Join the Fight
As a public charity we can’t lobby, but we can still have positive impact. We can contact legislators. We can express needs for support. We can encourage others to do the same. Here are issues tied to our mission.
Diversity, Equality & Inclusion
United Way of Hampshire County strives to be a model of diversity and inclusion. We respect, value, and celebrate the unique attributes, characteristics, and perspectives of every person. We believe that diversity is an asset for our organization and community. Therefore, It is our aim that our partners, strategies, and investments reflect diversity and inclusion. We recognize, like many Hampshire County organizations, that we have work to do, especially with people of color and underrepresented populations, but it is essential.
We have teamed with Cooley Dickinson Health Care on initiatives to create lasting and positive advancements in diversity and inclusion in our county.
Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is our nation’s largest anti-hunger program. SNAP provides food access for those who cannot afford it – mostly children, seniors, and veterans. It is an important temporary lifeline for millions of Americans and thousands in Hampshire County – many of whom are in school or work but can’t make ends meet. We thank Congress for passing a bipartisan Farm Bill protecting and strengthening SNAP this past November (2018).
Join us and thank Congress. Write your representatives – it is never too late to show appreciation.
Food insecurity and food deserts
Food insecurity impacts the ability of many Hampshire County residents to access food, especially healthier foods. Portions of Amherst, Northampton, Easthampton, and South Hadley have rates of food insecurity greater than 15% (source: Cooley Dickinson Health Care). In addition, parts of Northampton and Amherst are also considered “food deserts” where low-income people have limited access to groceries.
Hundreds of Hampshire County residents are homeless every night. United Way of Hampshire County is part of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness. The Network creates collaborative solutions to end homelessness through a housing first approach that prioritizes prevention, rapid re-housing, and housing stabilization.
You can help. Learn about legislation to end homelessness and contact your legislator.
Understanding the Difference Between Advocacy and Lobbying
It is important to recognize the difference between advocacy and lobbying. The two concepts are similar and often aligned, yet differ in some key ways that influence the work United Ways can do.
Since 501(c)(3) public charities – and we are one – can’t lobby, they tend to avoid advocacy. However, according to the IRS, lobbying is only when a group attempts to influence specific legislation by contacting or urging the public to contact “members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.”
This means that United Way can take actions like contacting a legislator to express needs for support. We just can’t encourage a legislator to vote a certain way on a particular piece of legislation.
Washington DC (2018) - Executive Director John Bidwell joins with national United Way leaders to advocate on Capital Hill.
Advocating for Hampshire County
We play a key role in advocating on behalf of social services and our partner agencies across Hampshire County. This includes providing testimony, meeting with state and federal legislators, and raising awareness in support of social service issues and bills.
Our work includes:
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Met with Senators Warren and Markey’s staff in support of CHIP.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Met with Congressman McGovern to discuss SNAP funding and potential funding changes for agencies who help clients navigate services.
Anti-poverty: Submitted written testimony in support of Massachusetts anti-poverty bills
Partner Agency support: Provided in-person testimony supporting partner agency Craig’s Doors becoming a state budget line item.
Diaper need: Provided in-person spoken and written testimony in support of Massachusetts diaper bill.