Image of Black Empowerment Works Including Logo and details
Image of Black Empowerment Works Including Logo and details

Black Empowerment Works Accepting Grant Applications

United Way of Greater Cincinnati awarded $600,000 in 2020; aims to assist more in 2021.
May 11, 2021

CINCINNATI, Ohio (May 11, 2021) - United Way of Greater Cincinnati is growing its partnership with Black leaders to fund ideas and projects that help Greater Cincinnati communities address poverty and systemic inequities.

The organization launches today a second round of Black Empowerment Works grants. Black Empowerment Works promotes self-determination, social mobility and economic prosperity by resourcing and funding community-based, Black-led ideas, programs and projects. Last year, United Way teamed with Black community leaders to select 28 Black entrepreneurs and social changemakers with promising ideas, providing $600,000 in philanthropic funding to their projects.

“If we are going to change the national trend of philanthropic under-investment in Black-led organizations, we need to start in our own backyard,” said Moira Weir, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cincinnati. “We are excited to expand the project. The partnerships we developed last year and the projects we funded made both United Way and our community stronger and better.”

Weir said United Way will wait to see how many applications it receives and the extent of need those ideas address before determining how much will be invested this year. While it is not likely every applicant will receive funding, she expects the total investment to exceed last year’s amount.

“Community need will drive our work,” she said. “We’re learning with, and from, our partners every day and it’s helping to set our course to address systemic inequities. We have much work to do, but we are determined.”

United Way believes Investing in more Black-led ideas, programs and projects brings:

  • greater diversity of solutions and thought leadership
  • a better understanding of the unique strengths, opportunities and challenges within communities
  • collaboration on strategies that work to reduce racial disparities in outcomes

Last year’s grants supported a diverse set of programming, including youth exploring career pathways in entrepreneurship, farming, and multimedia; a quality child care center in Avondale; financial education for Black families throughout Cincinnati; a place for young children to learn remotely while their parents worked; and many more quality programs. Focus areas included education, from early childhood to post-secondary; employment; financial stability and empowerment; health and community connectedness.

Grants range from $2,500 to $25,000. Applications are due July 8. United Way needs reviewers to assess and award the grants. Reviewers must apply by June 18.

For more information, visit You can also attend a live information session on May 14, May 17 or May 21 on Eventbrite. The May 21st session will also be simulcast on Facebook.

Jena Bradley, Community Impact Manager at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, said Black Empowerment Works grew from the work of Champions of Change, a United Way effort created to spark social change. Last year, 13 Champions of Change volunteers collectively contributed more than 1,000 volunteer hours to fully design and launch Black Empowerment Works.

“Last year’s work spurred excitement and investment,” she said. “When the grants were announced many donors and philanthropic groups reached out and donated, unsolicited. It is clear peopled see the need for this type of investment and are eager to support it.”

Support goes beyond the grant, Bradley said. Grantees will connect with other beneficial resources to support their ideas, including access to volunteers and mentors, trainings and opportunities to share their knowledge with others.

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