By Bobbi Watt Geer, Ph.D.
Giving Tuesday brings the community of individuals, corporations and nonprofits together to make our region stronger and more connected. This day puts an important spotlight on creating a better community. United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania is an epicenter of generosity, focused on investment 365 days a year because community needs extend year-round and far beyond this one day. The needs are great.
United Way’s ALICE data, which tracks what families need to earn to survive, shows that 39% of households in our five-county region are unable to earn enough to pay for basic needs, such as food, housing and utilities, transportation, child care, health care and basic technology. We’ve also seen calls and texts to United Way’s PA 211 Southwest help line more than double from 190,000 in 2019, pre-pandemic, to nearly 523,000 in 2022. The greatest needs are affordable housing, jobs and employment, and utility assistance—things that many of us take for granted.
On Giving Tuesday, we ask individuals and families to give to our Impact Fund. The Impact Fund is the easiest and most efficient way to make sure that your donation goes to nonprofit agencies that are working to meet basic needs, move people to financial stability, and build skills for success in school and life. Our Community Investment team carefully researches the nonprofits in our region. We invest in their success by making three-year grants to our agency partners. This helps provide funding stability so that our partner agencies have breathing room to focus on their work.
Meeting basic needs, moving people to financial stability and building for success in school and life are our three investment priorities. We recognize that these are the areas of need where we can have the biggest impact and improve the lives of people in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Fayette and Westmoreland counties. We invested $7.5 million in 110 agencies in our most recent request for proposals process. Of these 110 agencies, 53 were from partner agencies we’d not invested in before. However, we had many more applications than we were able to fund. Donations to the Impact Fund would make greater investments in more agencies possible.
As you consider giving, ask if your employer has a matching gift program. Whether your workplace has a United Way workplace campaign or not, if your employer has a matching gift program, it could double the impact of your contribution on Giving Tuesday and any day you choose to give.
Giving Tuesday is also an excellent time for corporations to increase their giving. When companies give, they ensure deeper connections with the communities where they work. Giving also creates community among employees, which is more important now than ever with more people working remotely and with so many of our neighbors in need of assistance.
It’s also an excellent time to consider volunteering. United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania offers opportunities to engage with others and with your workplace or family in activities such as packing school supplies for kindergarten classes, food boxes for pantries and writing cards to senior citizens. You can even help people prepare their taxes through our Free Tax Prep program. We develop these projects in collaboration with our partner agencies to ensure we’re meeting their needs while also providing meaningful engagement opportunities where people can connect and see our partner agencies in action.
To learn more about volunteering, visit our website.
You can also donate to United Way at uwswpa.org/donate.