Grants for community transformation, powered by Champions of Change


Black Empowerment Works promotes Black economic and social prosperity through self-determination by resourcing and funding grassroots-generated, Black-led ideas, programs and projects. Essentially, it is an equity-focused grant and support program addressing poverty in Greater Cincinnati. This program was designed by the first cohort of Champions of Change.



Simply put, too many Black families and individuals in our region are experiencing poverty, and too few Black-led ideas, programs and projects (and by extension, Black leaders) receive funding and resources to address it. We are committed to changing that.

We believe that by investing in more Black-led ideas, programs and projects we can: 

  1. Bring a greater diversity of solutions and thought leadership into United Way’s work; 

  2. Gain a better understanding of the unique strengths, opportunities and challenges within communities; and 

  3. Collaborate on strategies that work to reduce racial disparities in outcomes

Black Empowerment Works Grants

Who is involved in Black Empowerment Works?

  • 2020-2021 GRANTEES



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New program funds Black-led ideas around addressing poverty

by Jennifer Riegert | Feb 24, 2020
Beginning today, community members who have ideas, programs and projects addressing poverty in greater Cincinnati can apply to receive funding and other resources to do their work.

United Way’s first Champions of Change cohort designed equity-focused Black Empowerment Works  

CINCINNATI, OH (Feb. 24, 2020) — Beginning today, community members who have ideas, programs and projects addressing poverty in greater Cincinnati can apply to receive funding and other resources to do their work.  

Black Empowerment Works

Black Empowerment Works is the first program designed by United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Champions of Change, a group of local leaders who are being responsive to the need for increased intentionality to produce more equitable outcomes in our community. This effort will invest in ideas, programs and projects that have these three characteristics: black-led, grassroots-generated, and that address poverty.  

“This is not your traditional grant program or process. We want to reach folks who might not normally qualify or have traditionally been left out from other funding programs”, says Rashida Manuel, one of the creators of Black Empowerment Works.   

Grants will range in size from $2,500 to $25,000. Funding will run from June 2020 to June 2021, during which time grantees will be connected with other beneficial resources to support their ideas including access to volunteers and mentors, training, and opportunities to share their knowledge with others.  

Community engagement is a strong component of Black Empowerment Works. There are three opportunities for community members to take part:  

  1. Apply to be a grantee. Application deadline is April 13.  

  1. Serve as a reviewer, helping to select the first round of BEW grantees. Application deadline March 23.   

  1. Step up to be a mentor-supporter. Application deadline April 13.  

“Too many black families and individuals in our region are experiencing poverty, and too few black-led ideas (and by extension, black leaders) receive funding and resources to address it,” said Jena' Bradley, Community Impact Team Manager at United Way of Greater Cincinnati. “We are aiming to change that. Through this process, we will gain knowledge that will extend beyond this grant program to other areas of our operation.” 

“Inequities hurt our whole community; the disproportionate impacts of poverty across the lines of race are stark,” said Jen Ingram, Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at United Way of Greater Cincinnati. “We know black people experience poverty at higher rates than other racial groups (1 in 3 families).  We’ve also seen an underinvestment in solutions and ideas that are led by individuals from marginalized groups that are closest to the problems and those with great insights into potential solutions. We are committed to leading, partnering and convening to offer opportunities to create a more equitable community where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.” 


More details and the applications can be found at    


Questions? Contact us at or (513) 762-7157.