What We Do

You know United Way ... But do you know what we do?

Three years ago, United Way of Greater Cleveland embarked on a bold strategic plan – a plan to put United Way on a path to being more effective in poverty relief.

This year, we completed our transition from an organization that served the health and human services delivery system to an organization focused on serving the people in need more directly by attaching specific outcomes and meaningful, long-term results to our work.

We Changed Because...

population - 51% of our city's children in poverty
population - 30% of our city's working age adults in poverty
population - 22% of our city's seniors in poverty

Cleveland’s poverty crisis is growing. Out of all large U.S. cities, Cleveland has the highest childhood poverty rate, second highest poverty rate for working-age adults and the third highest poverty rate for seniors, according to the Center for Community Solutions.

Faced with these unfortunate poverty statistics, United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Board of Directors looked deeply at how we were serving the community and knew this crisis in our community requires us to take bolder, more innovative action to help those who are living in our city’s deepest poverty.

“As a community, the work we have done together is good, but it is not enough. United Way’s long-standing practice of funding good ideas and intentions is not working. We must do better. It is time for innovative, disruptive change.”
Augie Napoli, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland.

United Way of Greater Cleveland uses our strengths as a voice, resource and innovator for those in need. We provide real-time help for real-world problems to reverse Cleveland’s poverty crisis.

A two-fold strategy

Our strategy is two-fold. We address the immediate needs of those in crisis. Yet we are also developing long-term solutions that will initiate systemic change and break the cycle of poverty in which so many of our neighbors are trapped.

Basic Needs for Today

The final pivot in United Way of Greater Cleveland’s transformation is the activation of the Community Hub for Basic Needs, which will provide real-time help for real-world problems faced by people in need. The Hub is focused on initiatives and solutions that will have the greatest, long-term impact on children and their families living in the deepest poverty.

Concrete Solutions for Tomorrow

Last year, United Way of Greater Cleveland established the Impact Institute, a think tank with an action plan, to address the root causes of poverty such as housing instability, racism and childhood trauma. Under the leadership of Dr. Delos M. “Toby” Cosgrove, Distinguished Chair, the Institute has made significant progress in the fight against poverty through essential community collaborations across the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

What's the same?

  • Our commitment to reducing poverty.
    We’re not changing just to change. We’re holding ourselves accountable to the people in need we serve and to donors like you. Our evolution will mean better results for those who count on us and a better bang for your buck.
  • Employee choice.
    You can continue to rely on the convenience of organizing your charitable giving through United Way. In fact, you and your employees will still be able to designate your gift to United Way to any nonprofit. We’re proud to be Cleveland’s “community chest” and that won’t change.

What has changed?

  • Our approach to poverty .
    Those we serve and those who give deserve results. So rather than fund large swaths of agencies and hope for change, we now develop specific, ambitious poverty reduction goals based on what our community needs most.
  • The way we disperse undesignated dollars.
    In the past, nonprofits in the region could apply for United Way funding. But those in need demand more impactful results. So moving forward, we’ll work with select partners to develop solutions and then implement those solutions together.


How will you show results?

The Community Hub for Basic Needs

What are the root causes of poverty and why are they so difficult to solve for?

The Impact Institute