United Way of Erie - Then & Now

Wednesday Sep 4th, 2019


For more than 100 years, United Way of Erie County operated in what is often referred to as a “transaction” based model. That is, we raised monies from the community and allocated it to a relatively small number of programs run by partner organizations. Organizations helping a group over here, a family over there, an individual somewhere else, not connected or strategic. Good things were done, but isolated from each other and not sustainable. Think of it as a band-aid approach to addressing social problems.


Today, United Way is a social impact organization, leading Erie County’s work to break the cycle of poverty by leveraging the collective impact framework, developed by Harvard University and FSG, a global social change consulting firm. Collective impact is a structured approach to making collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations and citizens to achieve significant and lasting social change -at scale. And, make no mistake, breaking the cycle of poverty is a complex social challenge. When someone gives to United Way here in Erie, they are investing in lasting change that will improve lives not only now but for future generations.

uw facing poverty compressor
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From the chart above you can see more than 14,000 children are living in poverty in Erie County. The numbers tell us more. 90% of students in Erie’s Public Schools are economically disadvantaged. At some Erie County schools only 23% of third graders are reading at grade-level. And, at some Erie County schools 40% of children are not attending school regularly.

We invite you to join us in being a part of the solution - focused on changing these numbers and ensuring more students are successful in school and therefore in life. That’s the new LIVING UNITED.


The Erie region is a collaborative community of opportunity where students are successful and families thrive.