Women hold babies.

Our History

Since 1918, United Way of Greater Kansas City has served as a catalyst for meaningful and lasting change in towns and cities across our five-county region.


In Denver, a woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi founded the Charity Organizations Society, the first "United Way" organization, which planned and coordinated local services and conducted a single fund-raising campaign for 22 agencies.

Today United Way is engaged in nearly 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories, where people are powering big ideas and big action by donating, volunteering and speaking out through United Way. Our focus is on health, education, and financial stability—the building blocks for a good quality of life—impacting up to 50 million lives every year in these areas.


Local work: Funding efforts were organized to help support World War I, called the War Relief and Allied Charities Campaign/United War Relief and Local Charities Campaign. There were 24 agencies. 13 of these were: Florence Crittenton Home, Helping Hand Institute, Della Lamb Center, Family & Children Services, Mattie Rhodes Center, Children’s Mercy Hospital, St. Anthony’s Home, St. Joseph’s Orphan Home, Richard Cabot Clinic, Spofford Home, Jewish Family & Children Services, Visiting Nurse Association, Whatsoever Community Center and Carver Center. News of the Armistice reaches Kansas City the day of the kickoff rally. Many of these original agencies are still partners with United Way of Greater Kansas City today.


Raised $1,061,735 – first time we broke $1 million.

Campaign Chairman Milton H. Luce blocks off Petticoat Lane in downtown Kansas City and turns it into a football gridiron to monitor campaign progress.


The Great Depression is in full swing and 50,000 Kansas Citians are on relief (now called welfare). When the Allied Charities Employment Relief Fund drive goes over the top, Campaign Chairman J.W. Woodmansee proudly wires President Hoover that Kansas City “will take care of its own.”


This was the first year that school children took part in the campaign. Donation boxes to receive contributions from school children – public, private and parochial.

Charities Sunday was introduced.

1,363 boys and girls are provided care in children’s homes/orphanages.


Kansas City Charities Fund name changed to Kansas City Community Fund on July 21st.

The Kansas City War Chest and United Community Funds are incorporated less than 72 hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Official song: “Have a Heart for the Heart of America”, Copyright 1941, Cecil Taylor.


North Kansas City became an organized component of the campaign.


Name changed to The Community Chest. 

Independence, MO and the rest of Eastern Jackson County join the fundraising drive.


The words “United Way” appeared officially for the first time: “Give the United Way through your Community Chest.” 


Kansas City’s needs increase with the 1951 flood, which required $8,000,000 in aid from the Red Cross. The Red Cross was a partner agency of the United Funds. The Korean War also increased the need for support.


The Cancer Detection Center was established to offer free screening to anyone.


This was the FIRST campaign to cross state lines for the entire nation.


United Campaign finally had a permanent home, 320 E. 10th Street in KCMO. This building was purchased in June through a bequest from the estate of Samuel F. Smith.


The 49-year-old Community Chest and the 17-year-old United Way Fund merge on September 14th. The new coalition, called Heart of America United Way Campaign, gathers 120 agencies in a collective fundraising drive.


The NFL and the United Way establish their partnership to increase public awareness of social service issues facing the country.

Local officials adopt the national organization’s name, theme, and symbol. The Heart of America United Way is born in Kansas City on April 11th.


Kansas City reaches a new plateau when $10 million is raised.


A devastating flood hits the area and United Way immediately donates $250,000 for flood relief.


During the summer, the Hyatt Regency disaster occurs and United Way donates $50,000 to help the victims. When winter brings frigid temperatures and soaring utility bills, United Way donates emergency assistance funds to help those unable to pay their bills.


The boards of directors of Heart of America United Way and United Community Services unanimously vote to consolidate the two organizations.


LOE - The loaned executive program begins. As of 1987, more than 50 corporations and organizations have loaned personnel to the program.


Olathe United Way joins together with the Heart of America United Way Campaign to help raise funds in the five-county area.

130,000 households received emergency assistance – an increase of 30% from 1983.


HIV/AIDS Support: United Way of Greater Kansas City has been a continual supporter of HIV/AIDS agencies since 1988. The first HIV/AIDS agency to receive support was The Good Samaritan Project.


The homeless in our community needed over 235,000 nights of shelter.


Caring Club is introduced and originates in Heart of America United Way. By 2003, Caring Club has 30,000 members.


Don & Adele Hall donate $1,000,000 to the Heart of America United Way endowment. 2-1-1 is created and introduced in Kansas City.


Heart of America United Way merges with Johnson County United Way, Bi-County United Way of Cass and Jackson Counties and Northland United Way Services. The new name is United Way of Greater Kansas City. 


Partnership with KC CASH resulted in more than $5 million returned to local families via federal tax returns.  

United Way and H&R Block teamed up to provide MyFreeTaxes. 

2-1-1 received 155,880 calls, an increase of 14% from 2009.  


Additional $605,000 in special grants from United Way of Greater Kansas City to local nonprofit agencies help people impacted by the economic recession. 1 in 3 KC area families have been helped by or involved in programs funded by United Way of Greater Kansas City.

United Way of Greater Kansas City partners with the City of Kansas City, MO to launch Project Rise. This program offers paid internships and educational help to young and unemployed high school dropouts.

Named managing partner of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative, part of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5.


Tocqueville Society celebrates 25 years in Kansas City.


The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program began in Kansas City through United Way of Greater Kansas City. Each month, the program mailed books that are high quality and age-appropriate to the homes of children up to the age of 5. From 2013-2022, 8,021 children received books through this program.