The Way Forward: How United Way is Evolving to Better Serve our Community

By Bobbi Watt Geer, President and CEO, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania

In the last 18 months, we have all experienced incredible change. The fabric of our society has been stressed, our lives have been altered and our most vulnerable neighbors have been left more exposed than ever before. But under that pressure, there has been a transformation. United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania has taken learnings from the past year and used them to sharpen our focus, embrace change and adopt a new way forward.

When I stepped into the role of president and CEO two years ago, I was not anticipating a global pandemic. But embracing change has always been part of the ethos at United Way; we are constantly evolving and innovating to meet the needs in our community and preparing for what comes next. The development of our new strategic plan was not a response to COVID-19, but the economic upheaval and social reckoning of racial injustice that followed certainly informed and accelerated this evolution.


The pandemic response showed what was possible when United Way marshalled our efforts toward addressing the big problems that weren’t defined by siloed populations. For example, food insecurity isn’t just an issue for students, women, struggling families or veterans – it is a human issue that requires fast, coordinated, smart action. It needs your United Way.

United Way’s position at the intersection of our community allows us to bring together companies, foundations, public and private leadership, volunteers, nonprofit agencies and donors. And that’s our superpower. We are uniquely situated to create new solutions to age-old problems.

Recent events have called upon us to streamline our work like never before and illuminated certain things that we could do better than anyone else. This new framework provides focus in a few important ways. We are:

  • Using data and new strategies to engage more stakeholders and donors in our work
  • Changing the way we talk about our work, from populations to problems addressed
  • Highlighting the critical importance of the Impact Fund which provides flexible funds allowing United Way to meet the most urgent needs

These changes will allow United Way to focus on what we do best – meeting basic needs, moving people toward financial stability and building success in school and life – while engaging community members who are passionate about addressing these issues and creating opportunities for all.

United Way’s mission remains steadfast: to mobilize the caring power of our community to address and solve complex human service issues. The pandemic has been painful for so many, but through that crucible I am certain that United Way is better positioned now than ever before to improve lives and build brighter futures for families and individuals across our region.

Thank you for being part of this important new chapter for United Way. Change is here.