United Way of Central New York is organized around a set of guiding organizational principles: a core mission that defines our role in the community, a vision that inspires our efforts, and strategies that shape our work.


To improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community.

The Value of United Way

United Way offers donors a unique service to help make the greatest possible impact. Expert volunteers from across the community lead our organization and provide continual oversight of our work, so donors know their gifts will be used well, helping our local community where it’s needed most.

How United Way “does the homework” for donors

We begin by developing an understanding of the issues in this community, then we search out the best ways to make improvements. We focus community resources—your gift and the gifts of others—on making an impact where it’s needed most, funding the finest programs at well-run agencies and continually monitoring programs to make sure they stay on track and achieve results.

All this research and monitoring takes time and expertise. When you give to United Way, you get the services of a full-time professional staff plus the skills of hundreds of knowledgeable volunteers—lawyers, accountants, doctors, educators, business leaders and more—who oversee every aspect of United Way, making sure your gift is invested wisely and used effectively.

Unlike non-profits that focus their efforts on one problem or group, United Way works to strengthen the whole community. We help donors have the most impact with one gift, improving the lives of thousands of people each year.

When you choose United Way, you know that you have a partner working for you every day, making sure your gift is used well—to change lives, and our community, for the better.


Our History

What began during World War I as one of the community’s first large-scale charitable campaigns has grown into the single largest annual fundraising effort in Central New York.

The United Way sets a lofty campaign goal of $4.321 million.

The United Way sets a lofty campaign goal of $4.321 million.

On June 18, 1917, Syracuse Mayor Walter R. Stone invited 100 local business leaders to meet with him at City Hall to consider a “war plan.”

The mayor explained his plan to establish a War Chest that would raise $600,000 in charitable giving. Half of the funds would go to charitable work in Syracuse; the other half for use nationally and overseas.

A team of more than 400 speakers spoke on behalf of the effort at schools, businesses and nonprofits. A huge War Chest was carried on a truck during the kickoff parade and throughout the campaign, with two more chests being displayed in downtown Syracuse.

On July 3, it was announced that $1,118,730 was pledged — $518,730 over the goal. Three years later, on Nov. 12, 1921, the Syracuse Community Chest, Inc. was incorporated, and the Community Chest became United Way of Central New York in 1972.

Since that first effort, the Community Chest (and later United Way) campaign has become an annual community event, thanks to hundreds of campaign volunteers at local businesses that donate their time to make each campaign a success, and many thousands of loyal donors.

Our History Together

Over the decades, our community has gone through many changes. In many areas of need our human-service community’s work is more successful now than ever before.

Our current network of food pantries and soup kitchens is nothing short of exceptional, rescuing millions of pounds of fresh, nutritious food that would otherwise be thrown away by restaurants and grocers and distributing it across the county. More services are available for at-risk families, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, the homeless, low-income families in need of legal assistance, and people suffering from disabilities and mental illness.

Many families continue to face challenges finding safe and affordable childcare, and early childhood education has become an area of focus over the past decade. Moving forward, a renewed focus must be placed on services for senior citizens as the area’s population ages.

But as our needs have changed, United Way has continued to be a leader in problem solving, inspiring collaboration to help improve the way we take care of our community’s most pressing needs. Our network of services continues to address those needs in the most meaninful and successful ways, and we continue to excel in stewardship of donor dollars.

We are proud to partner with you to help make our community a more caring place to live, and we invite you to join us in the coming months, as we explore our history together, take a look at where we are today, and how we can take the steps to ensure that we will live in a more caring community tomorrow.  Thank you for Living United.