Linda Coberly

Linda T. Coberly, United Way of Metro Chicago Board Chair and Chair of Appellate and Critical Motions Practice at Winston & Strawn LLP

This is an excerpt from the Letter to the Editor published in Crain’s Chicago Business on January 8, 2024. Read the full piece here.

By Linda T. Coberly, Chair, United Way of Metro Chicago Board of Directors, and Chair of Appellate & Critical Motions Practice, Winston & Strawn LLP

Almost six years ago, Crain’s Chicago Business published an article asking, Does the world still need United Way? (April 6, 2018). It questioned the decades-old model of a fundraising intermediary, concluding that it was no longer necessary in the face of widely accessible online charity trackers that empower individual donors to do their own research to find worthy organizations to support.

While we disagree with this characterization of United Way’s historical role, Crain’s was right that United Way needed to evolve. Five years later, under the leadership of President and CEO Sean Garrett, the new United Way of Metro Chicago has an entirely new model and is making a tangible impact across the region. The new model aligns high-level corporate philanthropy and workplace giving programs with United Way’s deep expertise as a convener and strategist, developing new ways to address our region’s most significant and systemic community challenges.

Today, United Way is a multiplier of impact. It unites business leaders, individual donors, corporate partners, philanthropic organizations, government resources and community organizers to make meaningful progress.

Look no further than the recent catalytic investments in Austin — like the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation and the new Build community hub — as well as the expansion of the Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub & Campus and new community centers in Little Village and Brighton Park. Look at community investment partnerships with BMO, ITW and Nicor Gas. Each of these efforts is strengthening neighborhoods by meeting local needs and creating economic, workforce and employment opportunities. And most important, all are community-led initiatives supported by United Way but run by experts who know their communities best.

Following the successful execution of one of the nation’s largest COVID-19 response funds, where United Way partnered with The Chicago Community Trust to raise $35 million in support of more than 400 nonprofits, a critical gap in the health and social service sectors surfaced. In January 2023, United Way partnered with the city of Chicago and Cook County to launch 211 Metro Chicago, a free 24/7 helpline that connects county residents with a vast network of health and social services organizations.

Read the full piece in Crain’s Chicago Business.