2016-17 Community Investments

Due to the generosity of many individuals, companies, participating government offices and schools, United Way of the Midlands (UWM) is empowered to invest a total of $20.4 million in financial support in the coming fiscal year – with the goal to reduce poverty in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area. This funding comes from three sources: the annual fundraising campaign, grants and the board-designated reserve. Beginning on July 1, 2016, funding will be distributed to a variety of programs, direct community services and collaborative human service initiatives that collectively aim to increase the stability and future success potential of our metro area’s most vulnerable residents. Across all programs and service categories, these resources:

  • address people’s human service challenges and their aspirations to achieve financial stability
  • help people locate available services and fulfill their civic responsibilities
  • connect people with meaningful volunteer opportunities to help our neighbors, local civic and nonprofit agencies, and to strengthen our metro area.


United Way’s 2015-2016 fundraising effort was led by Dana and Danielle Bradford; Ken and Annie Bird will chair the campaign in 2016-2017.  Thanks to thousands of community-minded local donors who contribute so generously, UWM is empowered to invest their financial support in a network of programs that aim to reduce poverty – carefully-vetted local services that support our neighbors’ vital basic needs, and increase their success in the classroom and the workforce.

The largest portion of UWM’s annual human service investment is distributed through the Community Care Fund, a network of programs that undergoes rigorous evaluation by a team of 150 local volunteers and subject matter experts. Over the past six months, these Community Investment Review Team (CIRT) members have spent a collective 3,400 hours in agency program presentations and CIRT deliberations before submitting their evaluations on each program.  

It is an increasingly competitive process to identify and select programs that demonstrate a measurable impact on the lives of those who participate in them. As such, tracking data on clients through their participation in the programs is critical.

After its own review of the CIRT teams’ recommendations, United Way’s Board of Directors has allocated $11.1 million per year to fund 127 programs at 57 metro area nonprofit agencies. Of that number, 12 organizations are new to the Community Care Fund. United Way is committed to providing the same level of funding next year through the support of its annual fundraising campaign. This will allow a longer runway to create impact and assure financial security for the selected programs.

Changes with New 2-Year Funding Cycle

UWM staff and investment volunteers will continue to receive and evaluate the important data that Community Care Fund programs submit over the next two years – an assessment that’s a critical part of the funding process.

In the coming year, CIRT volunteers will further develop their exposure to poverty-focused human service programs through a series of site visits to the funded programs. The staff team will be able to invest its time and expertise collaborating with other civic, corporate and nonprofit organizations to reduce poverty, address basic needs, help children increase their classroom readiness and prepare young adults to succeed at work.


A special part of our community’s strength lies in the shared work of many organizations that collaborate on solutions for human service challenges. United Way of the Midlands is proud to work side-by-side with other organizations on a variety of joint efforts. Current projects include:                                      

  • Book Trust: a pilot program engaging ten schools across six school districts that encourages grade level reading and family engagement, and creates “home libraries” by helping elementary school students with a small stipend to buy two-to-three books per month.    
  • Attendance Initiative:  collaboration with local school districts and youth service organizations focused on truancy prevention throughout the metro area; emphasis is on schools near high concentrations of poverty and those with high proportions of students who are chronically absent.
  • Opportunity Youth:  a community-based partnership of organizations focused on reconnecting disenfranchised young people, age 16 to 24, who are not enrolled in school and do not have jobs.
  • Asset Mapping: UWM is currently creating landscape maps of community resources and services available to the Opportunity Youth population across our metro community, to better understand what is available as well as the existing service gaps. This will help inform our work in this space and to achieve the best outcomes for youth. Similar landscape maps will be developed for other focus areas within basic needs, classroom and workforce ready initiatives.

2-1-1 Call Center

The heart of United Way’s work is to reduce poverty, and its first step is to make sure at-risk members of our community can connect with existing programs that help them address their basic needs. The “2-1-1” call center, available 24/7, connected callers with urgent assistance nearly 57,000 times in the 2015 calendar year. The center serves the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area (including nine counties in southwest Iowa), and communities across the state of Nebraska.

Volunteer Recruitment & Community Engagement

Year-Round Community Volunteer Programming:  Across its many partnerships with civic, corporate and nonprofit organizations, United Way efficiently connects individuals and groups with meaningful opportunities to help others and strengthen our community.  These volunteer engagement efforts include:

  • Day of Caring – which involved volunteer projects for more than 800 people last year
    (2016 date: August 26)
  • Day of Action – One-day volunteer effort connected to a specific UWM focus areas
    (2016 date: June 21 – activities to focus on Classroom Ready success)
  • Holiday Helpers – Thanksgiving/Christmas-related projects for individuals, families and work teams
  • Online Year-Round Opportunities – for individuals, families and corporate-civic teams

Court Referral Community Service Program: UWM works with Douglas County Court to connect offenders with

useful public service projects that satisfy their responsibility to the court and community, while helping nonprofit projects across the area. The Court Referral Community Service partnership between United Way and Douglas County is now in its 39th year.  


Although most UWM givers choose to invest their donations in the comprehensive Community Care Fund, some specify an individual charity to receive their gift – one that focuses its local work in the UWM priority areas of Basic Needs, Classroom Ready or Workforce Ready.