CINCINNATI, Ohio (April 12, 2022) — Responding to extensive community input, United Way of Greater Cincinnati announced nearly $20 million in grants today, targeting opportunities and solutions identified by those closest to the challenges.
For United Way, the process of identifying the areas of focus was new, coming after months of interviewing and surveying more than 400 local residents and 200 organizations, including focus groups and discussions with business leaders. United Way is investing a total of $19.9 million, with $11.4 million being invested in 86 local partners addressing critical needs in our community. (Note: we are working through the grant acceptance process and will publish a full list of funded organizations the week of April 25.)
“This culminates a two-year transformation for United Way of Greater Cincinnati but begins a much larger transformation for the region’s nonprofit ecosystem and our community,” said Moira Weir, President and CEO of United Way. “Our team spent a great deal of time over the past two years becoming a more family-centered, community-driven organization. We listened to families. We listened to those close to families. We listened to business leaders. We gathered and interpreted data. Now, we are investing to co-create solutions recommended to us to solve challenges revealed to us by those living these realities.”
Most of the money – $11.4 million – will be invested in partners focused on systems change in the following opportunity areas:
“We have seen the power of partners aligning to solve bigger, systemic challenges,” Weir said. “That is where true long-term success is possible, but it requires shared vision, coordination and leadership. It will touch exponentially more lives than funding a singular program because it focuses on changing systems that affect all people using those systems.
“We will still provide funding and services to help those in crisis. With our Systems Change partners, we will go deeper, to the rooted, systemic problems holding back families.”
Another $8.5 million will be invested in agencies designated by United Way donors.
Weir said United Way’s new approach – truly listening to the community and gathering data and anecdotes from their lived experiences – makes it the right leader to convene others around economic well-being for the region’s families.
“Why us? Our data, our experience, our programming, our work with partners, the lived experiences of the families we support – we have evidence-based understanding of how to change systems,” she said. “We are not passive contributors; we roll up our sleeves and work side-by-side, listening and providing support. We are expert stewards of the region’s investments. Your dollars are invested in solutions based on data and those we support have ownership of those solutions.”
Twenty percent of the Systems Change partners are new to United Way, the largest number of new partners in any single year in recent history.
“Partnering with new organizations increases diversity and inclusion,” Weir said. “We are partnering with those closest to the challenges and those that people know, trust and deliver good services. We learned the effectiveness of this approach during COVID.”
United Way chose organizations doing work in its focus areas that had organization-wide emphasis on the challenge, as opposed to a single, or few programs. This is contrary to its past practice of funding programs.
“It had to be part of their DNA,” Weir said. “That doesn’t mean other organizations aren’t delivering great programming. Most are doing fantastic work we need in our community, it just didn’t match our new systems approach, or the focus areas developed from our surveys and interviews.”
One of those partners that received funding, Beech Acres Parenting Center, is excited to work with United Way on this new course, said CEO Laura Mitchell.
“On the heels of a global pandemic and a national mental health crisis among our youth, we are grateful to partner with United Way of Greater Cincinnati to reinforce communities of healing and restoration,” she said. “In this moment, we can co-create better systems of support and resource navigation as families progress from coping to flourishing.”
Another partner, 4C for Children, assists hundreds of child care programs and families.
"Focusing funding, time and effort on addressing the systemic issues affecting our community is vital to ensuring we change the long-term outcomes for children and families,” said Vanessa Freytag, President/CEO of 4C. “The systemic inequities have made it very difficult for child care businesses, the majority of which are owned by women of color, to thrive. Those inequities are exacerbating the struggles we see today in availability of child care seats for low-income working families who are trying to return to work . United Way’s prioritization of work that goes to the heart of systemic change and work that strongly serves minority and low-income families will help many nonprofits with the careful path we navigate between the delivery of services to those in need today and the work to ensure fewer families need that help in the future.”
Any organization that did not receive funding can apply again in 2024. United Way also distributes funding through different processes, such as county CARES grants or Black Empowerment Works grants.
Weir said United Way will go beyond investing, also providing direct services and influencing through advocating for better policies that bring systemic change. She pointed to United Way’s work around early childhood education over the past 25 years that laid the groundwork for Preschool Promise as an example of true systems change.
“All families deserve economic well-being,” she said. “We must eliminate inequities and dismantle outdated and broken systems that are barriers to economic freedom. We can’t keep having the same conversations around poverty we had in the ‘60s or ‘90s.
“We believe this is the start of great change in our community, creating a ripple effect across the nonprofit ecosystem. We would not be here without the community we serve and those who support us. The community drove this work and donor support will help us execute it. We will all be a movement to break generational poverty and our region will be better for it.”
About United Way of Greater Cincinnati & Foundation
United Way of Greater Cincinnati believes all people in our region deserve economic well-being, so we work closely with communities to identify patterns, uncover the greatest need and change systems so more individuals and families achieve economic stability and mobility. For more than 100 years, we have worked at the intentional intersection of basic needs, health and wellness and quality education. The generosity of our community enables our work to remove barriers and bring resources together to address inequities, change systems and build stronger, more resilient communities throughout a nine-county area in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Additional information about our community impact is available at UWGC.org #LiveUnited