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United Way Supports the Nonprofit Ecosystem

United Way Supports the Nonprofit Ecosystem

United Way has been around for a long time going back to 1889 but really taking off in 1927 after World War I. The creation of Community Chests — an early version of UW — was in response to crushing humanitarian crises many cities were facing as a result of the economic impact of that war on workers, families, and children. In his article United Way of America John Hasan speaks about that time, “When afflicted by unemployment, sickness, old age or a physical disability, individuals and families living in urban areas without relatives or financial resources had few options for assistance: apply for public relief, appeal to private charities or beg help from strangers.” United Way was a means of organizing and standardizing the help people needed in a particular community.

A lot of things have changed since then but one thing hasn’t and never will. Each United Way acts locally. We are United Way of Steele County. We are locally funded, locally governed and we determine our local mission based on local needs. We know this is important because it means we are neighbors helping neighbors. Who is going to take care of our neighbors if we don’t?

We don’t like to think about what our community would look like without UWSC but sometimes we are forced to as we watch communities like Winona decide to close their chapter, and see the UWs in the metro area struggle to raise funds. Both of these situations has had the direct and measurable result of putting the nonprofits they’ve served into existential crisis.

The simple fact is UWSC’s support of 27 vitally needed local programs through 16 nonprofit agencies stabilizes the entire nonprofit, charity, and human services ecosystem in our community. The roots of support from United Way of Steele County spread throughout our community beyond our own network to support the nonprofit infrastructure. The health of our nonprofit environment is a reflection of the health of your United Way of Steele County.

Steele County has a history of great generosity. Our residents support many worthy local causes and successful fundraisers. However, if UWSC didn’t exist there would be at least 1 — 2 more major fundraisers every month in order for our 16 funded agencies to make ends meet. If we were to eliminate our single annual campaign likely all of our supported agencies would be asking for donations from individuals and businesses several times a year. This is exactly what communities were experiencing after WWI that caused them to band together and create United Way to solve community problems on a collective basis. Consolidated fundraising, consolidated problem solving.

The support we give our agencies has other financial outcomes for our community. The number of benefit fundraisers to support private individuals in crisis is reduced because families, workers, senior citizens and our neighbors have steady and consistent basic needs assistance thanks to United Way of Steele County.

Our strong United Way network means that through your generosity to UWSC we can significantly support our 16 partner agencies. Which then leaves room for the fundraisers of churches, arts, culture and history, ecology and animals organizations which are outside our scope of service.

The support of UWSC to our partner agencies means professional and expert employees of those agencies can focus on what they do best — providing food, clothing, housing, counseling, mentorship, medical and dental care, legal aid and senior services – instead of diverting time for fundraising. Any circumstance that would require those agencies to do more fundraising would diminish the quality and effectiveness of their services – which in turn would reduce the help our neighbors receive, leaving them to struggle alone.

Agencies outsource their fundraising to us so they can focus on making our community better and giving struggling families the hand up they need. This is the one time of year we ask for your support so that we can keep the local nonprofit ecosystem stable for the betterment of our community, in service of those in need, and to provide a unified voice of caring from the entire community. Please consider a donation via workplace payroll deduction, a pledge to be billed in 2020, a gift from your 401k, or cash/check/credit card.

Thank you for your loyal support of YOUR United Way of Steele County.

Kim Schaufenbuel is the President of United Way of Steele County. Contact United Way at 507-455-1180 or via email at Our website is