To many, United Way is well known but not well understood. That's why we want to make sure you know what we do.

In central Iowa, we are UNITED to THRIVE.

United Way brings together donors, volunteers, advocates, nonprofits, leaders, and more to take on central Iowa's toughest challenges in the Five Elements of a Thriving Community; Essential Needs, Early Childhood Success, Education Success, Economic Opportunity, and Health & Well-Being. 


Together we seek out central Iowa's toughest challenges, set sound strategies and goals, and then work to fix them at their roots... in a UNITED WAY. But that still may not answer the question "What do you do?" 

In a nutshell, United Way of Central Iowa does four things:

UNITE


UNITE

We bring together community stakeholders like our donors, volunteers, businesses, nonprofits, faith-based, community leaders, government, experts, and those in need to identify challenges in the Five Elements of a thriving community; Essential Needs, Early Childhood Success, Education Success, Economic Opportunity, and Health & Well-Being

STRATEGIZE


STRATEGIZE

Each challenge is broken down to its root causes, and together United Way and the stakeholders develop research-based comprehensive strategies to make significant and sustainable progress on addressing central Iowa's toughest issues. Under each of the Five Elements, specific strategies are developed.

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TAKE ACTION

Once the strategies are set, it's time for action. Using the millions of donor dollars, volunteers, and advocates in central Iowa we invest in or create initiatives designed to move us steadily toward the goals of UNITED to THRIVE. In addition to providing funding, we convene coalitions, advocate for public policy, raise awareness, mobilize volunteers, and much more.

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EVALUATE

For each of the Five Elements of a Thriving Community, our volunteer leaders have identified Key Indicators - various metrics and measures from the community to measure progress and set goals. Using the Key Indicators we continuously measure and evaluate the results of these investments, holding every initiative accountable to ensure they are making real progress. 

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Investing In Central Iowa

The funds raised by United Way of Central Iowa are invested in various programs and initiatives to attack the very real challenges that people are facing right here in central Iowa, which is why real people just like you help determine where those donations go.

All investment decisions for the funds raised are made by groups of volunteers called "Cabinets." Our investment Cabinets are made up of local experts in the areas of Education, Income and Health in central Iowa. To learn more about how the dollars our generous donors provide are invested to improve lives in central Iowa, click the "How We Invest" button below.How We Invest

Community Collaborations

In addition to funding existing programs in our UNITED to THRIVE strategic focus, United Way of Central Iowa manages a number of initiatives that reach across all three areas to help specific segments of our community. These Community Collaborations work with various nonprofit agencies, existing programs and new programs created by United Way specifically to maximize their collective impact. Examples include:

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211 Iowa

211 is United Way’s trusted information and referral service that provides expert, caring help to meet your needs. No matter the situation, the help navigators at 211 listen, identify underlying problems and connect people in need with resources and services in our community that improve their lives.

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5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices

5-2-1-0 promotes healthy habits at child care centers, schools, health care clinics, and homes, where kids spend a lot of time. The program encourages healthy habits through actions such as giving every child a water bottle, revising birthday celebration policies to have costume parties, and purchasing equipment that allows teachers to incorporate movement into learning.

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ACEs 360

The ACEs toolkit helps organizations and service providers identify various types of trauma, recognize how events from childhood may be shaping peoples' responses and provide guidance to help them address these challenges.

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Bridges to Success

Bridges to Success aims to help central Iowa adults earn a high school equivalency diploma. The initiative provides adult learners with free classes, coaching, testing, books, and a career coach to help students succeed and plan for their future.

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Building New Careers

The Building New Careers program serves to identify, screen, assess, and recruit low-income adults for entry into one of 18 apprenticeships with the Building and Construction Trades.

 

Central Iowa Works

Central Iowa Works

Central Iowa Works connects
employers seeking to fill jobs with
talented workers who can earn a
living wage. This initiative is working to train 500 central Iowans for jobs in health care, support individuals returning from prison in gaining employment and rebuilding their lives, and help local retailers build career pathways to increase
retention.

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Giving Gardens

Corporate and Community Giving Gardens promote and provide access to local produce for low-income central Iowans by growing, harvesting and/or rescuing unused food to be distributed to those in need.

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HOPE for Stable Families

HOPE For Stable Families

HOPE for Stable Families works with central Iowa families each year to set goals, remove barriers, and find support in moving out of poverty to long-term financial stability. The initiative is unique in that it provides comprehensive support to parents and children at the same time, also known as a 2Gen approach.  

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OpportUNITY

OpportUNITY

OpportUNITY is a collective impact initiative focused on fighting poverty in central Iowa. Eight issue-focused work groups are addressing barriers and creating new opportunities for low-income individuals to raise themselves out of poverty. More than 2,000 nonprofits, businesses, and community members have signed on to support the plan.

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READ to Succeed

READ to Succeed

READ to SUCCEED is a groundbreaking, community-wide awareness and action campaign to help kids read proficiently by third grade. There are multiple ways you can get involved in this effort: donating books, building literacy kits, reading to children, advocating for summer reading programs and more.Forward-Arrow.png

Skills 2 Compete

Skills 2 Compete

The Iowa Skills2Compete Coalition is a statewide partnership of Iowa’s business, community, education, labor, legislative, and workforce development leaders to serve as an organized voice for “skills” at the state capitol and builds more policymaker support for state policies that grow Iowa’s economy by investing in its workforce.

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Summer in the City

Summer In The City

This summer program is designed to help students avoid a backslide in the learning, to provide opportunities for education, physical activity and access to healthy food, and provide parents a variety of services as well.

Summer Youth Employment Program

Summer Youth Employment Program

The Summer Youth Experience Program (SYEP) seeks to make a difference for local youth by providing them with work-readiness training and workplace experience. An eight-week, paid, part-time work experience program during the summer for youth in Des Moines, SYEP gives youth as young as 14 work exposure they might need in the future and a chance to explore interest in different careers.

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Vision to Learn

Vision To Learn provides two free pairs of eyeglasses (one pair to take home and one to leave at school) to students who need them. A trained eye care professional provides a modified screening exam with a full refraction for students who would otherwise not receive vision care. 

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