History of United Way of Greater Cleveland


  • The Nation’s first modern Community Chest came into being with the formation of the Cleveland Federation for Charity and Philanthropy.

  • Cleveland becomes the first city to organize a true financial federation of health and welfare agencies – one that annually allocates campaign funds through a single federated charity to address the problems of a rapidly expanding metropolitan area.

  • The first campaign raises $127,000 for 55 social service and charitable organizations.


  • The first version of United Way’s annual campaign launches through a “talking motion picture” presented by Andrew Carnegie discussing “the duties of a man of wealth.”


  • Refinements in fundraising methodology are brought about by World War I.

  • The Red Cross and YMCA conduct a joint solicitation campaign in Cleveland in an effort to save time and money.

  • Called the "Victory Drive" or "War Chest," the campaign raises over $6,000,000, a figure well above the goal that had been set for the drive.


  • Inspired by the War Chest, community businessmen and philanthropists create the Community Chest which encompasses 92 agencies and brings in over $4M in its first campaign under the leadership of chairman Samuel Mather.

  • The Community Chest opens its headquarters on 1921 East 9th Street and becomes a national model of fundraising.


  • More than 6,000 area families are assisted by the Community Fund at the height of the Great Depression.

  • The Community Chest creates themes like “hard times” and “suppose nobody cared” campaigns and receives accolades for its success.


  • The depression brings local, state and government changes, allowing the Community Chest to generate more self-support. More dollars are made available to meet more health and welfare needs.

  • The Red Cross leaves the Community Chest and creates its own separate campaign.


  • The Community Chest adopts the Red Feather as its symbol – a mark of distinction and achievement.

  • The united appeal of all leading Catholic, Protestant and Jewish philanthropic agencies and non-sectarian welfare institutions becomes an annual appeal under the Community Fund Council.

  • During World War II, the Community Chest again runs an all-encompassing War Chest campaign. The experience in running this campaign, and the proliferation of post-War charitable agencies causes the Chest to again investigate the possibility of a more complete federation of charitable work in Cleveland.


  • The Community Chest moves its location to 13100 Euclid Avenue and begins extending reach to women by forming a Women’s Committee.

  • The Community Chest and the Red Cross merge campaigns and form the United Appeal of Greater Cleveland.


  • An annual report identifies the United Appeal of Greater Cleveland as a leader of generosity amongst the “Big Ten Cities” due to producing the largest dollar per capita. The United Appeal of Greater Cleveland surpasses the $17M mark and is coined “the community with a heart.”

  • As the population begins to spread to the suburbs and adjoining counties, the agency responds by offering human care programs in areas including Geauga and Medina counties.


  • The United Appeal of Greater Cleveland blends with the Community Fund, Red Cross, agencies participating in the Welfare Federation, six Health Fund agencies and heart and cancer research into one United Torch drive.

  • The United Torch becomes United Way Services under United Way of America.

  • United Ways located in the United States and Canada raise $1,038,995,000 – the first time in history that an annual campaign of a single organization raises more than $1 Billion.


  • Congress makes the first-of-its-kind $50M emergency food and shelter grant to the voluntary sector with United Way of America as the fiscal agent.

  • The government establishes FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and charges UWA with the responsibility of managing funds.

  • United Way Services raises $50,274,724, surpassing the $50 million campaign mark for the first time.


  • United Way Services moves locations after 40 years to 1331 Euclid Avenue and conducts a community needs analysis to identify core health and human service issues in Cuyahoga County.

  • The first United Way Celebrity Golf Tournament with Cleveland Browns alumni is held, continuing for 15 years and raising more than $1.3 million for the community.


  • The Community Vision Leadership Council, a volunteer task force, is created and subsequently creates volunteer coordinating councils around four issue areas: children and families, seniors, education and employment and health and wellness.

  • United Way Services hosts President George Bush and shares the Community Vision Council Project in a private briefing.

  • United Way’s First Call for Help becomes the 2-1-1 Call Center for Cuyahoga County.

  • United Way Services becomes United Way of Greater Cleveland.


  • 2-1-1 expands to include Ohio Lottery gambling line, tax assistance and Bank of America to assist customers losing their homes to foreclosure.

  • United Way of Greater Cleveland celebrates its 100-year anniversary.

  • The Impact Institute is founded, designed to create and implement new ways to better approach the root causes of poverty.

  • United Way of Greater Cleveland serves as Lead Partner Organization for Right to Counsel, working closely with community partners, including the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, to prevent evictions and stabilize families across Cleveland.

  • The Lead Safe Summit, organized by United Way of Greater Cleveland, convenes parents, residents, landlords, and elected officials to learn about lead poisoning and its impact. Shortly after the Summit, Cleveland City Council passes key legislation as a first step toward creating a lead-safe Cleveland.


August A. Napoli joined United Way of Greater Cleveland as President and CEO in 2016. A strategic planning project and community needs assessment is completed and results indicate where change is necessary within Greater Cleveland. A three-year strategic plan (2017-2020) is launched, identifying four key goals: establish a collaborative culture of philanthropy, emphasize donor centricity across resource development efforts, leverage the power of data to drive resource distribution and build a foundation of operational excellence and sustainable infrastructure to bring lasting change in our community. As a result, United Way created a two-prong approach to concurrently address the symptoms and root causes of poverty:

  • The Community Hub for Basic Needs which provides a wrap-around model of services through a network of community partners to address the symptoms of poverty, including hunger, shelter and violence.

  • The Impact Institute, a think tank with an action plan, that joins brings together thought leaders from across academia, public and private sectors, and health and human services organizations to solve the root causes of poverty, including access to affordable housing, racism and childhood abuse.