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What Matters®. about United eWay


United eWay has partnered with GuideStar to process workplace donations faster and more efficiently.

Every fall, hundreds of United Way affiliates conduct workplace-giving campaigns. United eWay, a wholly owned subsidiary of the United Way of America, offers a suite of tools to make that job easier for the local affiliates conducting the campaigns.

Unfortunately, until recently, making things easier for local United Ways was making things harder for United eWay. Every autumn, United eWay staff members had to devote hours to screening and researching the organizations designated to receive contributions. Now, though, by relying on GuideStar (a) to verify the 501(c)(3) public charity status of each nonprofit and (b) to ensure that the correct charity is identified to receive each pledge, United eWay has freed up vital staff time.

It's a win-win situation. United Way affiliates receive even faster pledge processing, United eWay employees get to concentrate on their primary responsibilities, and GuideStar obtains updated contact information for charities in the GuideStar database.

Pay No Attention to That Organization behind the Curtain

So how does it work? For the most part (thanks to a lot of advance preparation by both United eWay and GuideStar), it's fairly painless. United eWay data are imported into GuideStar's database, a special program links the pledges to the appropriate nonprofits, and United eWay uses that information to process and direct the actual payroll deductions. All of these steps occur automatically, behind the scenes for both GuideStar and United eWay.

Sometimes, though, the automated process can't identify which charity is supposed to receive a specific pledge. Those pledges and their possible matches are sent to a GuideStar staff member, who painstakingly reviews them—One. By. One. Again, although GuideStar staff is now involved, all of this happens behind the scenes for United eWay.

On Second Thought, Please Do Pay Attention to That Organization behind the Curtain

When a GuideStar employee can't put a pledge with a nonprofit, he or she calls the nonprofit (or nonprofits) to obtain the information needed to make the match. Here's where United eWay sometimes gets involved. In this age of scams and frauds targeting nonprofits, many of which start with a phone call, it's not surprising that many charities are suspicious when we call them. The organizations in turn contact United eWay.

Good for them. Just last month we urged readers to beware of a new telephone scam, so we understand your caution. This time, though, that phone call really is legit.

How Will You Know That It's Really GuideStar?

If you are with a nonprofit contacted by GuideStar on behalf of United eWay, there are a few ways you can confirm that the call is legitimate:

  • We will never ask you for financial information in connection with this project—or during any other call that we initiate.

    The only time a GuideStar staff member will  ever ask for financial information is when  you contact us to say you're having trouble making a purchase from our site or with questions about a transaction. Period. No exceptions.

    It hasn't happened yet, but in case it ever does: If someone calls your organization, says they're calling from GuideStar on behalf of United eWay, and starts asking for your bank account, debit card, or credit card information, don't give it to them. Instead, hang up and call us at 1-800-784-9378 immediately.

  • We will ask you to confirm your Employer Identification Number (EIN), address, and telephone number.

    In case you're wondering, your EIN is public information. It's on your advance ruling letter or letter of determination, which are public documents. If your nonprofit files a 990, it's in the heading of your 990, which is also a public document.

    Whey do we need your EIN? Because it's unique to each nonprofit that has one, and it's the best way to ensure that contributions reach the correct organization.

  • We may ask you for a copy of your advance ruling, letter of determination, or listing in an official denominational directory.

    If your organization is not already on GuideStar, we'll need to confirm your 501(c)(3) public charity status before United eWay can direct contributions to you. Usually, we do that by asking you to fax us a copy of your IRS advance ruling letter or letter of determination (the IRS documents that confirm that your organization is tax exempt).

    If your organization is faith based and does not have either an advance ruling letter or a letter of determination, we'll ask you to fax us a copy of your listing in an official denominational directory, such as the Kenedy (yes, that's the correct spelling) directory for the Catholic Church.

  • You can call us back at 1-800-784-9378 and ask to be transferred to the person who called.

    That way there will be no doubt that you're talking to GuideStar.
Suzanne E. Coffman, March 2006
© 2006, Philanthropic Research, Inc. (GuideStar)

Suzanne Coffman is GuideStar's director of communications and editor of the Newsletter. She has had absolutely nothing to do with the success of the United eWay-GuideStar partnership but admires the hard work of her many colleagues who are contributing to this project.

What matters.® is a registered trademark of the United Way of America.
Topics: Charitable Giving