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Greater Twin Cities United Way Provides $1.15 Million to Support Students and Nonprofits Amidst COVID-19 Crisis

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United Way Staff


United Way Grants a Total of $2.365 Million to Greater Twin Cities Community Since March

Greater Twin Cities United Way (United Way) announced today it will provide a fourth wave of community support totaling $1.15 million from its Greater Twin Cities COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. Available in October, United Way will grant $350,000 to community-based organizations partnering with public schools to address student needs in St. Paul’s North End and Minneapolis’ Phillips/Ventura Village neighborhoods. Another $800,000 in grants – dispersed this week – as well as coaching from consultants will support the long-term sustainability of United Way’s 95 nonprofit partners as they experience expense increases and revenue declines in the face of COVID-19.

“Due to the pandemic, sheltering in place and distance learning, students have experienced many challenges, and our nonprofit sector is working rapidly to respond to unanticipated expenses to support youth and families,” said John Wilgers, President & CEO of Greater Twin Cities United Way. “This wave of support will address the dramatic increase in the number of people who need education, food, housing, childcare and employment services while helping nonprofits deliver and fund those services.”

Including this wave of funding, United Way has provided a total of $2.365 million in grants since March to nonprofits directly serving people in the Greater Twin Cities community.

Fourth Wave of Funding: Student and Family Empowerment Grants

Grants totaling $350,000 will provide culturally responsive support to address gaps that leaders in each neighborhood identified, which may include:

  • technology and the internet.
  • individualized instructional support.
  • physical spaces for play and exploration.
  • mental health support.
  • consistent, high-quality distance learning instruction.

United Way invited nonprofits that are partnering effectively with schools to support the needs of vulnerable students in the two neighborhoods in St. Paul and Minneapolis – including organizations beyond United Way’s currently funded partners – to apply for the Student and Family Empowerment grants. Grants will be dispersed to selected nonprofits the week of Oct. 12. Community members, education leaders, students and parents identified the nonprofits doing the most effective work.

Student Challenges

According to McKinsey & Co., learning loss due to COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting students from families with low incomes and students of color1. United Way identified St. Paul’s North End and Minneapolis’ Phillips/Ventura Village as neighborhoods most impacted by the pandemic in partnership with the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, leveraging the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index data2 and distance learning plans from the school districts.

Before COVID-19, Minnesota’s academic opportunity gap between students of color and white students was the worst in the nation, and COVID-19 is exacerbating the issue.

Fourth Wave of Funding: Stabilization Grants and Support for Nonprofits

The other $800,000 in wave four grants from the Greater Twin Cities COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund – as well as coaching support – will address the following challenges United Way’s nonprofit partners identified:

  • Unexpected staffing costs. Organizations such as early childhood centers and shelters require face-to-face contact with people in need of services. As a result, nonprofits have been required to provide employee hazard pay.
  • Revenue gaps. Many organizations have dramatically modified the way they work. For example, early childhood centers have experienced significant increases in expenses to ensure children and staff can remain safe in the building, such as new cleaning protocols and personal protective equipment for staff. Additionally, smaller class ratios have decreased revenue.
  • Buffering against fundraising losses. Many organizations depend on in-person fundraising galas and other large events and have been challenged to replace anticipated revenue.

Expert coaching services for United Way’s 95 nonprofit partners will begin in October 2020, including strategic planning, fostering emotional wellbeing among employees and the people they serve, financial practices and fundraising strategies.

“The dual strategy we are taking with this round of support allows organizations to meet a dynamic service environment and easily access assistance from experts toward a more stable future,” said Acooa Ellis, Senior Vice President of Community Impact, Greater Twin Cities United Way. “This is another example of us flexing in real time to bring the full breadth of Greater Twin Cities United Way tools and relationships to bear in service to our nonprofit partners and the people they serve.”

Corporate and Foundation Funding

Many companies and foundations have provided generous donations to the Greater Twin Cities COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support communities locally and across the country in markets where they have a presence. Those include 3M, Ames Construction, Andersen Corporate Foundation, Bremer Bank, CHS, Inc., General Mills Foundation, Liberty Diversified International, Medica Foundation, Medtronic Foundation, Pentair, RBC Wealth Management, The Toro Company, Travelers and more.

Editor’s/Producer’s Note:
[1] COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime. McKinsey & Co.

[2] The Social Vulnerability Index compiles census, SNAP, HUD and COVID-19 data from the Minnesota Department of Health into an index that includes: poverty level, vehicle access, COVID positivity rate, unemployment claims, residence in crowded housing, English proficiency, education level and rate of SNAP applications.

  • Find more information on the third COVID-19 funding wave here.
  • Find more information on the second COVID-19 funding wave here.
  • Find more information on the first COVID-19 funding wave here.


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. For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 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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