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Greater Twin Cities United Way Builds Strong Momentum in Third Year of Transformation, Addressing Emergency, Long-Term Community Needs During Pandemic, Racial Reckoning

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United Way Staff


Organization Releases 2020 Community Results

MINNEAPOLIS (Aug. 5, 2021 at 8 a.m.) – Greater Twin Cities United Way (United Way) announced today the release of its 2020 Community Impact Report which captures the results of its work with changemakers across the Twin Cities region in 2020. In its third year of executing its long-range transformation plan, United Way served more than 500,000 people in partnership with 645 companies, 38 foundations, 60,000 individuals and 161 nonprofits.

211 Resource Helpline

At the onset of COVID-19, United Way responded to a 300 percent increase in requests for resources and information across Minnesota through its 211 resource helpline, including shelter, child care, emergency medical equipment and more. Additionally, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency contracted with United Way for 211 to serve as the centralized access point for the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program. Through that program, United Way referred over 55,000 people to rent, mortgage and utility assistance information and resources.

Innovation Initiatives

  • COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund: United Way provided four rounds of grants to support nonprofits at the frontlines of serving the community, based on the most critical needs nonprofits identified. (See below for more information)
  • Twin Cities Rebuild for the Future Fund: United Way, in partnership with the Minneapolis Foundation and the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, awarded grants to nonprofits providing rebuilding support for small businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and People of Color in areas most impacted by the unrest sparked by the murder of George Floyd – Lake Street in Minneapolis, West Broadway corridor in Minneapolis and University Ave. in St. Paul.
  • Career Academies: During the 2019/2020 school year, over 5,500 high school students engaged in Career Academies – an initiative that prepares students for zero college debt and in-demand, high-wage careers. Since 2015, Career Academies has engaged more than 10,000 students – 49 percent of which are Students of Color. Students collectively have earned more than 9,800 college and technical school credits and saved more than $3 million in tuition.
  • Career Academies Summer Stabilization Fund: United Way awarded grants to school districts to help fill gaps in student wages and work experiences for 163 students who otherwise would not have had opportunities due to COVID-19 restrictions. Students earned $13 an hour and gained experience in mental health first-aid training, health sciences, manufacturing and more.

Advocacy Work with Legislators

United Way, along with coalition partners, was critical in securing $261.6 million in emergency state and federal funding to advance greater equity for Minnesotans, including emergency housing, quality child care and early childhood education assistance.

Nonprofit Partnerships

By being a curator of insights to inform the nonprofit sector, United Way hosted nine virtual convenings and provided virtual trainings for 525 people. United Way also awarded grants through several pandemic-related funds, in addition to existing multi-year grants, to 161 nonprofits serving the community on the frontlines.

Business/Individual Donor Partnerships and Revenue Diversification

Aligned with United Way’s revenue diversification strategy, the organization:

  • Onboarded 20 companies to Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud, United Way’s digital giving and volunteering platform focused on supporting corporate social responsibility goals and engaging corporate employees year-round.
  • Expanded fundraising around specific innovation initiatives such as Career Academies (focused on career pathways to high-wage jobs for students in high school) and 80x3 (focused on early childhood brain development) to meet the growing trend of donors’ desire to directly address specific community challenges.
  • Offered volunteer and giving opportunities for corporate employees and individuals, such as Action Day and Home for Good. Through these events, 40,000 K-12 students from low-income households received backpacks full of school supplies and 850 families exiting out of homelessness received kits full of household supplies.

“The past 16 months have presented our community with a tremendous set of interrelated challenges,” said Acooa Ellis, Senior Vice President of Community Impact at Greater Twin Cities United Way. “A global pandemic, subsequent economic uncertainty and civil unrest in the face of appalling tragedies snatched us out of our respective bubbles toward a greater shared understanding of racial disparities in life outcomes as the result of prolonged and systemic exclusion from opportunity. We work deliberately to disrupt inequity in partnership with the community.”

“The crises of 2020 compounded the challenges that vulnerable communities already had been experiencing. With students struggling to adapt to distance and hybrid learning, parents scrambling to find child care, neighbors losing their jobs and experiencing economic uncertainty, affording basic needs became even more difficult for many in 2020,” said John Wilgers, President and CEO of Greater Twin Cities United Way. “While we have a long way to go to achieve racial justice, 2020 marked a transformative year. Changemakers across the region worked together to provide emergency support and stability for over 500,000 people and for the nonprofit sector, exemplifying outstanding agility and innovation.”

2020 Financials

United Way’s 2020 results announcement coincides with the release of its IRS 990 financial report, which showed $57.7 million in revenue in 2020. “In addition to the funding reflected in the 990 report, we also secured planned gifts, government contracts related to housing stability and suicide prevention – which will be recognized in future years – and in-kind gifts of products and services, bringing our 2020 fundraising results to $60.1 million,” said Wilgers.

More Details on United Way’s 2020 Results

  • COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund:
    • The first grant round addressed emergency housing and child care assistance.
    • The second grant round addressed early childhood education needs as well as support for people impacted by layoffs in hospitality and support for nonprofits including those led by and serving Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and People of Color.
    • The third grant round addressed food, housing, medical safety equipment and child care needs as well as financial assistance for nonprofit operations and employee support.
    • The fourth grant round addressed student learning needs in St. Paul’s North End and Phillips/ Ventura Village neighborhoods in Minneapolis, and long-term stability needs of nonprofit partners.
  • Nourishing Resilient Community Food Systems Fund: Building on the success of its Full Lives program, United Way awarded grants to organizations in Northeast Minneapolis to continue their impactful work in food innovation such as urban gardening, community supported agriculture programs and more.
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The Minnesota Department of Health partnered with United Way to offer suicide prevention support and mental health crisis intervention. When Minnesotans call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, caring specialists from Greater Twin Cities United Way’s Suicide Prevention Lifeline answer, listen and provide guidance, support and resources.
  • Justice for All: United Way announced its long-term “Justice for All” collaboration with the Minneapolis Foundation and the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, with the goal of transforming the criminal justice system.


About Greater Twin Cities United Way: Greater Twin Cities United Way unites changemakers, advocates for social good and develops solutions to address the challenges no one can solve alone to create a community where all people thrive, regardless of income, race or place. The organization serves the community through five key offerings: its 211 resource helpline, innovation initiatives, nonprofit partnerships, advocacy work with legislators, and business and individual donor partnerships. For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.

About the Author

Greater Twin Cities United Way unites changemakers, advocates for social good and develops solutions to address the challenges no one can solve alone to create a community where all people thrive. Together with our partners, we’re meeting immediate community needs while transforming inequitable systems in the areas of housing, food, education and jobs.

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