UW Credit Union partners with United Way on $1.5 million racial equity fund

UW Credit Union's Fish Hatchery branch

UW Credit Union is launching a $1.5 million fund through the United Way of Dane County and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County to address racial inequities in the greater Milwaukee and Madison areas.

The investment includes $500,000 for the Milwaukee area and $1 million for Dane County.

The UW Credit Union Fund for Racial Equity is designed to increase financial stability and improve educational outcomes to promote economic mobility for people of color.

Several events over the past year, including the COVID-19 pandemic and national demonstrations related to social injustice, prompted the Madison-based credit union to consider how it could address disparities in Wisconsin communities, said Sheila Milton, UW Credit Union vice president of diversity equity, and inclusion.

“The injustice and violence last year really stirred strong emotions of anger, confusion and sadness with our employees and members,” Milton said. “And it really put front and center that this work is so important and we can’t wait to do something some other time; we have to do it right now.”

Through the racial equity fund, UW Credit Union and the United Way aim to provide a simplified and equitable process to make funding more attainable for Black- and brown-led nonprofit organizations. The funding model will also create a community advisory board comprised of community members and UW Credit Union representatives, who will determine where funding is directed.

The new fund will also support emergency grants totaling $250,000 across both markets to assist with COVID-19 relief efforts for underserved communities.

Nicole Angresano, vice president of community impact for United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, said the new fund reflects the way in which corporate partners have changed their giving strategies to support justice and equity work.

“We (United Way and UW Credit Union) went through a process to ensure dollars would be directed at the two communities with the most (UW Credit Union) employees, Madison and Milwaukee, and that investments would be driven by community input,” Angresano said. “That’s a critical piece. Sometimes funders prescribe solutions instead of asking ‘what do you need to get this work done?’”

The application for funding opens March 17. Applicants are not limited to United Way agencies, but they must serve Dane, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, or Washington counties. Beyond the monetary investment, UW Credit Union will support grant recipients with volunteer hours and financial education resources.

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.

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