Racial Equity Fund
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United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Racial Equity Fund

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This fund is focused on a commitment to deepen our impact as funders, partners, and conveners, especially as related to racial equity and social justice. The fund was developed as an investment strategy that is more responsive and accountable to communities most directly impacted by racial injustice.

Our goal is to increase funding to Black- and Brown-led organizations and advocate and support Black and Brown-led ideas.

United Way’s Racial Equity Fund is to increase investment in organizations serving people of color, led by people of color with an emphasis on Black, Latina/o/x, Asian, and Indigenous leaders. Currently, significant disparities exist within social justice sectors in terms of underrepresentation in leadership and lack of access to funding and support for people of color leading organizations. These leaders often possess expertise due to lived experience, training, and education and we are committed to highlighting these strengths and infusing greater resources to ensure leadership sustainability.

We know that we will do this better side-by-side with the community. We have formed an advisory committee focused specifically on racial equity and justice. Members will represent the communities that we seek to support through our investments. Together, we will commit to dismantle systemic inequities by building capacity of Black- and Brown-led organizations to identify and address Black and Brown defined priorities.

United Way will invest a minimum of $7.5 million NEW dollars across five funding cycles from our Racial Equity Fund. Additional funds will be invested in other racial equity and justice-based work, for an investment of at least $10 million.


  • Organizations have missions that drive social impact in our four-county area (Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha.)
  • Organizational structures could include nonprofits or LLCs.
  • Organizations may apply for up to $100,000 (not to exceed 100% of organization budget) per year for a three-year funding commitment.
  • Organizations must identify as Black- and Brown-led.
    • Black- and Brown-led organizations are defined as those where:
      • The organization’s leader identifies as Black or Brown, and  
      • Over half of the organizations board identifies as Black or Brown (if organization has a governing board), and
      • Black and Brown community members are the primary beneficiaries of your organization.

Readiness Training

We are offering a readiness training for organizations that would like technical assistance when completing the Getting to Know You (GTKY) form. Applicants should attend the training prior to submitting the GTKY Form. During this training, we will review the criteria for funding, the do's and don'ts of a great form, and answer any questions you may have.

This training is OPTIONAL but will be helpful in submitting a robust narrative. Please note this training will not be recorded.

When: September 21, 2023, 1pm -2pm


The Getting to Know You form is now closed.

Please sign up to receive Funding Opportunity notifications here

Cohort 5 Timeline

  • September 13, 2023 – Cohort 5 Getting To Know You Form opens.
  • September 21, 2023 – 1pm - 2pm Getting To Know You Readiness Training.
  • October 9, 2023 – Cohort 5 Getting To Know You Form due by 11:59pm. Please note that technical assistance may not be available after 5pm on the due date.
  • October 31, 2023 – Applicants are notified whether they are eligible for the full application, those eligible are sent additional information and instructions.
  • November 10, 2023 - 1pm - 2pm - Optional Application Office Hours (link will be sent to applicants eligible for full application)
  • November 17, 2023 - 1pm - 2pm - Optional Application Office Hours (link will be sent to applicants eligible for full application)
  • November 21, 2023 – Written applications due.
  • November 28 - December 8, 2023 - Virtual interviews with Racial Equity Fund Selection Committee members.
  • January 30, 2023 - Cohort 5 awards announced.


Requirements for Organizations awarded funding

Organizations awarded funding will be asked to sign a grant agreement, which includes the following statements:

  • Agrees to invest grant award for organizational capacity building as specified in the written application.
  • Agrees to notify United Way if a new organizational leader is appointed or hired and will meet with United Way staff and select members of the Racial Equity Committee within 30 days of the change.
  • Agrees to report on the impact of United Way’s investment prior to the end of each 1-year funding cycle.
  • Agrees not to use funds for adding to endowments or programs that support religious activities. (Organizations with a religious affiliation must not refuse services to an applicant based on religion or require attendance at religious services as a condition of assistance.)
  • Agrees to return unspent funds to United Way at the end of the final grant cycle.
  • Agrees to acknowledge United Way's support in publications and at appropriate events.
  • Agrees that agency clients, staff and membership on the governing board are served, employed or appointed without regard to social or economic class, gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation and identification, disability, special health care needs, race, color, national origin or religion.
  • Submit a Policy on Protecting Children (if agency serves children in any capacity) within 6 months of funding
  • Submit a short update report prior to the end of the first funding cycle (report provided)
  • Host an on-site or virtual visit with Racial Equity Advisory Committee members, if requested.
  • Agrees that organization’s leader will engage in a minimum of three roundtable discussions, networking opportunities, or learning opportunities with other Racial Equity Fund grantees.

Benefits for Organizations awarded funding

  • A multi-year commitment of funding for operational support of the organization.
  • Free access to United Way’s Volunteers United portal to post volunteer opportunities and recruit volunteers. *Orgs must be a nonprofit in good standing, have liability insurance, and reside in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, or Ozaukee Counties.
  • Opportunities to join United Way’s Speakers Bureau and speak at local corporations and companies during our campaign.
  • Opportunities to be featured on our website, social media, podcasts, success stories, and/or videos.


Additional details on deadlines for each funding cycle will be posted here as soon as the information is available. To sign up for email notifications when new funding opportunities are added, please fill out the form on our Funding Opportunities page.

If you have any questions, please reach out to our team using the form below.

Helpful Hints for Getting To Know You form

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Criteria for applying

An organization will only be considered for funding if all of the following statements are true:

(1) Can demonstrate that they are a social impact organization as described in their mission.
(2) Are Black- and Brown-led according to the definition that the organization’s leader (Executive Director, President, CEO, Founder (as long as they are still involved in organizational decision making), etc) identifies as Black or Brown.
(3) Over 50% of their governing board (if organization has a board of directors) identifies as Black or Brown.
(4) The primary beneficiaries of the organization identify as Black or Brown (over 50%).
(5) The organization operates in one or more of the counties United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County serves (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee).

Organizational mission

Mission statements should be concise and include the purpose, values, and goals of the organization.

Main Focus

Use a few words to describe the main focus of your organization. This is to help us better understand and quantify the types of organizations that are applying. Some examples are, Arts, Collaborations/Collective Impact, Community Building, Education, Employment, Environment, Food Security, Healthcare, Housing/Shelter, Services/Training for Professionals, Social Justice, Social Entrepreneurship, or Youth Development.

Social Impact

Social impact organizations are defined as those where the organization’s activities consciously, systemically, and sustainably create positive change that solves or addresses social injustices and challenges in the community.

Annual budget

This number represents the total budget the organization anticipates in the current fiscal period. The budget does not need to include actual revenue and expenses.

The review committee considers annual budget and the future sustainability of the organization in the context of the total grant ask. While this grant allows funding up to $100,000 per year for three years, not to exceed 100% of the annual budget, the review committee will make funding recommendations based on the perceived ability for the organization to sustain operations after the grant period ends.

Primary Beneficiaries

Primary beneficiaries are a person or participant who benefits from, receives help, and/or gains an advantage from the organization/programing.

In order to meet criteria for funding, the primary beneficiaries of the organization must be Black or Brown (over 50%). The committee would like to see how those served are involved in fulfilling the mission in ways that differ from being a participant in programming. You can provide examples of how participants are involved in decision making or amplify how you receive and implement feedback given by them. 

Success for your organization

Success at your organization can be described as the impact your organization has on the community it serves. While success can be demonstrated through anecdotal information or storytelling, the strongest measures of success are often demonstrated through outputs and the outcomes of the organization. Outcomes are measurements of the organization’s impact on the primary beneficiaries.

Barriers to funding

Examples of barriers to funding could be that the organization is not eligible for local or national grant awards for one or more reasons, that grant applications have consistently not been funded without constructive feedback on how to write a better proposal in the future, or that funding opportunities simply don’t exist for the type of work your organization is aiming to achieve.

Three-year grant award

The review committee is looking at the total grant ask in the context of the organization’s budget. Annual awards do not have to be the same amount for each of the three funding years. The review committee is looking for a grand total that would help an organization meet or expand the organization’s capacity to serve primary beneficiaries, in relationship to the annual budget. It should be related to how the organization describes the help funding will provide. Please note that the review committee may recommend funding at a different amount than what was applied for.

What can funding be used for?

Racial Equity Fund award dollars can be used to build capacity of the organization, whether that’s for overhead, a specific project, or a specific program. They can be used to sustain or expand current work of the organization or to start something new. How the organization uses funds to build capacity is up to the organization to define.

From GTKY to application round

Getting to Know You forms are reviewed by a subcommittee of the Racial Equity Fund Advisory Committee. Decisions to move an organization to the application round are based on:

  • Basic criteria being met. (Organization is Black- and Brown-led and serves at least one of the four counties listed.)
  • Social impact determined through the organization's mission, how primary beneficiaries are involved in the mission, and what success looks like for the organization.
  • Demonstrated need for funding through the barriers the organization has experienced when seeking funding and how the funding will help the organization.  
  • Reasonable and sustainable funding ask through the annual budget and three year funding ask. 
  • A desire to learn more about the organization and the amount of funds available.

Each cohort has a total of $1.5M available for 3-years of funding. The committee makes an effort not to invite more organizations to complete a full application than the anticipated funding will allow.

Goals & Objectives of the Racial Equity Fund


  • Increase unrestricted investments in Black- and Brown-led organizations.
  • United Way investments will help organizations connect to, and receive funding from, other potential funders.
  • Strengthen the capacity of Black- and Brown-led organizations through trainings, workshops, and opportunities for staff/board development that grantees have identified as areas of opportunity.
  • Improve the sustainability of the organizations over time.
  • Create and broaden the networks for and between Black- and Brown-led organizations.
  • Long term goals and measures of success will be determined by the Racial Equity Advisory Council.


  • Provide multiyear, general operating support to Black- and Brown-led organizations and issues that Black and Brown community members identify as critical, regardless of whether they match United Way’s previously defined program priorities, that builds capacity and sustainability.  
  • Use an application process that is both culturally relevant and not burdensome. 
  • Place a higher value on community building and people-focused labor done by individuals and smaller organizations.
  • Select grantees using a sub-committee of the Racial Equity Fund Committee, who represent the community served.
  • Trust awardees to do the work. Recipients are fully funded and trusted to do the work (ex: Non-traditional reporting designed by Black and Brown leaders.) 
  • Provide support as need/requested by grantees. United Way and a sub-committee of the Racial Equity Fund advisory committee provides additional, appropriate supports when necessary, tapping into internal expertise (i.e. volunteer project management and recruitment, marketing, etc.) 
  • Continue internal work around diversity, equity, and inclusion, while carrying out external initiatives.




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