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Culturally Specific Organizations

The Twin Cities are known as one of the very best places to live, but with 1 in 4 of our neighbors living in poverty, that’s not true for everyone.

Culturally Specific Organizations (CSOs) are local, smaller organizations led and staffed by persons of color that primarily serve communities of color. Investing in building the capacity of CSOs is a crucial component of Greater Twin Cities United Way’s strategy to address our region’s persistent racial inequities in education and employment.

United Way invests in high-quality programming to help stabilize the lives of local families and individuals. When new multi-year funding began in July 2016, some 20 percent was directed toward five CSOs: American Indian OIC, Better Futures Minnesota, Centro Tyrone Guzman, Karen of Minnesota and Somali Success School.

Centro Tyron Guzman, located in Minneapolis, serves the Latino community with education and health and wellness programming. Roxana Linares, Centro’s executive director, spoke about the funding’s impact on her organization.

“Most funders acknowledge the need for a stable infrastructure, but United Way is one of the few that has been willing to invest in this area through the CSO program,” she said.

“The program has encouraged us to be open and honest about our organizational strengths, as well as the challenges, weaknesses and limitations holding us back. This honest assessment has allowed funding and technical support to be directed in the most effective way possible. We appreciate how the CSO program uplifts the expertise of small to mid-sized CSOs and is designed to help organizations like ours build on this expertise to achieve even greater impact with the communities we serve.”

United Way’s initial investment in CSO programs, launched in 2015, helped five organizations. The second round in 2016 brought the total invested to more than $1 million. This funding will bolster CSOs’ capacity in several areas including training – board and leadership – compliance support, financial management, fund development, human resources and technology.

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