Why Change?

Our Business Transformation - Not your grandfather's United Way

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.

Why We Changed

childhood poverty
childhood poverty
childhood 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.

Our New Business Model

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.

Concrete Solutions for Tomorrow

Last year, United Way of Greater Cleveland established the Impact Institute (link), 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.

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 (link), 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.

The Community Hub for Basic Needs is made up of three components:

Community Hub for Basic Needs


An essential part of the work we do at United Way is our 2-1-1 HelpLink service, 2-1-1 HelpLink is a free and confidential 24/7 helpline that connects people in need with more than 2,500 area agencies to ensure they receive essential resources such as utility, food and shelter assistance.

Public accessibility to

Center of Excellence for Social Services

We continue to grow our educational programming for all agencies and organizations that serve the community, not just those we fund. We’ll host and lead community conversations about the most pressing issues we must work together to solve.

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Strategic Investments

In partnership with the agencies with which we work, we will establish realistic and measurable goals to serve those living in the deepest poverty in our community in the most meaningful ways possible. And then we’ll work together to meet those targets.

Strategic investments in