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 An in-depth look at United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey’s support for communities of color

We are on a mission. A mission to measurably and meaningfully reduce poverty in our region. Philadelphia is the nation’s poorest big city and home to some of the poorest areas in southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. In our region alone, more than 705,000 adults and children struggle to survive a life of poverty every day. 

In order to address poverty, we cannot overlook that poverty has a direct correlation to systemic injustices and racial inequalities that result in unfair disparities of who bears the ultimate burden. At United Way, we are committed to forging a better path forward and we’re committed to being a part of the change to create an equitable community. Learn more on our commitment here.  

In Philadelphia, the poverty rate is highest among the Hispanic community at 37.9% and the Black community at 30.8%. Both racial/ethnic groups are over-represented in the city’s share of people living in poverty compared to their share of the total population. In fact, Black Philadelphians are twice as likely to live in poverty as compared to white Philadelphians. 

This is unacceptable and unjustly holds our communities of color back. At United Way, we know that fighting poverty maximizes people’s potential - and that in turn maximizes our community’s ability to thrive. That’s why we invest and advocate for key interventions proven to reduce poverty in Early Learning, Workforce Development and Financial Empowerment. Statistics show why these areas are so critical to the fight for equity:

  • When a child is born into poverty, they are more likely to live in poverty as an adult. In fact, one out of every two children born into poverty will remain poor for a lifetime. 
  • Only 2.5% of businesses in Philadelphia are Black-owned, while Black Philadelphians make up 40% of the City’s overall population. 
  • More than 60% of city-run assistance programs are majority utilized by Black households, including programs to assist with housing, basic needs, plumbing and emergency services  

In our nearly 100 years of serving the community, we’ve built our mission on finding solutions to tackle the barriers our communities face during challenging times. A gift to The Impact Fund allows our team to invest in non-profit organizations and programs that break the cycle of poverty that traps families for generations. With our extensive network and local reach, we’re able to advocate and work together on bold solutions that lead to expanded opportunities for our region. 

United Way initiatives that move our region forward include: 

  • Vello: Grade level reading is the #1 indicator of a student’s likelihood of graduation from high school. Vello is a virtual learning platform connecting volunteers and students 1:1 for personalized reading assistance to prepare for school readiness and increase critical early learning skills. 


  • Boeing On-The-Job Training (OJT) 2.0 Program: Unemployment in Philadelphia skyrocketed from 5% to 14.5% from March to April 2020. Programs like OJT feed the job pipeline with skilled workers and increase participation from people of color and female  in the Advanced Manufacturing Sector


  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program: Each year, eligible taxpayers leave millions of dollars on the table because they don’t claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, which can return up to $6,000+. VITA provides our community with free, confidential tax preparation, benefits access and critical services like financial counseling, helping to infuse the local economy with more than $45 million and equip our neighbors to build life-long financial stability. 

In the upcoming year, we are supporting initiatives like: 

  • The Equitable Entrepreneurship Assessment and Strategy, a partnership between United Way, the City of Philadelphia and PIDC to complete a comprehensive assessment of the local entrepreneurial landscape with a focus on people of color, immigrants, and women


  • Entrepreneurs of Color, Women and Immigrants Fund, a newly created fund to provide technical assistance, grants and loans to small, minority-owned businesses


  • Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN), including a $100K grant to focus efforts on supporting workforce partnerships in the financial services sector with a commitment to racial equity, retention and mentorship


  • Women United in Equity and Social Justice Fund, a newly designated Women United fund donating $10K to BankWork$®, a partnership of our JOIN program, Philadelphia OIC, Philadelphia Works, Inc., and the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. This donation will sponsor 20 women of color to complete a vocational training program that trains the hard and soft skills needed to start a career in banking.

Being a part of dismantling systemic racism is critical to our mission. As we continue to fight poverty, create more equitable economic opportunities and reflect on the ways that institutional racism hurts us all, we must demand equal opportunity for all. We still have much work to do but, united, we can fuel a movement. Learn more at

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