Twin Cities United Way Awards Final Round of Covid-19 Relief Funds

Twin Cities United Way Awards Final Round of Covid-19 Relief Funds

The organization has distributed $682,000 in grants to 51 nonprofits in its fifth and final round of Covid-19 relief funding.

The Greater Twin Cities United Way on Tuesday announced that it has awarded its final round of Covid-19 relief grants, which were fueled by an influx of corporate donations and individual gifts.

The organization distributed $682,000 in grants to 51 small nonprofits in the Twin Cities metro. All the nonprofits in this wave of funding already receive regular annual funding from United Way, said John Wilgers, president and CEO of the group’s Twin Cities chapter. In the final round of funding, the organization targeted small nonprofits that had the “greatest capacity-building needs,” Wilgers said.

Some of the beneficiaries in the final round of funding include the St. Paul-based Center for Economic Inclusion, North Minneapolis development group Appetite for Change, and the Children’s Defense Fund Minnesota, among dozens of other small nonprofits.

Including the funding package announced Tuesday, United Way has provided more than $3 million in Covid-19 relief funds to local groups in five separate waves. The organization also distributed $2.1 million to other United Way chapters as directed by some corporate donors. Click here for a full list of grant recipients.

The organization began awarding grants just two weeks after its Covid-19 fund was established in late March.

United Way, which typically gets most of its revenue through annual workplace giving campaigns, received funding for its Covid-19 relief efforts from a host of Minnesota businesses, foundations, and individuals. The organization received “six-figure gifts” from 3M, Andersen Corp., Liberty Diversified International, Medica, and Medtronic. Smaller local companies lent a hand, too. “Businesses like Mann Theatres sold popcorn curbside with proceeds going to support our United Way Covid relief and recovery efforts,” said Twin Cities United Way spokeswoman Kelly Puspoki.

In addition, General Mills, RBC, Toro Co., and Pentair provided “large national gifts” for the United Way’s national operation.

Wilgers noted that workplace giving campaigns still remain the “most significant source of revenue” for the organization. But he also thinks that the success of the Covid-19 relief program could prompt the organization to retool its fundraising efforts.

“It is possible that non-recurring campaigns could become a regular part of how we raise money and how we grant money,” he said.

All the while, United Way has already been working to diversify its revenue streams beyond workplace giving campaigns.

In between each wave of Covid-19 relief funding, United Way carefully evaluated community needs to determine where to direct the next round of money. Wilgers described it as a process of “listening, distributing, and then realigning.”

The organization gathered some of its information from its 211 helpline, which connects residents with needed social services. The United Way saw a 300 percent increase in call volume during the pandemic, Wilgers noted. The types of requests that came in helped United Way plan for subsequent rounds of funding.

The Twin Cities United Way has a staff of 31 working on the 211 helpline. As part of a new contract with the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, the organization will add 40 more helpline employees to assist callers with housing-related needs. United Way also has a staff of nine operating a suicide prevention line.

In all, the organization’s Covid-19 relief funds reflected a 20 percent increase over its typical annual operating grants.

“I do think that Covid was an opportunity for us to demonstrate our relevance in the community,” Wilger said.