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United Way in History


In 1887, a Denver priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s human service needs. These leaders put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for 22 health and human service agencies.  They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred.  That year, Denver raised $21,700 and created a movement that would spread throughout the country to become the United Way. Over 125 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives.


United Way of Northern California was started in 1953 by a group of community members who wanted to make a positive local impact. It began with Shasta County and over the years grew to encompass the current serving area of Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Tehama, Trinity, Shasta, and Siskiyou counties.

Over the 65 years we have been in service, the United Way of Northern California has raised millions of dollars for hundreds of agencies and programs, benefiting thousands of community members in their serving area. We are truly local: we have local volunteer board leadership and all funds raised in each of our counties stay in those counties.

Today, United Way of Northern California raises funds to benefit 28 local non-profit organizations. We are also taking a leadership position in our community's Collective Impact initiatives to advance opportunities for Education, Income, and Health for all community members.

Through our membership with United Way Worldwide, the United Way of Northern California has access to a worldwide network of community-based United Ways, allowing us to have global resources while impacting our local communities. 


United Way Today

United Way is the world's largest privately funded non-profit organization and local United Ways are present in nearly 1,800 communities in over 40 countries. Collectively, United Way raises $4.7 billion and mobilizes nearly 3 million volunteers each year. 

When you give through United Way, you can rest assured that your donations are being used wisely. United Ways have strict compliance guidelines and we consistently top the Forbes best charities list.