United Way of Central Ohio started with the spark of an idea in 1923, which grew into a united movement that continues to thrive 100 years later. Together as one community, we’ve strengthened families and supported youth so they can become the dreamers and doers of tomorrow. Even as we’ve evolved to meet community needs, we remain steadfastly committed to achieving results that change lives and create a more equitable central Ohio. And we’re just getting started.

With our network of nonprofit partners, corporate supporters and people like you, we will make the next 100 years our brightest. While we may be a century old, our energy is vibrant, our spirit is bold and we’re poised to shape the future of central Ohio for all of us.

When we stand united—speaking and acting together—we have the power to do so much more and our impact multiplies. Join us!

Reflecting on our united history


Held November 19-27, 1923, the first Columbus Community Fund drive raised $593,201 from 29,193 donors.


Free tuberculosis clinics and citizenship classes were two of the critical needs supported by the Community Fund in the 1930s.


Changing to the War Chest then to the Community Chest, the organization’s campaigns provided critical resources to families and children.


The Community Chest became United Appeals of Franklin County and supported seven settlement houses helping families throughout the community.


Local labor unions have been strong partners in workplace campaigns for decades, encouraging union members to give and volunteer. 


In 1972, Nancy Jeffrey became the first woman campaign chair, and the organization changed its name to United Way of Franklin County. Jeffrey went on to become the first woman elected to lead United Way’s board of trustees in 1976.


United Way joined with Mid-Ohio Foodbank to start Operation Feed, the largest grassroots corporate food drive in central Ohio. In 1989, the organization started Project Diversity, a program to train professionals of color and increase the diversity of local nonprofit boards.


United Way won a national award for championing diversity, founded Key Club for Black donors in 1991 and celebrated 75 years in 1998.


The organization changed its name to United Way of Central Ohio in 2000, and launched Start Smart in 2001 to focus on the importance of quality early childhood education. United Way’s Tax Time program began in 2007.


In 2012, during the 200th anniversary of Columbus, United Way held the Columbus Volunteer Challenge. The effort was the largest volunteer event ever, running from Aug. 25 to Sept. 11, and included 28,435 volunteers. Pride Council was launched in 2010 and was the first LGBT donor group in the national United Way network.


When COVID-19 hit, United Way of Central Ohio sprang to action by raising $3 million in relief funds for local nonprofits, diversifying funding to help smaller organizations serving people of color. The organization also moved from 360 South Third Street to the Community Impact Center at 215 North Front Street.

Our Future

Success by Third Grade focuses on ensuring all children are on a pathway to success by the time they leave third grade – a goal critical to our community’s future prosperity.

Igniting our future for success

The ability to read by third grade plays a significant role in a child’s success later in life. In fact, 88% of students who fail to graduate high school struggled to achieve third grade reading proficiency.

Our young learners are tomorrow’s leaders and workforce. We know that to build a strong future for our community, our children must have what they need to succeed. 

Through the Success by Third Grade movement, United Way of Central Ohio has joined forces with corporations, school districts, nonprofits, individual donors and volunteers, and government organizations to ensure every child in Franklin County is on a path to success by the time they leave third grade. Success by Third Grade is centered on parents, caregivers and students who are most in need of support, identifying and directly impacting the many factors inhibiting student achievement. 

Together, we can create a community where every child has the resources and opportunities necessary to learn, develop and succeed.

Give from your heart

When you give to United Way in celebration of our centennial, you’re joining a movement to set our children and the entire community on a path to success for generations to come. That’s right! Your generous contribution stays here, in the place you call home. 

And with our long history as a trusted convener, United Way is uniquely positioned to bring together educators, corporations, nonprofits and government entities, as well as donors and volunteers like you, to ensure every child has the resources and opportunities necessary to succeed in school and life. Join us in our vision for a stronger, more equitable community and give today.

Join us in Celebration

Our signature event, Stuff the Backpack, took place Thursday, Aug. 10, at Lower.com Field. More than 500+ volunteers joined forces to help us stuff backpacks for 1,500 local students!

On Thursday, Sept. 14, we’re saying THANK YOU to central Ohio for helping us strengthen families for 100 years. Join us for our Centennial Ice Cream Social featuring free Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams on the Columbus Commons starting at 11:30 a.m.

Don’t miss out on the fun! Sign up today to receive alerts about these events and other ways you can connect with our community and join the celebration.

Text CONNECTED to 50503 to stay informed.

Thank You to Our Supporters

Osteopathic Heritage Foundation
Ohio Health