Nationally, the United Way system of having one community fund drive to financially support a variety of local agency services started in 1887 in Denver, Colorado. It started as a response to a horrific fire that engulfed the entire city of Denver. Local business, government and clergy leaders got together and decided to have one large fund drive to aid the city and all of its citizens.
Today, more than 1,400 independent United Way chapters operate in the United States and raise a collective annual total of $4.2 billion. United Way Worldwide oversees United Way operations in dozens of countries (changed its corporate name in 2009).
Every United Way chapter is locally governed by volunteers and exists only because of the financial contributions made by local citizens, businesses, and corporations. United Way of America, formed in 1970 and located in Alexandria, Virginia, is the national organization or federation. It provides a variety of benefits and services to its local affiliates. Each local United Way organization pays its national office an annual membership fee or dues amounting to one percent of the total dollars raised in their annual community fund drive.
In 1945 in Klamath County, the “Red Feather” Klamath County Community Chest and the War Chest campaigned simultaneously for community agencies. Chester H. Hamaker and a small group of community leaders started this tradition and developed the use of payroll deduction giving at the workplace. On May 26, 1953 the United Fund of Klamath County was formed to raise funds to support six local agencies (Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, the Salvation Army and the YMCA. The first United Way President was L. Ernest Taylor, and the 1953 campaign exceeded its goal raising $109,563. In the past, United Way has also been called United Good Neighbors.
“Guard we must the contributor’s trust,” initiated as a marketing theme in the early 70’s, remains today as a guiding principle of the United Way. The United Way of the Klamath Basin is audited annually by the accounting firm of Tom Romig & Associates and maintains the highest standards of excellence and public accountability.