United Way of the Great River Region – A Brief History

In 2015 Fort Madison Area United Way (FMAUW) and Big River United Way (BRUW) in Keokuk began talks for a merger due to the resignation and pending retirement of each organization’s Executive Directors. Members of both United Way Boards of Directors with the assistance of experts from other United Way organizations and United Way Worldwide the merger process began in late 2015. The process was completed in 2016. United Way of the Great River Region has two offices: the main office in Keokuk and a satellite office in Fort Madison.

United Way of the Great River Region (UWGRR) serves all of Lee county in Iowa, Hancock county in Illinois, and Clark county in Missouri. As a result of the merger, we now sponsor/host RSVP of Lee County (Retired Senior Volunteer Program). This program is funded by a CNCS federal and state grant as well as local and United Way funding. This program is only offered in Lee county due to state funding parameters. RSVP operates out of the Fort Madison UWGRR office located in the old Rashid Library building.

In 2013 Big River United Way successfully applied for a Volunteer Generation Fund grant which is a federally funded volunteer program designed to connect potential volunteers with organizations that wish to utilize volunteers. This is a “by demand” type of program and serves UWGRR’s service area. The program began in 2014 and has successfully received three extension grants in 2018, 2019, and 2020. By federal funding design, monies have been stair-stepping down and are now mostly funded by United Way, RSVP, and other local grants.

In 2018 the RSVP program and the VGF program were joined to insure the continuation of the VGF program. This joining formed the Volunteer and Community Engagement umbrella. There is a Director and an Assistant Director. Both positions are contingent on funding streams.

UWGRR is funded via grants, fundraisers, and donations. Each year there is an annual employee giving campaign, a small business giving campaign, and an individual giving campaign. These campaigns run from September through December and provide UWGRR with much of its funding. There are also several other smaller fundraising events throughout the year.

Supporting non-profit agencies that work in the areas of health, education, and financial stability is the prime focus of United Way. For an organization to receive United Way funds, there is an application and an extensive vetting process that happens each fall; this coincides with the annual giving campaign. Successful agencies begin receiving allocations in January and receive their last payment in December. We can also provide special needs grants for smaller amounts mid-year, using the same vetting process.

UWGRR is served by a strong and dedicated Board of Directors. This is not only a governing body; it is a working Board as well. UWGRR could not do the good work it does without the physical work of the Board. The Board has several committees and each Board member is encouraged to participate on several committees. During fundraisers and the annual campaign Board members play a vital role in planning, making contacts, soliciting donations and/or sponsorships, and running special events.