United Way of Greater Cleveland Sharpens Focus to Address the Region’s Poverty Crisis through Partner Network

United Way’s Community Hub for Basic Needs to create focused network to help Cleveland’s in-most-need

CLEVELAND – Feb. 26, 2020 – United Way of Greater Cleveland announced today its plan to help people living in the deepest poverty across Cleveland through the creation of a concentrated network of public, private and nonprofit sector partners under the Community Hub for Basic Needs (“the Hub”).

The Hub marks the final step in the organization’s three-year strategic plan to maximize United Way’s impact within the community by targeting specific, measurable goals and outcomes to address the city’s most challenging issues.

The Poverty Crisis in Cleveland

Fifty-one percent of children in Cleveland live in poverty, the highest poverty rate in the nation, according to data from the Center for Community Solutions (CCS), a nonpartisan think tank focused on solutions to health, social and economic issues.

“Cleveland is one of the most generous philanthropic communities in the nation, yet we are the worst in the country when it comes to childhood poverty” said Augie Napoli, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland. “We are second worst when it comes to working age adults and third in the nation in senior poverty. What we are doing is not enough. United Way’s long-standing practice of funding good ideas and intentions clearly is not working – we must do better for our city’s citizens, and we will work with a concentrated group of partners to tackle this issue head on.”

Going forward, United Way of Greater Cleveland is departing from being a pass-through funder of agencies to a network leader. The Hub’s network will set realistic and meaningful goals over the next three years to assist those living in the deepest poverty in the community.

Through the Hub, United Way of Greater Cleveland will engage and fund partners whose services, capabilities and missions best match this approach. The new funding strategy relies on focused investments in a smaller group of partners to reduce poverty rates in Cleveland.

Community Investments and a New Funding Model

“We have a staggering problem with poverty in Cleveland,” said Paul Dolan, Board Chair at United Way of Greater Cleveland. “This crisis is a call to action for bold change. We realize this is a significant sea change for United Way of Greater Cleveland, but the issues at hand require a disruption to the system and refocus on the urgent needs of our community. So, we are revolutionizing the way we work, invest and partner.”

This past year in 2019, United Way of Greater Cleveland invested $33.2 million in the community. This included: 2-1-1 HelpLink and other direct services, the Impact Institute, federated and regional partners, agency grants specified by donors and agency grants determined by United Way’s RFP funding process.

Only the last category of agency grants determined by United Way’s RFP process, which totaled $6.5 million in fiscal year 2019, will see change.

For this category, the organization will implement a new funding process focused on specific goals. Reaching these goals will be the effort of a concentrated group of funded partners who will collectively impact the effects of poverty so many face each day.

While changing its funding process, United Way of Greater Cleveland will continue to honor its grants to agencies through the end of this RFP period, July 1, 2020.  In addition, the organization will provide transitional funding for these current agency partners for a 15-month period, from July 1, 2020 – October 1, 2021.

United Way will also continue its investments in the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition and with partners at Legal Aid on Right to Counsel which will both have significant, long-term impact on Clevelanders who live in the city’s deepest poverty.

What to expect next

United Way’s next large-scale report will be held on September 10, 2020 at the organization’s Annual Meeting, where United Way of Greater Cleveland will reveal the details of the framework for the Community Hub for Basic Needs.

The organization will continue to host and lead other community conversations to drive awareness about the poverty crisis in Cleveland and the work being done with partners through this new network to tackle the issue head on.


Founded in 1913, United Way of Greater Cleveland is a local, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting poverty across the Greater Cleveland area. The largest private-sector investor of health and human services, United Way invests in efforts that address poverty using a two-pronged approach. The first prong focuses on the daily issues affecting those living in poverty, the Community Hub for Basic Needs. The second drives research and innovation through the Impact Institute, a think tank with an action plan, focused on identifying long-term solutions to the root causes of poverty. For more information or to donate, please visit www.unitedwaycleveland.org.


Media contacts

Katie Connell (404-895-5513) kconnell@unitedwaycleveland.org

Savannah Heck (440-281-3934) sheck@unitedwaycleveland.org