John Wilgers, United Way CEO

After more than 10 years as a Greater Twin Cities United Way volunteer, I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to serve the community along with all of you as a member of the United Way team, leading the organization through the next phase of our transformation.

As you know, we have a strong long-range plan, which you helped develop, that guides our work. What strikes me the most about the new plan is how meaningful our new mission is — to build pathways toward prosperity and equity for all. It reinforces the strength and wisdom of people in our community.

2018 marked the first year of executing the long-range plan. Through your support, the team has made great strides, including the development and implementation of a new strategy to serve our community, the launch of Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud and engagement of a record number of volunteers at Action Day, our signature event.

Your partnership has always been critical to the work in our community, and 2018 was no exception. Because of your generosity of time, talent and treasure, I’m thrilled to share:

  • Greater Twin Cities United Way touched over 500,000 lives.
  • 60,700 volunteers worked on service projects, valued at $15 million in community benefits.1
  • In partnership with various coalitions, we successfully advocated for $91 million in state funding that was invested in our community.
  • Our endowment has reached $51.6 million to help sustain our work for generations.
  • We raised $68.6 million to be invested in our work and the community.

These are incredible results made possible because of your kindness and commitment.

On the following pages, you’ll see the impact you’ve made in our community and how your support is enabling us to continue to broaden and deepen our commitment to equity. Research shows income level, race and where someone lives directly impact the ability to thrive in our community in ways that really matter.

I look forward to working with all of you as we focus our efforts and privilege in the areas of greatest need. Together, we will continue to transform the Twin Cities region into a great place to live – for everyone.


John Wilgers
President & CEO
Greater Twin Cities United Way

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2018 was an exceptional year for Greater Twin Cities United Way. Over the past year, there were several instances where I learned about a pocket of impactful work happening between our staff and community and said out loud, “This is wonderful! Who knows about it?” As you read through the pages that follow, I hope you, too, will be reminded of the magnitude of Greater Twin Cities United Way’s power as a force for good and feel proud of your contribution – be it time, talent, treasure or any combination of the three.

Last year also marked tremendous transformation for our organization. In October, we rolled out a bold new vision to disrupt inequity and foster a region where all people thrive, regardless of income, race or place. To make this a reality, we’ve reimagined our approach.

  • We’re listening to people directly impacted by poverty – learning from the wisdom of their lived experiences to make decisions. And rather than address deficits, we’re engaging assets and strengths they already possess.
  • We’re leading with equitable investments and practices. This includes focused support for culturally specific organizations that serve and are led by people of color and American Indians.
  • We’re working in cross-sector collaborations and coalitions to develop holistic solutions, supporting educational success, household stability and economic opportunity.
  • We’re working in and with our community in new ways. We are moving from a prescriptive approach to a collaborative one and providing community partners flexible funding and spaces to test, measure and share their best practices.
  • We’re building on our legacy as a trusted community broker by bringing philanthropists, nonprofits, businesses and government together to scale solutions, recognizing that a united community is the key to a thriving future.
  • We’re committed to leaning into our own equity journey. This commitment requires us to respond strategically to our community’s most pressing needs and to deal earnestly with historic systemic oppression in our efforts to level the playing field for many of our neighbors.

It is an honor and privilege to work alongside you and other passionate people in service to our community — and we’re grateful for your ongoing support. l am proud of the incredible work we’ve done together and look forward to our continued partnership. Together we can continue to pave the way for a future that is limitless for every person in our community.

With gratitude,

Acooa Ellis
Senior Vice President of Community Impact
Greater Twin Cities United Way

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No one experiences poverty as a single, isolated problem. Homelessness, hunger and lack of educational and career opportunities are inextricably linked, and your support ensures we can focus our efforts in these areas.


  • United Way’s 2-1-1 Hotline: Every day of the year, 2-1-1 connects people in need to resources including housing, food, childcare, mental health services and utility assistance.
  • Volunteer Engagement: We secure thousands of volunteers per year to work on service projects that benefit the community.
  • Nonprofit Capacity Building: We support 23 organizations led by and serving people of color and American Indians through our Culturally Powered Communities program.
  • Convenings: We bring together leaders from the nonprofit, public and private sectors to address our community’s challenges.
  • Coalition and Advocacy Work: We work with partners to influence policy and advocate to advance systems change.
  • Grantmaking and Fundraising: We thoroughly review and invest in high-impact nonprofits doing great work.


In addition to stretching the value of your dollar through 2-1-1, volunteer engagement and coalition and advocacy work, we make smart community investments.

For instance, our investment of $4.6 million in job training programs resulted in an increase of $99.5 million in collective annual earnings for participants, multiplying our original investment by 20 times.

Throughout the following pages, you’ll see this work come to life and how your support has made a big difference in 2018.

We believe organizations that are led by and serving specific cultures have a critical and unique role in identifying nuanced solutions for deep impact in their communities. Through your generosity, we created the Culturally Powered Communities program in 2017 to build the capacity of organizations led by and serving people of color and American Indians.

As we strive to build a community where all thrive regardless of income, race or place, the following principles guide our work.

Equity Manifesto

It begins by joining together, believing in the potency of inclusion, and building from a common bond.

It embraces complexity as cause for collaboration, accepting that our fates are inextricable.

It recognizes local leaders as national leaders, nurturing the wisdom and creativity within every community as essential to solving the nation’s problems.

It demands honesty and forthrightness, calling out racism and oppression, both overt and systemic.

It strives for the power to realize our goals while summoning the grace to sustain them.

It requires that we understand the past, without being trapped in it; embrace the present, without being constrained by it; and look to the future, guided by the hopes and courage of those who have fought before and beside us.

This is equity: Just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all.

Adopted and shared with permission from PolicyLink


To date, United Way’s program has supported 23 organizations, combining cohort-based learning, leadership development and training in organizational development. For example, after participating in a grant-writing training, one of our partners, RECLAIM Minnesota, completed its first federal grant application and was awarded $750,000.

Building on our learnings and expertise, we developed the Equity Accelerator Project in 2018 to enhance workforce development programs that support culturally diverse communities, funded by a grant from the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Through this funding, United Way is supporting eight nonprofits that are addressing workforce disparities through grants as well as providing technical support to deepen grantees’ understanding of traditional workforce systems; helping them incorporate evidence-based practices; and building their capacity through organizational assessment, strategic planning, partnership development, data management and grant writing.

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