At today’s virtual LIVE UNITED celebration, United Way of Central Iowa announced progress toward the Community Goals for 2020 in Education, Income, and Health with the release of its 2020 Community Impact Report, along with honoring organizations and individuals with the annual LIVE UNITED Awards.

Progress Toward Community Goals for 2020

The Community Goals for 2020, set in 2008, have influenced the work done in an effort to reach a high school graduation rate of 95 percent, an increase to 75 percent of central Iowans being financially self-sufficient, and a community well-being score of 64.5. United Way’s 2020 Community Impact Report shows the following achievements toward these three goals:
  • 93.4 percent of central Iowa students graduated from high school within five years in 2018, up 10 percentage points over a decade.

  • 67.7 percent of central Iowans were financially self-sufficient in 2018, increasing from 67.0 percent in the previous year. The 0.7 percent translates to 11,000 more financially self-sufficient central Iowans than in 2017, and more than 36,000 financially self-sufficient central Iowans than 3 years ago.

  • The community’s score for health remained steady in 2017 and 2018 at 62.6, with health factors improving in three out of five measures. Data for 2019 is not available at this time.

“With everyone’s generosity and commitment to these goals, we are improving the lives of thousands of central Iowans represented by these numbers and giving more people in our community the building blocks for a quality life,” said Elisabeth Buck, president of United Way of Central Iowa: “It’s now 2020, our final year to collect the data and measure our impact toward our Community Goals. That’s good news, because while we have made progress over the last decade, we are not there yet. There is still a lot of work to do, and our current circumstances are making our previous challenges even greater. We know, with our community’s collaborative efforts, we will continue to create the large-scale change needed.”

Additional 2020 Community Impact Report Highlights

The 2020 Community Impact Report highlights how United Way of Central Iowa, in collaboration with its partners, donors, volunteers and others, is leading impactful efforts to reach the Community Goals. The report represents accomplishments in Dallas, Polk, and Warren Counties. A special insert is included to share how the organization has responded to the urgent needs of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find a copy of the 2020 Community Impact Report in today’s edition of the Business Record or view it at

Highlights noted at LIVE UNITED include:

  • Education: Since 2017, United Way of Central Iowa has provided professional vision screenings and eye exams to students who otherwise would not receive vision care. With a total of 40 schools served, 26,174 students have received screenings and 3,643 have received eye exams. Of those, 3,028 students in our community have received two pairs of free glasses to help them see and read more proficiently.

  • Income: United Way’s Central Iowa HealthWorks is helping 500 individuals receive training for health care jobs; nearly 70 percent served represent minority populations. In addition, 614 adults who entered United Way’s Bridges to Success program, in partnership with Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), to earn their high school equivalency diplomas had a 45 percent increase in wages within 18 months.

  • Health: Though our index score remained steady at 62.6, our results showed central Iowa is lagging in the area of purpose, pulling our overall score down. In addition to providing opportunities for people to give, advocate, and volunteer – all activities that feed our sense of purpose – United Way of Central Iowa is launching a new project. Beginning in July of 2020, Powered by Purpose will help individuals define and embark on a personal purpose journey. Powered by Purpose will also engage employers to help their employees better understand their organization’s sense of purpose and help them feel more connected with their careers.

  • Essential Needs: As the COVID-19 statewide hotline, 211 – operated by United Way of Central Iowa in 57 of the 99 Iowa counties – answered 33,313 total calls in March 2020, compared to 10,841 total calls in March of last year. Representatives are answering questions and calming fears related to the pandemic in addition to fielding calls regarding housing, food, utilities, legal support, transportation, and more.

  • COVID-19 Insert: United Way of Central Iowa collaborated with community partners to establish resources and support for the central Iowa nonprofit community, including the COVID-19 Nonprofit Update Portal,, Community Circle Conversations, and a COVID-19 Related Challenges Survey.

“We all are facing challenges like nothing we have experienced before; each wondering what the future holds for our families, our businesses, and our community,” said Nora Everett, chair of United Way of Central Iowa’s Board of Directors: “Uncertainty and fear may be prominent now, but so is hope, determination, and good will. As each day passes, we hear and feel a drumbeat of generosity and strength in the face of our challenges here in central Iowa. We know when we are united, we can continue the fight for the health and prosperity of every individual in our community.”

LIVE UNITED Award Recipients

At the LIVE UNITED celebration, the following organizations and individuals were honored for their achievements in giving, advocating, and volunteering for the community: 

Spirit of Central Iowa Award: Sammons Financial Group 
We are proud to recognize and present Sammons Financial Group with the Spirit of Central Iowa Award for its commitment to giving, advocating, and volunteering through United Way to support our community throughout the year.

  • Individuals recognized:
    • Trail-Blazer Award: Morgan Johnson for her engaging, dedicated, and thoughtful leadership as the head of SHAZAM’s successful United Way campaign committee
    • Hand-Raiser Award: Ruth Sharp for her dedicated volunteerism for United Way of Central Iowa since 1989, giving a total 27,246 volunteer hours through the end of 2019.
    • Impact-Maker Award: Chaney Yeast for her dedication to advocating for and advancing policies to will improve the health and well-being of children in Iowa.
  • Organizations recognized include:
    • Impact-Maker Award for advocacy:
      • Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in the small organization category
      • American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company in the mid-size organization category
      • Athene in the large company category
    • Hand-Raiser Award for volunteering:
      • DLL Finance, LLC in the small organization category
      • ITA Group in the mid-size organization category
      • Nationwide in the large company category
    • Game-Changer Award for giving:
      • Homesteaders Life Company in the small organization category
      • SHAZAM in the mid-size organization category
      • Farm Bureau Financial Services in the large company category

View our 2020 Community Impact Report

View the Report Online

Topics: Education, Financial Stability, Volunteer, ELI, Essential Needs, 211, Mental Health, Health & Well-Being

Sara Engelhart

Written by Sara Engelhart

Sara Engelhart is United Way of Central Iowa's former Strategic Communications Operations Manager.