Our Commitment to Equity
For more than 60 years, United Way of Larimer County has worked to ensure that all individuals and families in Larimer County have access to education and opportunities that enable them to thrive. However, we recognize that we have not always considered the role that race plays in equitable access to childcare, school achievement, economic mobility, and other critical community resources. As a result, we have begun to examine the ways that our current systems help or hinder our mission – including the recognition that racial and economic factors and institutional policies often benefit some, while leaving others out.
Our current systems are built on a long-standing history of oppression and discrimination, not often told in our history books or classes. This history dates back to the white settlement of the land on which Larimer County stands; the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute Nations. The history of oppression continued with the exploitation of migrant farm labor with the region’s expansion that included the sugar beet industry’s growth, which brought new residents whose descendants still live here today, including Mexican-American families from southern Colorado, New Mexico, and northern Mexico, as well as Germans from Russia. Many of these families helped build the economic foundation of our community and, reaped little to no protections, rights, let alone financial gains. In the early twentieth century, Black Americans moving into Colorado during what is now known as the Great Migration, encountered violence and discrimination which persisted for decades and continues today.
To this day, there is significant evidence that our community’s history, systems, and present-day actions reinforce racial discrimination and disparities. This is seen in data across all of UWLC’s pillars. In Youth and Education, for example, local data reveal that students of color are less likely to be graduated successfully from high school than their white peers. This data is evident in Colorado Department of Education data that is gathered for Poudre School District, Thompson School District, and Estes Park School District. Financial Stability and access to economic mobility within communities of color is also less evident across multiple data sources. For example, In Larimer County, people who identify as Hispanic/LatinX are more than twice as likely as their white neighbors to earn incomes that place them below federal poverty guidelines (US Census Bureau).
Within UWLC’s priority of Nonprofit Excellence, The Building Movement Project conducted the Nonprofits, Leadership and Race Survey that analyzed responses from over 4,000 participants working in the nonprofit sector across the nation. The study found that people of color in the executive director/CEO role comprise less than 20% for the last 15 years even as the country becomes more diverse. And when we examine the pillar of Community Engagement, it becomes clear that smaller, grassroots nonprofits led by people from the communities they serve often struggle to compete for funding with larger, white-led organizations (United Way Worldwide).
These statistics, as well as individual stories of discrimination within our community, point to a continuing problem that we all have a responsibility to address.
“Money should be a tool of love, to facilitate relationships, to help us thrive, rather than to hurt and divide us. If it’s used for sacred, life-giving, restorative purposes, it can be medicine. Money, used as medicine, can help us decolonize.”
At United Way, our mission is to lead philanthropy in our community, ensuring that gifts of time, talent, and treasure address today’s greatest needs – and reduce tomorrow’s. We believe that equity is achieved when systemic, institutional, and historical barriers based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities no longer predict socioeconomic, education, and health outcomes. Unfortunately, community data shows that these barriers have disproportionately prevented black, indigenous and other people of color from achieving economic mobility and accessing critical supports and services.
As a result, we are working to drive systems-level change by centering equity in our work – leading with race – to ensure that Larimer County is a place where everyone has access to resources that enable them to thrive. The need is the same, but our motivations and actions are shifting as we learn more and commit to doing better with our knowledge.
We stand in firm opposition to all forms of racial and ethnic discrimination – and that is not enough. As such, we are committed to breaking down systems, policies, and institutional practices that cause substantial harm to people of color in our community. We are actively seeking opportunities to learn with and from our partners, stakeholders, supporters, and community members to better understand the complicated history of racism and the power dynamics which persist in our culture. We invite you to join us in making Larimer County a place where all people feel valued, safe, and have the opportunity to thrive.
Real change starts from within. Over the past year, UWLC has established a foundation of equity and inclusion for our organization, including:
- Allocating approximately one-third of our community investment budget to racial equity initiatives and related expenses ($332,302) during the 2020-21 fiscal year
- Strengthening existing partnerships and forming new partnerships with organizations working with and led by people from communities that have been underserved by our agency in the past, including people of color
- Facilitating multiple diversity, equity, and inclusion-focused trainings for our staff, board, and volunteer committee members
- Revising job descriptions and job postings to facilitate increased diversity in hiring practices and staff composition, including lived experience
- Exploring strategies for supporting equity initiatives and education for local nonprofits, especially through our Nonprofit Excellence Series and Shared Services programs
- Focusing on data, community mobilization and engagement; communications and awareness building; fundraising, resource allocation and grantmaking; policy and advocacy; and local capacity building.
In the fall of 2020, we convened a staff committee focused on embedding equity into all aspects of our programs and services, both within our organization and throughout the broader community. This team identified and continues to refine five equity-specific, mission-focused short-term outcomes for our organization, strategies for achieving those outcomes, and performance targets to track progress, hold ourselves accountable, and evaluate our approach. When these outcomes and metrics are finalized, we will publish them as additional accountability for our work.
United Way’s approach to solving complex problems is rooted in community. We are continually inspired by the people who live and work in Larimer County, who have shown us time and again that together, we can accomplish more than any of us could do alone – and we are proud to stand united with you as we work to advance equity. Together, we can strengthen our community in a way that respects and values our differences and ensure that the future we are working to create is a place where everyone belongs.
We welcome your feedback, insights, and ideas as we continue this journey. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss ways that you can join us in our efforts to advance equity in Larimer County.