Changing Landscape of Philanthropy: How and Why United Way Continues to Thrive in Our Region

By Linda Jones, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania

So much has changed since I started my career with United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania in 1998. As the years passed, our communities have grown and the needs of our region have shifted. But, as a member of our fundraising team, I can tell you that there’s one thing that has always remained the same: our desire to help.

In a world of crowd-sourced philanthropy, tens of thousands of donors trust United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania with their charitable contributions every year because we have a proven track record of fiscal responsibility and transparency. Whether a donor is giving $10,000 or $10, we want them to understand the impact of that gift and how United Way is able to leverage their dollars to do the most good.

With need on the rise and donors more engaged than ever before, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania has evolved to meet the challenge. Let’s take a look at how and why United Way continues to thrive in our region.

Donors and community members lead the way

United Way leads a movement to tackle systemic issues that impact our community. We leverage our expertise and data to identify the greatest needs and find opportunities to drive impact. United Way is truly the only nonprofit that brings together people and resources from every sector – volunteers, advocates, donors, partner agencies, government foundations, corporate partners and more – to develop innovative solutions, to foster collaboration or to further fund initiatives that are already working. The true value of United Way is our ability to convene our region’s changemakers and uplift their work.

Data informs action

The ability to identify our region’s greatest needs isn’t the only reason we rely on data. Especially as technology has increased the prevalence of digital life and online giving, we’ve utilized data tracking to analyze program effectiveness, donor behavior and trends that help us prepare for what’s coming next. United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s most recent annual report, financials and more are available online, along with awards and evaluations from Charity Navigator and Candid.

The team cares

There is something deeply special about the people in our SWPA community. We’re proud and willing to lend a hand to our neighbors. That same heart and passion fuels the United Way team every single day. It’s not something you find in every workplace. I am extremely proud to be part of a team that is so successful and so committed to the work. From the CEO to our seasonal receptionist, absolutely everyone on our team is willing to go above and beyond to serve our region.

Speaking for myself, I feel so incredibly lucky to come to work every day and know that we make a difference in people’s lives. In the years and decades to come, I have no doubt that United Way will still be driving change in our region with the same fervor we do today. Our commitment will remain steadfast. Our work will remain united. Join us at UWSWPA.org.

Posted by akougher on November 21, 2022

How Workplace Campaigns Unite Employees

Finding your passion and feeling a part of something is vital for fulfillment as you enter the workforce. For people across the region, participating in their workplace’s annual United Way campaign is a fun and rewarding way to connect with coworkers and neighbors by offering an opportunity to make a difference, engage in the community and build relationships with coworkers.

 Last year, generous donors helped United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania raise $43.4 million and workplace campaigns accounted for $35.3 million of that total. Nearly 700,000 lives were changed thanks to those donations made to the Impact Fund.

While the numbers are impressive, the passion behind them is even more incredible. Below, six of United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s very own employees share how workplace campaigns unite people in the office and their communities.

 

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Posted by akougher on October 20, 2022

Next Gen Giving Levels: Finding yourself through United Way’s Next Generation

By Amanda Taylor, Administrative Assistant, Federated Hermes

When I started my first job out of college at Federated Hermes, I was unsure… about everything. What does it mean to work in a corporate environment? How will I meet people? How do I build up those relationships? 

I had just left the safe bubble of a world where my friends, academics and hobbies were all right in front of me. The questions continued piling up in my head, until I was introduced to United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.  (…)

Posted by Amanda Taylor on September 15, 2022

Get more than you give during Week of Caring

By Dave Panneton, Managing Director of Private Banking, First National Bank; Butler Region Local Operating Board Chair, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania 

How much do you know about the issues facing your community? I’ve seen them firsthand and have heard some of the hundreds of thousands of calls to United Way’s PA 2-1-1 Southwest helpline that suggest that members in our community are struggling more than ever to feed their families, pay their utility bills, find transportation for doctors’ visits and more. Despite many of us feeling that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, not all of our neighbors can say the same.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the region turn to United Way for help and United Way turns to their trusted community partners, rallying help from those who can give it. Though we hope the eye of the storm has passed, local organizations are still reporting record need and asking for additional support. Luckily, we can help. (…)

Posted by Dave Panneton on August 15, 2022

Behind the scenes: United Way’s funding process designed for greatest impact

By Alyssa Cholodofsky, Chief Program and Policy Officer, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania

United Way’s mission is simple, yet powerful. We are committed to creating long-lasting, positive change by mobilizing our entire community to deliver innovative and effective solutions to our region’s most pressing problems. And in 2021, we continued that mission by adopting a new strategic framework to focus our impact work, drive community investment and engage more people in our mission.

You, our generous community, responded by helping United Way of Southwestern PA raise funds to address our region’s needs. With many still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, those dollars will make a real difference for hundreds of thousands of our neighbors. (…)

Posted by Alyssa Cholodofsky on July 28, 2022

Welcoming back the joy (and benefits) of summer camp

By Marisol Valentin, Executive Director, McAuley Ministries

There is such incredible vibrancy happening in the afterschool space during the academic year, but the summer months are just as important. We must invest in our children throughout the year and summer holds so many valuable opportunities to do just that. 

After the “lost summer” of 2020, families and providers alike were thrilled – and filled with trepidation – to return to in-person summer camps last year. It wasn’t long though until everyone was settled in and the squeals of joy took over. With one successful summer under our belts, we’re looking forward to another exciting season of growth, learning and fun.

One important thing that I’ve learned is that the collaboration that afterschool program providers bring to the education spectrum of our kids is vital. When organizations have a shared vision to better their community, amazing things can happen.

Through United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Welcome Back Summer initiative, 29 community partners are hosting camps across the region to serve 4,000 children this year. That’s a sweeping number of young minds that will continue to question and explore the world around them. McAuley Ministries is proud to fund this work with Arconic Foundation, BNY Mellon Foundation, The Buhl Foundation, The Grable Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, Highmark Foundation, Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation, McElhattan Foundation and The Pittsburgh Foundation.

While much is often said about the educational benefits of summer camp, we sometimes forget the importance of play in learning. That’s one of the beauties of summer camp: you can continue to reinforce everything that a kid has learned through the school year but in a space that doesn’t look typically “academic.” There’s no homework, no (or little) being told to stay in your seat. Summer camp provides freedom and flexibility that kids respond to.

I’ve seen the light go on when a student realizes they can make their own game through coding or that baking the perfect cake comes down to math and measurements. Summer camp allows kids to explore learning differently. There is magic in every summer camp and there is a summer camp for everyone, regardless of geography or ability.

The social aspect is just as important as the academic. Being outside and developing friendships does wonders for a child’s mental health and well-being. It goes further than their ability to learn a new skill or experience and makes it so much easier for them to go back to school the next year.

Welcome Back Summer is a shining example of United Way’s mission to help everyone in our community build for success in school and life by strengthening academics, creating important social-emotional learning for children and ensuring childcare for working families. Through our partnership and McAuley Ministries’ commitment to working collaboratively to promote healthy, safe and thriving communities, we’re so thrilled to bring back the joy of summer.

Posted by akougher on June 30, 2022

Bringing STEAM education to life through partnerships and innovations

Pittsburgh Schiller 6-8 STEAM Academy

By Alaina Davis, Lead STEAM Teacher, Pittsburgh Schiller 6-8 STEAM Academy

Pittsburgh Schiller 6-8 STEAM Academy is the home of dedicated teachers, enthusiastic learners, and, more recently, something very special – a state-of-the-art STEAM lab.

We’ve come a long way in contextualizing what ‘Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics’ means. Particularly where and how it’s integrated into lesson plans to make sure students really take it in. At Schiller, we often talk about how we “love our students into learning” and have worked together for years to advocate for our students, integrate technology, develop a culture that is safe and welcoming, and endlessly plan to ensure valuable learning takes place. (…)

Posted by Alaina Davis on May 26, 2022

Three Reasons to Celebrate Women’s History Month with United Way

By Darla Livermore, Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resource Management, NexTier Bank; Butler Region Local Operating Board member and WLC member, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania

I’m a lifelong resident of Butler County and I have pride in my hometown. I love the close-knit nature of our community and how we all take care of each other. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I’ve been reflecting on the impact women have in our society and how, so often, women are leading the way.

In my 20 years with NexTier Bank, I’ve been blessed to give back through our annual United Way campaign. But more than checking that box and making my donation, as a member of the Butler Region Local Operating Board and Women’s Leadership Council, I’ve had the unique opportunity to see the work in action. I’ve served as our NexTier campaign chair, gone on agency visits, helped plan events and volunteered alongside my coworkers. And let me tell you, the work I’ve witnessed is impressive!

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Posted by Darla Livermore on March 18, 2022

No Guarantees in Life? Pilot Program Tests Guaranteed Income for Women

By: Mon Valley Initiative Workforce Development Team

Shanae was the first to raise her hand at work for extra hours so she could pay her mounting bills. But as a single mother of two, she had to figure out how to carefully balance those precious extra shifts with the mornings, evenings and weekends she spent caring for her kids. 

Turns out, she couldn’t.

Before long, Shanae was so behind on the bills, her phone was shut off and she couldn’t afford her rent, forcing her family to move into a friend’s one-bedroom apartment. Despite taking on extra shifts and doing all she could to support her family, Shanae found herself in survival mode. She needed help. 

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Posted by Mon Valley Initiative Workforce Development Team on February 22, 2022

No charge, full refund: Four things to know about getting your taxes done for free

Each year, Rebecca and Dan look forward to their tax refund. They work hard and save what they can, but the past two years have been especially difficult. Dan lost his job and Rebecca took on extra shifts to help fill the gaps, but with the kids home from school and unemployment benefits delayed, what little they had saved is quickly disappearing. They need their tax refund to make ends meet.

 

That’s why United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Free Tax Preparation program is here for everyone in our community, including neighbors like Rebecca and Dan. For more than a decade, United Way’s volunteer tax preparers have worked to make sure hardworking individuals and families get the maximum refund they have earned and deserve – free of charge.

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Posted by Alena Anderson on January 20, 2022

Challenge, opportunity, responsibility: Building a better future

By Rich Harshman and Dan LaVallee, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania campaign co-chairs

 

When we look at the last year, it is easy to say the glass is half full – or even mostly empty – but that’s not the case. Whether on a personal or business level, we are all struggling with something we’ve never had to deal with before. As leaders, as community members, as families, it is time for us to recognize the challenges of the last year and turn them into opportunities to forge a better future. (…)

Posted by Rich Harshman & Dan LaVallee on December 6, 2021

The heartbeat of our community: WLC celebrates 20 years of impact

By Michele Fabrizi, founding WLC member, former United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania executive committee member and campaign chair

It was 20 years ago (though it feels like yesterday) when Ann McGuinn, Suzy Broadhurst, Sharon Rohr, Susie Johnson and I sat down with a question: “What can we, as women, do for our community?”

At the time, leadership was dominated by men, but we felt that we could tap into the power of women. Historically, women have always been influential supporters of philanthropic initiatives, both nationally and locally. There is something unique about the way women give; their donations come from their hearts as much as their wallets.

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Posted by Michele Fabrizi on September 30, 2021