United Way of Metropolitan Chicago Media Center

At United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, we’re about creating better lives on a large scale. We leverage the expertise of our staff, our connections across sectors and our resources including funding and research, to transform individual lives and entire neighborhoods. With strategies that include both a regional and neighborhood approach to addressing big challenges; a clear focus on the critical areas to individual and community success; and partnerships with almost 200 best-in-class nonprofits, we’re able to make a lasting difference for struggling individuals and families. Add to that 80+ years of experience and unparalleled relationships and you’ve got a formula for building stronger communities with more high school graduates, financially stable households and healthy families.

Key Areas of Focus

United Way of Metropolitan Chicago is able to provide information and perspective in diverse fields including education, financial stability, health, basic needs, advocacy, human services, philanthropy and volunteerism consistently monitor new trends, research and best practices. They ensure that our granting, advocacy and volunteer efforts make the biggest impact possible. If you need information in any of the below areas, United Way leaders can provide insight and perspective. To schedule an interview with one of our experts in any of our focus areas, contact Karyn Ruhl, Communications Manager at karyn.ruhl@uw-mc.org or 312.906.2291.

  • Education

    Education

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    Learning gaps in children can present themselves as early as 18 months. Children from low-income communities are particularly vulnerable to starting school behind their peers, and may then struggle to keep up as they move from grade to grade. At-risk children who do not receive high-quality early childhood education are 25% more likely to drop out of high school and 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. High school dropouts are 72% more likely to be unemployed as compared to high school graduates.

    • 25,777 3rd graders in Cook and DuPage counties are not meeting state standards for reading
    • 13% of 9th graders in Cook County are not on track for success in high school
    • 17% of students in Cook County do not graduate

    United Way focuses on early learning and middle school supports so children start school ready-to-learn and enter high school on track for graduation. To achieve our ultimate goal of ensuring underperforming middle school students will enter high school achieving at grade level and on track to graduate, United Way is focused on the following strategies:

    • Expand resources for high-quality preschool and home visits so children start kindergarten with a strong foundation in language, motor skills and socio-emotional development
    • Support at-risk middle school students and their families with academic resources, after school enrichment programs and physical and mental health services

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  • Income

    Financial Stability

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    Many individuals in our region are unable to secure or maintain stable employment, maximize their income, manage household finances or prepare adequately for their financial future. While employment is the most critical component of adult prosperity, in the Chicagoland region barriers to jobs persist for many.

    • The unemployment rate is 7% regionally and up to 20% in some United Way partner communities
    • The poverty rate averages 33% in United Way partner communities
    • More than 400,000 people in Cook and DuPage counties live in extreme poverty Too many families are also living in a state of persistent financial insecurity

    To achieve our ultimate goal of helping households achieve financial stability, United Way is focused on the following strategies:

    • Place people in jobs through training, skill building, and workforce development
    • Build knowledge of personal finance, budgeting and growing savings
    • Provide free tax assistance to connect people with appropriate credits

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  • Health

    Health

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    For too many people in our region, good health—including access to adequate and affordable health services — is out of reach.

    Childhood obesity is a growing problem for Chicagoland children. Children who do not meet the daily recommendations for physical activity and diet are more likely to suffer from obesity and chronic illness as adults.

    Health insurance helps individuals and families access needed primary care, specialists and emergency care, yet many people in our region still are not connected to vital preventive care services.

    • Chronic disease accounts for 7 out of 10 deaths in Illinois
    • Cook County ranks as one of the least healthy counties in the state based on length of life, healthy behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment
    • Life expectancy can vary as much as 15 years among neighborhoods in Chicago
    • 48.6% of Chicago 6th graders are overweight or obese
    • Only 9.3% of Chicago children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of active play per day
    • Only 21.8% of Chicago children are getting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables per day
    • 20% of Illinoisans do not have a primary care doctor or medical home

    To achieve our goal of connecting people with preventative health care and providing young people with the education and opportunity to lead healthy, active lives, United Way is focused on the following strategies:

    • Reduce barriers to care and connect more families to health services, a primary care physician, comprehensive mental health services and substance abuse care
    • Invest in school-based programs that educate youth about healthy behaviors and promote physical activity

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  • Safety Net/Basic Needs

    Basic Needs/Safety Net

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    Food insecurity affects communities across the city and suburbs. Many people are finding themselves cutting back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase for themselves and their families. Many families also have to make the difficult choice of choosing to buy food or pay for housing or medicine.

    Having a safe place to sleep is one of the most basic of human needs, yet every day in our region, hundreds of thousands of individuals struggle to find a home for themselves and their families.

    Domestic violence happens in many forms and can affect people of any age, culture and class. Helping victims of domestic violence involves a multifaceted approach, including providing immediate shelter and legal assistance.

    • In Cook and DuPage Counties, more than 850,000 residents are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from
    • In Cook and DuPage Counties, there are 29,650 homeless school children
    • In Cook and DuPage Counties, 400,000 people have experienced domestic violence

    United Way invests in programs and partnerships that help stabilize families and individuals who are encountering some of the most critical challenges they will ever face. Basic needs programs include homeless shelters, transitional housing, disaster recovery, food pantries, meal programs, domestic violence assistance and legal aid.

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  • Neighborhood Network

    Neighborhood Network/Collective Impact

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    The Neighborhood Network is United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s region-wide strategic initiative to address local community challenges by driving focused collaboration to achieve lasting change. We help neighborhoods solve their most pressing problems through community-specific strategies. Community stakeholders — residents, schools, nonprofits, government officials, churches, hospitals, businesses — work with United Way to identify challenges that the collective group works toward solving. Working with a lead partner in the community, United Way funds and guides the work of the Neighborhood Network toward achieving its collective goal.

    Why Neighborhood Networks?

    Neighborhoods are big enough to matter and small enough to change.

    Communities in great need in the region have languished for years with isolated programs and limited investment. At the same time, large pockets of poverty have developed in the suburbs amidst otherwise financially stable neighborhoods.

    United Way’s Neighborhood Network Initiative has been operational in Brighton Park on the city’s southwest side for three years and in the suburb of West Chicago for just over a year. We are in the planning phase in 8 other neighborhoods: Auburn-Gresham, Austin, Bronzeville, Cicero, Evanston, Little Village, Robbins/Blue Island and South Chicago.

    In each community, with United Way funding and coordination, stakeholder coalitions are identifying a common goal they want to work toward over the next several years. Issues under consideration across United Way’s ten Network communities include improving high school graduation rates, increasing the number of children reading proficiently in third grade (a major predictor of future educational success), reducing incidences of domestic violence and lowering the childhood obesity rate.

    For more information on the United Way Neighborhood Network Initiative, contact Karyn Ruhl at karyn.ruhl@uw-mc.org or 312.906.2291.

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  • Advocacy

    Advocacy and Public Policy

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    United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s public policy agenda reflects the work of United Ways across the state in the areas of education, income and health. Additionally, United Way advocates for sound policies affecting the nonprofit sector’s capacity to advance the common good. United Way of Metropolitan Chicago has established engagement strategies within each of the following four areas:

    EDUCATION: LAYING THE FOUNDATION FOR FUTURE SUCCESS

    Illinois’ competitiveness in a global economy depends upon academic achievement. To succeed, students must enter school ready to learn and navigate the transitions to high school, post-secondary study and work.

    To ensure children receive a quality education and stay in school through graduation, United Way:

    • Advocates to make high-quality, affordable, early-learning opportunities available to all children
    • Promotes partnerships that support family engagement and community-based involvement to improve student academic achievement
    • Supports comprehensive and consistent assessment and measurement standards from Pre-K through high school graduation

    INCOME: FOSTERING STRONG COMMUNITIES THROUGH FINANCIAL STABILITY

    Financial stability has taken on greater importance for many Illinoisans as our economy struggles to rebound. Households that are financially stable and have sufficient income to support their families create a stronger community and economy.

    To ensure families and individuals have the resources they need to achieve financial stability, United Way:

      Supports increased access to work support programs and streamlined processes for critical public benefits

    • Promotes strengthening of financial literacy programs to help individuals avoid financial hardship and develop lifelong security

    HEALTH: PREVENTING SHRONIC DISEASE AND ENSURING ACCESS TO CARE

    Access to affordable, quality health coverage is the key to ensuring Illinoisans can lead healthier lives. Receiving healthcare early in life and throughout adulthood is an important way to prevent obesity and chronic diseases that are becoming more prevalent today.

    To ensure families and individuals are able to live healthier lives, United Way:

    • Supports access to healthcare by connecting people to affordable, comprehensive health services
    • Combats preventable chronic disease through the promotion of strategies that support wellness and healthy lifestyles

    COMMUNITY STRENGTHENING: BUILDING CAPACITY TO ADVANCE THE COMMON GOOD

    Much like roads, hospitals and schools, community services are part of our state’s vital public infrastructure that must be maintained and strengthened. In order to continue advancing the common good, we must make sure the state has a well-managed and highly coordinated network of community services.

    To ensure Illinois has the essential services that protect public health and safety, revitalize local economies and enhance learning, United Way:

    • Advocates for a state budget that adequately funds strategic investments in Illinois’ health and human services
    • Promotes fair, efficient and transparent contracting practices between service providers and government funders
    • Supports efforts to reduce unnecessary state administrative burdens on human service providers and their programs
    • Enhances community resources that ensure a seamless infrastructure of health and human service support for those in need
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  • Human Services

    Human Services

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    United Way of Metropolitan Chicago is the largest local non-governmental funder of human services. We fund 198 agencies across the Chicagoland region and partner with many other local nonprofits. Our experts in human services are connected to our community and continuously monitor trends in human services delivery, best practices and innovative models of funding.

    We also advocate to make sure the state has a well-managed and highly coordinated network of community services. To ensure Illinois has the essential services that protect public health and safety, revitalize local economies and enhance learning, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago advocates for a state budget that adequately funds strategic investments in Illinois’ health and human services; promotes fair, efficient and transparent contracting practices between service providers and government funders; supports efforts to reduce unnecessary state administrative burdens on human service providers and their programs; and enhances community resources that ensure a seamless infrastructure of health and human service support for those in need.

    To schedule an interview with one of experts in human services, contact Karyn Ruhl, Communications Manager at karyn.ruhl@uw-mc.org or 312.906.2291.

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  • Philanthropy

    Individual and Corporate Philanthropy

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    Workplace giving has always been a significant revenue source for United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and an inspiring example of the power of collective philanthropy. The generosity of individuals, foundations and corporations in greater Chicago continues to be remarkably evident in United Way’s ability to raise resources for those individuals and communities that need them most. For fiscal year 2015, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s total revenue was $57.0M, an increase of $1.3M over the prior fiscal year.

    Our challenge to raise resources in both traditional and new ways met with great success, allowing us to allocate our community investments across the most impactful agencies and programs, as well as our Neighborhood Network Initiative.

    We connect with donors through workplace giving and major and individual giving and we offer a variety of ways for donors to give and get involved with United Way. Through our Young Leader’s Society, Women’s Leadership Council and United Pride, our LGBT affinity group, we are able to engage a broad audience and connect with donors on a more personal level.

    To schedule an interview with one of experts in corporate or individual giving, contact Karyn Ruhl, Communications Manager at karyn.ruhl@uw-mc.org or 312.906.2291

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  • Volunteer

    Volunteerism

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    United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s Volunteer Services department facilitates focuses on creating experiences that engage, enthuse and educate corporate partners, individuals and stakeholders in order to better support communities of need. Our experts connect local employees with impactful volunteer experiences in an environment conducive to team building and increased employee morale. Our team offers a variety of volunteer experiences including community projects, in-office projects, virtual projects, skills-based projects and seasonal projects.

    To schedule an interview with one of our corporate volunteerism leads, contact Karyn Ruhl, Communications Manager at karyn.ruhl@uw-mc.org or 312.906.2291

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