income, and health. California’s United Ways are independent public charities, governed by local community leaders, that pursue strategies tailored to local needs, but they all share the same mission, brand, focus areas, and approach.

Inspired by their progress in working together statewide to promote health coverage for all California children, in 2008 California’s United Ways decided to create a staffed organization to devote full-time attention to increasing collaboration and expanding their network impact.

In the years since, United Ways of California and our network of United Ways have expanded our advocacy and programmatic incentives to include economic mobility and education initiatives.

We know we cannot “social service” our way to equitable and just communities. Changing the environment is the highest level of strategic impact United Way – or any philanthropy – could hope to achieve, and advocating for such change, therefore is central to achieving our mission. This is why “Give, Advocate, Volunteer” is our call to action, and why we advocate to change large-scale systems to improve the odds of success for low-income families and communities – and advocacy is a central strategy for achieving community impact.

For us, advancing the common good means repairing systems to help all of us not just survive, but thrive.

Our approach also puts United Ways in the middle of changing policies, implementing the changes and then continuously improving them through further changes. In the best case, it becomes a virtuous cycle, and so “winning the implementation” is a mantra we follow.

Lyft rides dispersed across CA for health, employment, school, family connections, and social service appointments from April 2021-today

Californians screened for low-cost internet programs via website calculator and text flows from September 2020-today

Californians enrolled into low-cost internet programs from September 2020-today

Federal returns submitted through our free tax prep programs


Giving Back to the Community

“My favorite part of volunteering is being able to help people. There’s a real need in the community. It’s a way to bring money back into the community.”
– Paul, a long-time free tax prep volunteer in Orange County


Understanding Taxes

“Through VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), I learned that I qualified for business write-offs I didn’t know about. Now, I volunteer and help others learn about taxes. We really comfort people and put their mind at ease.”
– Alexis O., a young, self-employed professional in Los Angeles who found out through free tax prep that she qualified to lower her tax liability by $2000.


Empowering communities with free tax prep

“This is a chance to learn how to do something different, something I have never done before and that can go back to helping my community.”
– Sandra P., a dedicated VITA client turned volunteer, mother of three adult children, and United Ways of California Ambassador, finds joy in supporting others and maximizing their tax benefits through free tax assistance.


Life changing tax credits

“Once you’re living check by check it’s hard to save – especially when you have four kids and you’re helping out your parents. It all adds up! Having that money there motivates you.”
– Ivonne S., a working mother of five who utilized United Way’s financial mobility programs in Santa Rosa.


Building resilience in uncertain times

“When COVID-19 hit, things got really tight there for a while.… Using United Way of the Wine Country’s EKS free tax filing program was such a blessing. It is no small thing to have a roof over our heads and food in the fridge in times like this.”
– Fanny P., a working mother who accessed $3500 in federal and state tax credits by using United Way’s financial mobility programs in Santa Rosa

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