United Way of Southern Maine (UWSM) announced it will invest $6,139,743 into our community this year.

Investments include Community Impact Grants of 3,519,977 to programs and innovative initiatives across Southern Maine. These grants reflect United Way’s priorities to advance equity and ensure alignment with our community’s shared vision to give kids a strong start, empower neighbors to thrive – not just survive, and help us all live longer, better.

“Our investments support programs and also fuel relationships, creating impact on individual lives and influencing conditions for community level change,” said Liz Cotter Schlax, president and CEO of United Way of Southern Maine. “These investments are one important component in United Way’s work to tackle persistent issues, including lack of affordable child care, food insecurity, housing instability, and mental health challenges, that hold people back from achieving financial stability and leading healthy lives.”

Included in the Community Impact Grants are member-directed investments through United Way’s giving circles, Brick & Beam Society and Women United, and United-Way led programming such as 211 Maine, CA$H Greater Portland, Biddeford Ready!, and the Greater Portland Workforce Initiative.

“The challenges our community faces are interconnected and incredibly complex,” said Camelia Babson-Haley, executive director, Youth and Family Outreach. “We can’t answer them alone. We need to pull in all the resources available in this robust community. And United Way helps connect us.”

In addition to Community Impact Grants, UWSM will invest an additional $800,000 into the community through donor-directed contributions and $1,819,766 in United Way’s efforts to mobilize and coordinate the people, ideas, and resources needed to quickly respond to emerging needs and tackle persistent community issues. United Way’s work includes public policy, community and volunteer engagement, evaluation and measurement, and programmatic leadership for Thrive2027.


“With my busy days, it is hard to stay on top of advocacy and policy efforts in the child care sector,” said Babson-Haley. “But with United Way’s advocacy team, I can just reach out to ask them what I need to be paying attention to or to get help on a letter. It is a huge value to me.”

This year, United Way offered new Capacity Building and Multi-Year Funding opportunities to support emerging, less established non-profit partners. They also revised financial review requirements to be more equitable for applicants from smaller organizations and created a new review and recommendation process to accommodate the increased number of applications.

“The challenge before us is the disparities in education, health, and economic opportunity continue to increase, but the resources available to confront those challenges have not kept pace with expanding needs,” said Todd Cesca, partner, Charter Oak Capital Management, and board chair, United Way of Southern Maine, “It is times like now that our community needs us more than ever to be united in our purpose.”

United Way relies on community members and subject-matter expert volunteers to make funding decisions and ensure grants are distributed to solutions that fill any gaps in services and have the greatest impact.

Through community input, nonprofit partnerships, and strategic funding, United Way is continuing to foster a stronger, healthier Southern Maine region for us all. This strategic approach helps our community’s dollars go further to close gaps in early childhood development, create pathways to educational and employment opportunities, and increase access to mental health care and addiction prevention and intervention services so more people thrive.