History of United Way

In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. Frances Wisebart Jacobs, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J.O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart and Rabbi William S. Friedman put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for ten health and welfare agencies. They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred. That year, Denver raised $21,700 and created a movement that would spread throughout the country to become the United Way. More than 125 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives.

Currently, United Way operates in 41 countries of the world, processing over US$6 billion annually through an international network of approximately 4,200 independent community funds.

History of United Way NZ

A meeting chaired by Colin Kay CBE and attended by 31 people representing a variety of Auckland businesses and welfare charities was held in the Auckland City Council Building on 26th August 1974. The purpose of this meeting “arose out of the need to regularise appeals throughout the Greater Auckland area” and therefore to consider a “campaign to provide for voluntary giving to cover the needs of all charities in the Greater Auckland area”.

As a result of this meeting United Way of Greater Auckland was established in 1975. Dennis Nathan OBE was elected the first President. Fundraising depended on a variety of private sources for its funds, notably Payroll Giving, Mystery Envelopes and other individual, corporate and sector giving, as well as designated gifts from overseas foundations and corporations.

In 1998, impressed with the role of United Way of Greater Auckland volunteers in the efficient allocation of funds, and the United Way emphasis on family and social services, The Tindall Foundation selected United Way of Greater Auckland as one of its major funding managers. This greatly enlarged the geographic area served by United Way and generously increased the resources available for distribution. Consistent with this new scope, the name was changed to United Way NZ (UWNZ) in 2001.

In 2003 Don Oliver was appointed Chief Executive replacing Adrian Feesey, Dame Silvia Cartwright, PCNZM, DBE Governor-General of New Zealand agreed to be National Patron and the Mayors of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin cities agreed to be Vice Patrons.

UWNZ currently provides funds to assist approximately 135 charities (Community Partners) through its volunteer allocation teams throughout NZ.

UWNZ is an affiliate of United Way Worldwide, an organisation based in Washington DC, (USA) that supports the concept of United Way around the world. All affiliates of United Way Worldwide agree to maintain strict conformance with all legal and ethical standards in the conduct of administration, finance and programming. They must be an Independent, Not-for-profit, Charitable, and Financially Self-sustaining organization. No United Way funding may be provided to political parties. government officials or candidates, religions or places of worship.

Dennis Nathan Bequest Fund
Dennis Nathan OBE (of L.D. Nathan, Super Value Supermarkets and Woolworths NZ) passed away in 2012 aged 99 yrs. He along with former Auckland Mayor Colin Kay and a number of influential businessmen and community leaders was instrumental in forming a NZ branch of United Way based in Auckland.

This commenced in 1975 with Dennis becoming United Way of Greater Auckland’s first President. He continued to the very end to be a personal donor and great advocate for the United Way system of philanthropy.

In order to recognize Dennis Nathan's huge contribution to United Way New Zealand for nearly 45 years, UWNZ has established a Dennis Nathan Bequest Fund. This Fund will be used to help UWNZ’s sustainable giving for future generations.

If you are interested in your bequest or donation being part of this Dennis Nathan Bequest Fund, please contact our Chief Executive, Teresa Moore, on donate@unitedway.org.nz or phone +64 9 377 2544.