Financial stability is a core pillar of our efforts, and it’s a multi-faceted initiative that’s largely centered around education, awareness, and information. The picture of financial insecurity that many people conjure in their minds isn’t typically reality. The ideology and imagery of financial instability are often homeless, beggars, the dire depiction of struggle and inability.
In reality, financial insecurity looks vastly different than many people think or believe. The mission of United Way of Central Minnesota is to mobilize the caring power of our community and through clarity and challenging the stigmas or beliefs of financial instability, we’ll accomplish great things.
Making Ends Meet
At United Way of Central Minnesota, we focus on a segment of the population we refer to as ALICE— Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This acronym is reflective of the people who are working hard and trying their best but still aren’t making enough money to get ahead. These are the families who have to choose between basic needs and paying bills. Each month, it’s another scenario of not having enough money to go around and prioritizing where precious dollars are allocated. These individuals are one emergency, accident, illness, or issue away from being the conjured image of need.
With current economic times and the additional challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are finding themselves in this fragile place. As we work to re-open our state and resume some pre-pandemic norms and better, we also recognize that can’t fully happen if there aren’t people available to fill employment gaps, people to take care of children, or safe, secure places for people to live. In order to achieve a thriving community, we must address and resolve these issues.
Starting Small for Big Impact
The financial pillar of our efforts can seem massive and infinite, and it can be hard to prioritize where to begin, or where to allocate resources for impact. As with many possibilities, we look to what is currently achievable and what is immediately needed. We work closely with local organizations who have a pulse on need and collaborate efforts to solve problems together—that’s our mission of Mobilizing the Caring Power of Central Minnesota in its truest form.
In Central Minnesota, it’s evident that childcare and housing are two big issues. The increased visibility of these particular issues has helped to compound support from individuals and organizations willing to assist with financial stability solutions.
The Central Minnesota Childcare Crisis
One notable effort is the Central Minnesota Community Childcare Fund that’s been established to combat the childcare crisis—data shows there are over 4,400 kids in our community who need consistent childcare. When launched, the fund will be used to:
- Grant childcare providers the personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizing supplies required to remain open
- Pay for childcare deposit fees
- Subsidize childcare costs for low-income families entering or re-entering the workforce
- Address provider training/certification costs and create no/low-interest loans for new in-home childcare start-ups
- Create scholarships and resources for future childcare careers
- Create opportunities for new traditional and innovative facilities
- Focus on early childhood development and quality care and Pre-K education
How You Can Help
None of our efforts—including financial stability—will be fully successful without the support of the communities we serve. This includes individuals, families, businesses, students, and other organizations. Financial instability doesn’t exist in a vacuum and the stigma associated with financial struggle is one we continue to tackle to increase awareness and the positive impact behind rallying together.
Our collective impact is what enables us to create solutions faster and better for those we serve. Our Small Business United 365 group is comprised of small businesses looking for ways to collectively support our community that might otherwise be hard to prioritize as a single entity. Together with MinnWest Bank and TriCAP, the group is working hard to establish a microloan program called HomeBASE, that will assist with the first month’s rent/damage deposit of individuals who qualify for the program.
The collective impact of groups working together can be profound, but individuals can accomplish a lot on behalf of financial stability. Here are a few ways you can help United Way of Central Minnesota expand our offerings and support for those who need it most.
5 Ways You Can Help Support Financial Stability
1. Call 211 if you or someone you known needs help
211 is a free, confidential helpline staffed by empathetic professionals trained to connect people with the resources they need, day or night, 365 days a year.
2. Learn about poverty in your community
It’s true seeing is believing, and we know the gap exists between need and resources simply due to lack of awareness. United Way of Central Minnesota offers events, groups, and activities designed to highlight the issues at hand—like Poverty Simulations that showcase the reality of those living with the heart-wrenching decisions of choosing between prescription medication, grocery shopping, or utility payments.
3. Give what you can
Our efforts aren’t completely dependent upon financial support—your time, talent, and treasures also help address the topic of financial insecurity. Think of new ideas to reach out to those who might be struggling. Offering time volunteering to mentor someone looking for employment or donating clothing, food, and other household necessities will make a big difference.
Affinity groups within our organization bring together like-minded individuals and increase the impact of individual efforts. Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” applies directly to being called to action.
5. Consider your legacy
Giving and empathy are both learned attributes. Deciding to adopt a legacy of giving—whether financially or otherwise—means the next generation will see the path you carved and your efforts and philanthropic vision will carry on.