Strengthening the Nonprofit Sector at United Way of Racine County

A crowd of mostly white people stand and kneel in a group, facing the camera and raising their hands in the air.May 22, 2021 — United Way of Racine County is eager to launch the first of its projects funded by the transformational donation from MacKenzie Scott it received earlier this year. This project, a training and technology fund, will meet the need for resources and development among community nonprofits. The fund opens for applications on May 27.  

This fund is designed to increase the efficiency, capacity, professionalism and impact of local nonprofits and their staff and boards. Grants from the fund will provide access to trainings for nonprofits’ board and staff and facilitate the acquisition of technology to support nonprofits’ ongoing modernization. 

The fund is just one of the ways United Way proudly strengthens the nonprofit sector and supports its ongoing growth. The last year has brought many changes to the organization – some of them challenges, some of them blessings, all of them indicators of a morphing landscape for nonprofits everywhere. 

The United Way model is founded on collaboration between nonprofits. One nonprofit may be mighty, but when nonprofits collaborate on community issues, they transform the community landscape dramatically. A core value of United Way is working as a convener, harnessing the power of community-minded individuals and organizations in support of systems-wide change. Sometimes this collaboration means ensuring partners have the funding they need to carry out their critical work. Sometimes, it entails mobilizing organizations to form a presence in the communities that most need access to resources. Other times, it simply means getting the right people in the room at the right time to collaborate on new and better ways to serve the community. 

The last year has proved how critical this teamwork is to sustaining a healthy community. When COVID-19 struck, United Way was well positioned to leverage its network of businesses, nonprofits, donors and volunteers to achieve meaningful relief for the community. A partnership with the Racine Community Foundation raised more than $145,000 and gathered critical nonprofit supplies for the Community Cares COVID-19 Relief Fund, which helped organizations launch virtual support groups, directly support COVID-affected community members and more. United Way now runs its COVID Relief Fund independently, with a focus on supporting marginalized communities. This fund has invested over $80,000 to strengthen 13 community organizations since November 2020. 

As it became clear that many changes to the nonprofit world would-be long-term ones, United Way sought additional ways to facilitate the community’s adaptation. The technology and training fund is just one of these options. In the coming months, United Way also anticipates the implementation of an equity innovation fund, which will fund programs that address local equity issues, especially promising start-up programs. It also looks forward to the growth of its LIFT community schools partnership with Racine Unified School District through a segment of the donation from Scott. All of these efforts will develop equity throughout the community by ensuring resources to underfunded but impactful work, the need for which has become increasingly visible over the last several months.  

It’s clear that our community will need to be adaptable to weather an increasingly digital and remote world. Amidst these struggles, our community has proved time and time again its capacity for changing and giving back. United Way has seen this in the community’s generous support of its annual campaign this year; it’s seen this in the flood of participants eager to learn how to create change through its 21-week exploration of racial inequity through its Equity Challenge emails; and it’s seen this in the increasingly strong collaborations forming between it and nonprofits throughout the community. The work of change is far from over, but United Way —and its partners around Racine County — are determined to make it happen. 

This newsletter was originally published in the Racine Journal Times.