Community Impact Fund

United Way will invest in organizations, programs, and collaborative coalitions providing direct services, influencing systems, and filling unmet needs within and across these domains. While many partners may specialize in one key domain, United Way encourages organizations to consider partnership strategies to provide coordinated care that strengthens whole families, accelerating outcomes for both children and the adults in their lives at the same time.

Community investments are supported by community donations raised through United Way's annual campaign. In order to properly steward funds, United Way engages dozens of community volunteers to help ensure that investments yield results that matter. Funded partners are held responsible to achieving specific outcomes. United Way offers support to its partners through workshops, capacity-building initiatives, and peer learning opportunities.

Impact Pillar Areas

Impact Area Pillar: Ready Kids, Resilient Families
Children and families are supported throughout the entire educational process.

  • Access to quality early education and care programs that nurture and stimulate development to support the resiliency of kids and their families
  • Access to quality afterschool and summer experiences that foster academic outcomes, leadership development, social connections, and future ready (ages 4 – 18).
  • Provide support services and educational resources that strengthen positive parenting skills and promote a stable and nurturing home environment

Impact Area Pillar: Healthy Minds & Bodies
Increase the opportunities for healthy lifestyle choices and promote overall health and wellbeing.

  • Access to primary health services, including mental, behavioral, vision, and dental health care services.
  • Support individuals’ resilience, social connectedness/capital, and independence.
  • Provide support services and educational resources to help individuals make healthy choices that reduce risk and harm and prevent crisis.

Impact Area Pillar: Family Financial Stability
Families overcome barriers to opportunity, develop economic mobility, and build generational resilience.

  • Access to employment appropriate training, and job readiness skills and support to enter, remain, and advance in the workplace.
  • Provide support services and educational resources to help eliminate barriers hindering the economic mobility of struggling households (i.e., stable housing, financial counseling, money management education, tax help).

Impact Area Pillar: Safety Net
Ensuring a safety net for our community that emphasizes basic human needs

United Way remains committed to the most vulnerable members of our community, centering investments and efforts within this impact area pillar to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, health, and safety, including community disaster response. 

Examples of potential work within Safety Net include, but are not limited to:

  • Administering programs like the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP)
  • Health and hygiene drives
  • Culturally specific food drives
  • Other emerging opportunities to meet the needs of our community’s most vulnerable members

United Way is committed to remaining agile in our response to emerging and pressing needs within our community. For this reason, United Way will not be accepting applications for Safety Net programs and services through this grant application. 

Safety Net funding requests will be reviewed individually through a discretionary grant application process as needs arise. For more information, contact Kim Brink Smith at 218-999-7570 or

2024 Grants Schedule

  • Virtual information session: January 23 at 9 a.m.
  • Initial proposals due: January 31, 2024
  • Full proposals due (by invitation): February 29, 2024
  • Program Site Visits: Begin April 2024
  • Finalists notified: May 2024
  • Funding begins: July 2024

A virtual information session will be held on January 23 at 9 a.m., 2024. Attending the meeting is not required but highly recommended for first-time applicants.


Impact Areas Centering a Two-Generation Approach

United Way of 1000 Lakes strives to create a thriving Itasca-area community where children, individuals, and families can realize their full potential. Situated at the intersection of Itasca’s nonprofit, public service, and business sectors, United Way of 1000 Lakes has a unique vantage point and role to play in ensuring that our community works for everyone. United Way’s greatest strength is our ability to approach a challenge from multiple directions.

Informed by the voices of our community’s residents and nonprofit organizations in our community assessment, United Way will focus investments across four impact area pillars:

  1. Ready Kids, Resilient Families 
  2. Family Financial Stability
  3. Healthy Minds & Bodies
  4. Safety Net*

The findings in our community assessment also underscored the interconnected nature of educational, economic, and health outcomes for children and the adults in their lives. In response, United Way is introducing a new two-generation approach across our community impact area pillars. A promising practice originally designed by the Aspen Institute, two-generation programming acknowledges that outcomes for children and their families are inextricably linked.

To advance a two-generation approach across our community, United Way will partner with organizations addressing the multiple domains that impact individual and family success, including:

  • Education spanning early childhood through secondary
  • Postsecondary and employment pathways
  • Family stability and economic asset-building
  • Holistic health and wellness
  • Social capital and connectedness

United Way will invest in organizations, programs, and collaborative coalitions providing direct services, influencing systems, and filling unmet needs within and across these domains. While many partners may specialize in one key domain, United Way encourages organizations to consider partnership strategies to provide coordinated care that strengthens whole families, accelerating outcomes for both children and the adults in their lives at the same time.

Before starting your application, we encourage you to review the grant application materials carefully before beginning your application. The following documents may help you as you prepare your application:

Impact Grant Overview
Community Impact Grant Questions
Community Impact Rubric

Proposals for Family Financial Stability and Healthy Minds & Bodies pillar areas are accepted through United Way of 1000 Lakes’ online application. Application period January 16, 2024 – February 29, 2024. The grants portal works best in Google Chrome.


*United Way will not accept applications for Ready Kids, Resilient Families or Safety Net through this grant application. 


Population of Focus
United Way will direct resources where we can make the greatest impact, focusing on children, individuals, and families who are vulnerable in Greater Itasca County.

Geographic Area
United Way supports work that is vital to our communities, in Itasca County as well as parts of Aitkin and Cass counties and the Leech Lake Reservation. See zip codes served.

Eligible organizations must meet the following criteria in order to be considered for funding:

  • Serve individuals, children, and/or families who may be vulnerable and/or marginalized with limited resources in Greater Itasca County, including: individuals at risk for multiple health problems and/or pre-existing conditions, children and adults facing educational and economic disparities, and individuals experiencing any form of discrimination (racial, ethnic, caste, gender, sexual orientation, disability, cultural, national, religious, etc.).
  • Must be a nonprofit agency, including:
    • Nonprofit agency designated as a 501c3 of the Internal Revenue Code with an active and responsible governing board, whose members have no material conflict of interest.
    • Government agencies/units 
    • Faith-based organizations, provided they can demonstrate that there will be no explicitly faith-related content included in their programming and that there are no discriminatory restrictions on service recipients
    • Community organizations without 501c3 status, provided they can document their relationship with a fiscal sponsor with 501c3 status
  • Align with United Way’s Impact priorities:
    • Ready Kids, Resilient Families  
    • Healthy Minds & Bodies 
    • Family Financial Stability
  • Have substantial local presence and programming in the geographic area served by United Way of 1000 Lakes, which includes Itasca County and the surrounding communities of Hill City and the Leech Lake Reservation.

Funding will not be provided for:

  • Individuals  
  • For-profit entities 
  • Political campaigns, candidates, parties, or partisan activities 
  • Programming that includes theological functions or requires religious participation

Data Collection and Metrics

Data collection is a crucial element of United Way’s grantmaking, equally important in the application review process and the ongoing evaluation of funded partners.

Applicants will choose a strategy and metrics that aligns most closely with their program outcomes to report on throughout the grant period. While reporting on specific outcomes will be required, funds will be unrestricted and may be used for general operating support. 

United Way will partner with grantees, using data collected through program evaluation to measure the distinct impact of their programs for individuals served as well as the collective impact for our community as a whole. Together, we will build a shared understanding of the work underway and individuals reached in addition to the most effective approaches for improving outcomes for individuals and families. This data also represents an important measure for stakeholders invested in our work on behalf of the Itasca Region. 

As part of our system improvement work, a 2Gen Peer Learning Cohort, organizations will hold conversations to gain understanding, share strategies, and identify potential gaps in our community’s human services.


Proposals will be evaluated by a team of community volunteers, in coordination with United Way of 1000 Lakes staff. Reviewers will evaluate proposals on the following criteria:

  • Alignment: Proposal meets all eligibility requirements and includes all required information
  • Equity: Proposed program effectively serves children and adults with limited recourses who experience barriers to education, health, and financial stability access and works to remove barriers through culturally appropriate program design
  • Impact: Proposed program responds to local conditions and demonstrates strong impact or potential for impact, as demonstrated through program outcomes, continuous improvement, and effective collaboration
  • System Improvement: Proposed program effectively collaborates with participants, partners, and/or other stakeholders to meet shared goals for the community
  • Operating Capacity: Budget is complete and appropriate for program plans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an agency submit applications for multiple programs within the agency?
Yes. Agencies may apply for multiple programs but can only submit one program application per focus area. This includes agency applications as part of collaborations.

How many metrics should I have?
We require at least one strategy metric and one system change metric, but there is no set number beyond that.

What is the maximum request we can make?
You should submit a request that reflects your program’s needs. United Way of 1000 Lakes strives to award grants at the full amount requested whenever possible, between $2,500 to $15,000. United Way encourages programs to pursue diverse revenue streams. Program awards should constitute less than 1/3 of the total program budget.

What can funding be used for?
Funds are unrestricted and can therefore be used for costs associated with the implementation of the program for which the agency has applied. This can include personnel, program materials/supplies, occupancy, travel, phone/internet, legal and accounting, training, insurance, and whatever else is necessary for the implementation and improvement of the program and/or client outcomes.

How long will funding last?
Funding is based on an annual cycle. Agencies who have been approved for grants will begin receiving that funding in July 2024. Funding will be distributed quarterly through June 2025. High-performing* programs will be given an opportunity to renew grants beyond the 12-month period. 

*Determined at the discretion of United Way’s Community Impact Committee and Board of Directors.

What type of reporting is required from funded programs?
For those awarded grants, annual updates with success stories and challenges as well as outcomes metrics are required. If an agency does not provide these reports in a timely manner, they may not be eligible for grant period extensions or permitted to apply in the following year.

Does United Way of 1000 Lakes restrict agency fundraising activities?
Each agency will seek to fulfill its stewardship of community funds by providing funds of its own in addition to those it receives from United Way. These funds will be sought through endowment funds, additional fundraising efforts, grants, and other means of revenue generation.

However, the agency will not conduct fundraising or other activities that interfere or compete with those of the partnership, including identifying itself clearly as a member agency of the United Way in all its fundraising communications. The agency will notify United Way in advance of any plans to conduct a capital campaign. United Way will not enforce a fundraising blackout period.

2022-2027 Community Impact Framework 

Leaning into our role as a connector and convenor, United Way launched a comprehensive community assessment in 2021 to document our region’s strengths and better understand the most pressing and evolving needs of our community’s members and families.