Our Work

United Way of Metro Chicago brings together businesses, government, nonprofits, and agency and community leaders to deliver funding, resources, and expertise to nonprofit organizations across greater Chicago. We are working alongside our partners at the neighborhood level to tackle the systemic issues that have plagued our region, creating communities where children and families can thrive. United, we are building stronger neighborhoods for a stronger, more equitable Chicago region.


United Way is a nonprofit organization that mobilizes private and philanthropic support and public sector resources to ensure our neighbors meet their basic needs and support our agency and community partners’ goals for transformation in their neighborhoods.

How we help

Something powerful happens when people unite around a common goal. At United Way, we take a collaborative approach to creating change. Using decades of fundraising experience and community engagement expertise, we connect advocates, volunteers, donors and local agencies to build a stronger Chicago. Together, we are able to meet a wide range of needs that create a foundation from which families and individuals can reach their full potential.


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of what it means to live united and advance the common good. To be a diverse and inclusive organization is fundamental to achieving our vision of building a stronger, more equitable Chicago region.

In addition to reflecting the core values of diversity and inclusion, we are committed to working against racism and toward racial equity in everything we do.


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Our Team

The United Way team is a group of passionate individuals who engage volunteers, donors and community partners to ensure our neighbors can meet their basic needs and who work every day to build a stronger, more equitable Chicago region for every individual and family.

Our Team

Working at United Way

Every function of the United Way team—from data collection to event management, and from administrative assisting to fundraising—contributes to our vision of building a stronger, more equitable Chicago region. We count on our employees to bring a spirit of inclusivity and creativity to everything they do. We lean on our diverse backgrounds to broaden our perspectives and increase our impact.

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A look at our history


A new movement

In Denver, a woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi got together. Though it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, they met to develop new ways of working together to improve the lives of Denver residents. That year, they raised $21,700, benefiting 10 area welfare agencies. Their work laid the foundation for what would eventually become the global United Way movement.


The crash

The U.S. stock market crashed on Black Tuesday (October 29), heralding the beginning of the Great Depression. In Chicago, countless businesses found themselves “in the red” and were forced to permanently close. This left 700,000 people unemployed. In response, a group of business and civic leaders gathered to create a committee and laid the foundation for what is now known as United Way of Metro Chicago.


Illinois relief

Illinois Governor Emmerson created the Commission on Unemployment and Relief to organize temporary relief efforts for the depression. The commission received funds through a payroll deduction system that set aside employee contributions and employer-matched dollars—the prototype for United Way’s payroll deduction process. The Commission soon evolved into a more centralized fundraising entity and was renamed the Emergency Welfare Fund. The Fund, which would come to be known as United Way of Metro Chicago, linked together communities to create lasting change.


First community partners

The first nonprofit agencies to submit for membership to the Fund were United Charities, Jewish Charities, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army of Chicago and the Chicago chapter of the American Red Cross. The Chicago Urban League was the first agency serving minority people to be funded. These partners continued to be United Way of Metro Chicago funded agencies for decades to come.


Women make a difference

While Chicago businessmen led the Fund’s board, the Women’s Division ran its own campaign to help achieve fundraising goals. They solicited contributions from 10,000-15,000 women from other local women’s groups.


The city that works

The Chicago Federation of Labor helped the Community Fund of Chicago (formerly the Emergency Welfare Fund) raise more than $3.5 million and increased the number of donors to a record 23,095. These milestones marked a movement of labor unions investing in local communities, sowing the seeds for a relationship between United Way and labor unions that continues today. America entered World War II in 1941. The demand for labor increased and the depression ended. War became the priority, and Chicagoans came forward to assist.


Peacetime challenges

Following the war, the suburbs grew rapidly, and the Suburban Community Chest Council was created. This consolidated disparate community chests that had been established since 1934 outside the City of Chicago, specifically Berwyn, Brookfield, Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Hinsdale, Lombard, Maywood, Oak Park/River Forest, Riverside, Stickney and Western Springs.


A way forward

America’s national community chest system consolidated and became the United Way of America. As a community chest organization, the Community Fund became an affiliate of the newly formed United Way.


United we stand

In 1977, the Community Fund and the Council for Community Services combined to officially form United Way of Chicago. A year earlier, in 1976, The Suburban Community Chest Council became the United Way of Suburban Chicago.


Public service

When the local unemployment rate rose 7 percentage points above the national average, Chicagoans responded with overwhelming generosity. They collected $75 million in donations and aided 375 local social services agencies. United Way of Chicago launched a new initiative known as the Special Grants and Incentives Program (also known as Priority Grants or Venture Grants) that targeted funds for severely underserved communities.


Civic society

The United Way Tocqueville Society was founded by United Way of America in 1984 to recognize outstanding philanthropists across the country. It was named after Alexis de Tocqueville, the French author of “Democracy in America.” Tocqueville was an advocate for democracy, federalism and philanthropy. His focus on collaboration through associations made him an ideal namesake for this esteemed giving society. The Chicago chapter of the Tocqueville Society began in 1989. It enables prominent Chicago area residents to deepen their commitment to civic leadership and community service while providing an opportunity for public recognition.


Issue areas

United Way’s Environmental Analysis Committee concluded that the focus of the campaign and allocation process needed to change to center around five issue areas: human capital development, community development, family life, health and disability, and discrimination. United Way established three-year priority grants to help fund agencies that directly addressed these issues—marking the beginning of an issue-based funding strategy.


Reaching out

In an effort to better serve the diverse region, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago began connecting with minority business leaders and creating outreach committees. By 1994, about 90 percent of United Way’s fund recipients were organizations that served minority communities.


United as one

By 2003, 55 individual United Way chapters existed in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Under President and CEO Janet Froetscher, they consolidated into one chapter and took the name United Way of Metro Chicago. This was the largest nonprofit merger in history.


Taking initiative

United Way of Metro Chicago launched its African American and Latin American Initiatives. Developed to address the specific needs of the black and Latino communities, these programs aimed to put young African-American males and Latinos on track for success as adults.


Transition to impact

In 2011, United Way of Metro Chicago launched the LIVE UNITED 2020 community impact plan to make more substantial, lasting change through focused, well-researched strategies in the communities. LIVE UNITED 2020 sought to meet the following goals by the year 2020:
Put 50,000 middle school students on track to graduate high school
Provide 100,000 households with improved economic stability
Connect more than 200,000 people with a doctor
Provide a million people with food, shelter and safety from abuse

By 2016, United Way had not only met its goals, it had exceeded them.


Focus on neighborhoods

In partnership with lead neighborhood agencies, United Way of Metro Chicago launched the Neighborhood Network Initiative. Along with a lead agency and other community partners, United Way worked with these neighborhoods to assist them in achieving goals they were already aiming to accomplish. Neighborhood Networks exist in the following 10 communities: Auburn Gresham, Austin, Bronzeville, Brighton Park, Cicero, Evanston, Little Village, Robbins/Blue Island, South Chicago and West Chicago.


United Pride

United Way of Metro Chicago launched United Pride, an affinity group for members of the LGBTQ community and allies to come together around issues affecting the LGBTQ community. United Pride reflects United Way’s value of diversity in sexual orientation, culture, ethnicity, age, religion, and other qualities that unite our region.


A state in crisis

United Way of Metro Chicago joined forces with United Way of Illinois to execute a series of surveys and bring attention to the impact that the state’s budget impasse had on the most vulnerable citizens across Illinois and on the human service sector overall.

2017 and beyond

A stronger Chicago

After achieving the LIVE UNITED 2020 goals four years ahead of schedule, United Way of Metro Chicago shifted focus to the Stronger Neighborhoods Community Impact Plan. This new plan works to bring resources together that support neighborhood leaders, residents and organizations to create stronger communities for all. United Way remains committed to the betterment of the region by bringing people and resources together to help unleash the potential of greater Chicago—neighborhood by neighborhood.

Give Money.

Invest in people. Invest in your neighborhood. Invest in a stronger Chicago.


Give Time.

Share your time. Share your talents. Share your love for community.

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