UWRA History

United Way Retires Association (UWRA)

History:  UWRA was started in 1989 by United Way alumni to promote the continued involvement of United Way retirees/alumni, and to educate the non-profit sector on the advantages of utilizing the skills and expertise of former staff.  UWRA received 501 (c) 3 public charity status in 2001; and membership includes approximately 500 individual members (current and former staff), and 200 supporting United Ways. UWRA is a resource for the United Way network serving United Way organizations and their current/former staff through a portfolio of programs, projects, and special initiatives. 


Historical Highlights

  • 1989 – UWRA created.  Gordon Berg, UWRA co-founder along with Chuck Devine and former CEO, United Way in Charlotte, NC appointed first UWRA president. 
  • 1990 – By-laws developed. First formal gathering of UWRA in Anaheim, CA.  Adopted organizational structure and by-laws.  Chose governing body. 
  • 1991 – UWA Support.  UWRA received cash grant for $50,000 and in-kind services from United Way of America (UWA). 
  • 1992Updates newsletter premier edition published. 
  • 2000 – UWRA recruited members for Service Corps.  Website, www.UWRA.org, was launched.  Member access to insurance products at group rates made available. First partnership agreement with UWA. 
  • 2001 – UWRA became a 501 (c) 3 organization.   UWRA implemented the Mentoring, Planned Giving, and Crisis Consultant Programs and adopted a Strategic Plan.  The UWRA Endowment was approved for establishment within the Foundation For The Carolinas. 
  • 2002 - UWRA launched the Phone/Email Consulting Program to complement the other program offerings.  UWRA members serve in Interim positions in United Way organizations. 
  • 2003 – Initial fundraising and a feasibility study conducted for the UWRA Endowment Fund, designed to benefit local communities and UW retirees.  Started process for a Pre-Retirement Planning guide for those active professionals thinking about retirement. 
  • 2004 – A comprehensive history of the UW system: Grassroots Initiatives Shape an International Movement was written and published by UWRA member Dick Aft and his wife Mary Lu.  History effort was initiated and research funded by UWRA.  UWRA members surveyed to determine priorities for distribution of UWRA Endowment income.  UWRA Board kicks off Endowment with 100% giving. 
  • 2005 – Nationwide kick-off of the UWRA Endowment Fund.  Placed a retiree in hurricane affected area to help keep affected United Ways functioning.  Transitioned the Endowment and Planned Giving program from an introductory course to a more targeted in-depth program to get United Ways started along the process. The concept of developing a Pre-Retirement Planning Guide was borne out of UWRA’s perceived need (based on input from our membership) for a program to encourage local UWs to provide some type of retirement planning. 
  • 2006 – Published the Quickstart Guide for New United Way Executive Officers.  Effort was led by UWRA in collaboration with UWA and UW State Organizations.  Expanded the UWRA mentoring program and made considerable progress in developing a pre-retirement planning program to benefit all UW employees. Launched a revised Endowment and Planned Giving program providing on-site assistance to United Ways and conducted first Webinar titled Planned Giving: Retirees as a Resource for Small Cities. Part of the Response UWA Coordinated National Response (CNR) plan, which codifies UWA’s approach to crisis and consequence management.  Launched the UWRA Listserv to facilitate the exchange and sharing of ideas, questions, and answers among UWRA members and provide the UWRA office a vehicle to post relevant information regarding volunteer opportunities, interim paid UW positions, Webinars, upcoming events, etc. 
  • 2007 – Launched the Retirement Planning Program for UWRA members and United Way employees, addressing the critical need to understand key retirement planning issues and to provide tips and information to help in retirement living.  Two publications - It’s Never Too Early or Too Late to Plan for Your Retirement and Choosing a Financial Advisor were sent at no charge to all UWRA members and all United Way organizations. Developed a Retirement Planning corner on the UWRA website (www.UWRA.org) to provide valuable retirement planning information and links. Unveiled in November 2007 in the United Way of America national office a history banner display which portrays the history of the United Way movement with an overlay of UWRA’s accomplishments. 
  • 2008 – Added a million plus dollars to the UW system through Endowment and Planned Giving assistance to local UWs.  Updated the UWRA Strategic Plan.  Provided a model and assistance to other organizations on using retired personnel for volunteering and interim positions (e.g., assisted proposal development to the America Chamber of Conference Executives regarding the use of Chamber Retirees for Interim CEO Roles; contributed to a research study by the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations: The Departing Exiting Nonprofit Leaders as Resources for Social Change)  Forged a unique partnership of UW retirees, AARP, Community leaders, current UW HR staff, and UWA to assist in developing a program aimed at helping staff at all ages plan better for their retirement years.  Expanded use of Webinar technology - co-hosted an Endowment and Planned Giving Webinar, held the first Board web meeting, Expanded the UWRA Endowment Fund to 70 Founders/$275,000 helping to fund targeted programs that address UWRA priorities in ways not possible through annual revenue. Increased organizational effectiveness through technological solutions permitting a re-allocation of time/cost savings to mission centered work – implemented multiple listservs to expedite the relay and exchange of information and at the same time go green; and worked with Truist to develop a donor giving website that makes it easy to join UWRA as well as contribute annual dues, leadership and Endowment gifts. 
  • 2009 – Launched a system wide on-line mentoring system in cooperation with United Way Worldwide - UWRA provided financial assistance, development expertise and mentors.  UWRA included in UWW’s value proposition document.  The National Professional Council endorsed UWRA’s Strengthening Retirement Planning in the United Way System proposal.  Published a UW international history – Global Vision and Local Action written by Dick and Mary Lu Aft.  Worked to increase participation in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and distribution of the Common Good Forecaster.  Launched a Charitable Gift Annuity program for members.  Initiated a grant process for the Endowment and Planned Giving program to provide experienced support in the implementation stage thus increasing the probability that the local planned giving programs will be sustained and successful.   Established an Archive Committee to assist United Way Worldwide effectively organize and display archived materials. Began an updating process for the Quickstart Guide for new United Way Executives. 
  • 2010 – Signed an updated partnership agreement with United Way Worldwide with the goal of establishing an even more cohesive, stronger, productive partnership relationship between UWRA, UWW and local and statewide United Way organizations.  Conducted a review of the organization’s governing documents to ensure that they are up to date, clearly worded and consistent with current practice; amendments were proposed and affirmed by a membership vote and Articles of Restatement of the United Way Retirees Association were filed with the Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission. Provided guidance on history archive information to be displayed in The Commons in the Mary M. Gates Learning Center.  Joined UWW in advocating for the passage of Calling for 2-1-1 legislation.  Conducted surveys of members and United Ways to establish baseline satisfaction with UWRA services as a basis for continuing measurement.  
  • 2011 - Conducted a member study which included touching base with United Way leadership and a sample of individual members to gain additional insight into the needs/wants of UWRA’s service recipients and partners. Launched a newly designed branded website to more clearly convey UWRA’s value and services.  Expanded the retirement planning initiative by launching a Webinar series on hot topics of interest.  Webinar #1 Planning for Retirement in an Era of Uncertainty!! was on the critical importance of lifelong retirement planning and provided tips on how to be better prepared for retirement, common retirement planning mistakes, planning ideas by age group, and lessons learned by United Way colleagues. Added a second UWRA gathering to the annual agenda.
  • 2012  - Retirement Planning series continued with Webinar #2, Helping United Way Staff Plan for Retirement which was geared to CEOs and HR Professionals to initiate a dialogue between United Ways around some major retirement issues and ways that they may be able to help their employees to plan more effectively for their retirement. Provided help to numerous United Ways interested in strengthening/developing a planned giving program; and presented on this topic at the Great Rivers Conference.  In cooperation with United Way Worldwide deployed a UWRA volunteer on an international assignment to help reestablish a United Way partner organization in Malaysia. 
  • 2013 - Webinar series continued with #3, The Process of Retirement Planning/Estate Planning which provided a general framework for beginning the retirement planning process including estate planning considerations, the importance of personal goal setting, and incorporating one’s values into the planning process.  Offered personal coaching assistance to local United Ways around establishing Endowment and Planned Giving programs adding over 2 million in expectancies to the network through this program; and co-presented on this topic at the Major and Planned Giving Institute.  Continued to facilitate mentoring/coaching relationships and interim staff placement.   Created a Voices of Experience video shared at the New Presidents Forum.  More than doubled the UWRA Gold Standard United Ways (i.e., United Ways paying the $20 annual dues for retirees/alumni).  On behalf of UWW, did keynote presentation at a State Department program, "The Importance of Non-Profit Organizations in the U.S."  Facilitated discussions to assist a Peace Corps group explore establishing a United Way in the country of Moldova. 
  • 2014 - Webinar series continued with #4, Don't Let the Future Surprise You focused on the non-financial side of retirement planning/living in retirement; and #5 Reorienting after Career offering an interactive forum to discuss issues related to the work to retirement transition.  Received $5,000 in grant monies from the IBM Community Service Grant Program to expand the retirement planning initiative. Activities and consulation around helping United Ways start or strengthen planned giving programs was very active with over 25 United Ways referred to UWRA for assistance. Successful interim arrangements were facilitated; and a local effort in the Bay Area to connect retirees/alumni held two networking events and is serving as a model for developing local UWRA affinity groups.  
  • 2015 - Webinar series continued with #5, Writing a Retirement Mission Statement and/or Mantra which introduced these two approaches to taking responsibility for shaping the purpose one would like to have in their retirement.  Very active Endowment and Planned GIving Assistance program with Webinars, Conference presentations, coaching and case development assistance.  Grant assistance received from IBM to produce a series of videos designed to help the United Way netwrok with donor conversations.  UWRAConnect Facebook group launched.  
  • 2016 - Worked to advance the United Way network’s engagement of the boomer/retiree market segment through conference presentations, Webinars, and resource documents.  Hosted a special session with Chuck Underwood, one of the pioneers who created and popularized the field of generational study - and with it, generational business strategies. Launched a new Mentoring initiative, presenting an opportunity for new CEOs to tap into the rich experience of the UWRA volunteer base, in partnership with the United Way Worldwide Talent team.  Launched a very well received series of role playing videos designed to enhance gift asks of donors featuring UWRA content developers and actors with a combined 175+ years of experience.