Community Essentials

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Food. Water. Housing. Safety. Healthcare. Clothing. Identification. Access to technology.

These are the critical things people need to thrive in our world today. With many of our community's households struggling to make ends meet, our community must have a strong safety net. Together we can prevent crisis, provide stability, and support those navigating a complex social service system.



Every person in our community deserves the opportunity to thrive.

To get there, we must strengthen the safety net of services that support and lift up our neighbors. At various times in our life, every single one of us has needed the support of others.

United Way has always helped the most vulnerable people meet their basic needs and improve their health, education, and financial stability. However, the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated that there was limited capacity and high demand for services that deliver these crucial necessities.

Our Community Essentials work helps people meet their physical needs - food, water, shelter, healthcare - as well as providing assistance navigating the often complex human service systems. It also recognizes that access to technology is not a luxury, it's a necessity to apply for a job, pay bills, connect with healthcare and education, and so much more.

We recognize that many of our neighbors who are ALICE families, low-wage workers, people of color, LGBTQA+ individuals, and those with disabilities need increased access to services. Our grants support programs that are working to increase access to services and actively practice nondiscrimination.

We have programs and partners who are making this possible and we need your support to make sure even more people get the help they need. 

Community Concern

United Way asked community members to rank the top needs or issues facing our community. Basic Needs (Ability to pay for food, clothing and necessities) was ranked as the second-highest community concern, and access to affordable healthcare ranked fifth. For people of color, Basic Needs and Access to Affordable Healthcare were tied for the top community concern. 

Financial Insecurity

Champaign County has a high rate of financial insecurity. In total, 44% of our neighbors struggle to afford basic household essentials. This includes two groups:

  • 24% of Champaign County households are ALICE - Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. They earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford basic household essentials or save for the future. They are walking a financial tightrope - one missed paycheck away from a financial crisis.
  • 20% of our households earn less than the Federal Poverty Level.

Median Household and Family Income

  United States Illinois Champaign County
Median Household Income $55,322 $59,196 $48,899

Learn more.

Food Insecurity

Financial insecurity leads to difficult choices - can we pay rent or buy food? Food insecurity had been on a decline, falling to 11% in 2019, down from 15% in 2017. Unfortunately, the economic instability brought on by the COVID pandemic has caused a rise in food insecurity. Feeding America projects that 12.2% of area households were food insecure in 2021.

Local services are critical, as they support families who may struggle but do not qualify for SNAP. Local programs can also provide food that meets people's nutritional and cultural needs. Continued support of local food services is critical to keep lowering this datapoint.


Housing and Homelessness

In the long-term, financial insecurity can lead to housing instability. In the past 12 months (March 1, 2021 to March 1, 2022) 50% of all calls to Champaign County's 211 Help Center were for housing and shelter. An additional 13.4% reached out for help with utility bills.

In the past 12 months, our 211 Help Center made 590 referrals to local homeless shelters.



Every person deserves to live in a safe community, but the safety data for Champaign County is highly troubling. In 2018, Champaign County had a rate of 453.85 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. This is higher than the state rate of 395.75. (Source) There were 341 confirmed shooting incidents in 2021. (Source) And 510 area children are currently in substitute care after experiencing abuse or neglect.

Health and Healthcare

Sexually transmitted infections, food insecurity, and adult smoking are all higher in Champaign County than the state of Illinois overall.

According to the 2019 County Health Rankings, the obesity rate in Champaign County is up to 31% from 26% in 2015. Our community's rate of access to exercise opportunities is lower than the state of Illinois, meaning fewer of our residents have reasonable access to recreation.

From the Champaign County Community Health Plan: "Behavioral health issues continue to be an issue across the county. Lack of resources, funding, and stigma contribute to the issue in Champaign County. According to County Health Rankings the ratio of mental health providers per 100,000 has improved drastically over the past six years, moving from 2055:1 in 2010 to 444:1 in 2019. According to the CDC, National Vital Statistics System, the Champaign County suicide rate in 2018 was 12.9 per 100,000 which is higher than the state of Illinois rate of 10.8 but lower than the national rate of 13.4. According to the death certificate data compiled by Vital Records at Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, there were 262 drug-related deaths for the five-year period 2015-2019. Of these deaths, 198 were residents of Champaign County. Opiates were the leading cause of drug-related deaths in Champaign County." (Source)

Access to Technology

Our community played a critical role in the creation of the internet and the first web browser - and 98.9% of Champaign County's urban residents can get fixed high speed internet service in their home. Unfortunately, not all families can afford that service.

Outside our major cities, only 52.5% of rural residents can access fixed high speed internet at home - lower than the state's average. This means many of our rural residents rely on mobile devices for internet access.

United Way's ALICE report states that the average family needs to budget $75 per month to access the internet. (Source) This is only for access and does not include the cost to purchase devices.

With job applications, banking, school and other critical resources increasingly moving online, it is important that everyone, regardless of where they live, has access to technology. (Source)

Navigating Complex Systems

The human service sector can be challenging to navigate, especially for those in crisis. United Way 211 answered 3,196 calls for assistance in 2021, providing guidance and answers. (Source)

Champaign County is home to an estimated 25,000 immigrants. Providing translation and guided assistance is crucial for people to be welcomed into our community and access the services they need.

Working together to help people meet their needs

United Way is committed to providing long-term support for Community Essentials. In 2021, United Way awarded $588,000 in grants to local programs to provide essential support across the community. Each grant program is working towards one of the following Goals:

  • Help people meet their physical needs
  • Assist people with accessing and navigating complex human service systems

Our Strategy

The framework for Community Essentials ensures we can support our most vulnerable neighbors experiencing the hardest of times through an efficient and effective safety net of services with minimal to no barriers.

Special Projects in Community Essentials

211 - Get Connected, Get Help

Emergency Shelter for Families

Farmers Feeding Families

FY22 Grant Partnerships

211 - Get Connected, Get Help

The most comprehensive source of information about local resources and services. Real people answer the phone and connect callers to expert, caring help 24/7/365. Also offered via text.

A program of PATH Crisis


Assistance with Identification and Documents

A core group of volunteers assist guests in funding and acquiring birth certificates, state identification cards, and bus passes; provide assistance in completing Link card applications; help guests access appropriate social service agencies; offer emergency assistance; and provide homeless certifications.

A program of Daily Bread Soup Kitchen


Bridge to Subsidized Housing Utility Assistance Program

The Bridge to Subsidized Housing Utility Assistance Program will provide utility assistance to households approved for subsidized housing and connection to services that will support continued household stability. 

A program of Champaign County Regional Planning Commission


Champaign County Home Delivered Meals

Eases the impact of malnutrition and food insecurity among the aged population and provides a more stable nutritional foundation for the health and independence of clients, with a special focus on serving rural areas.

A program of PeaceMeal


Champaign County Food Fund

A reserve of local dollars that can be used to place nutritious emergency food into the hands of people in need. Through the Champaign County Food Fund, participating member agencies receive a discount toward shared maintenance fees or the purchase price of product ordered from the Foodbank. 

A program of Eastern Illinois Foodbank


Community Living

Provides residential supports to individuals with developmental disabilities who would otherwise be unable to maintain their independence in the community. 

A program of Developmental Services Center


Emergency Shelter for Families

Provides homeless families with children a short-term private space to be sheltered together as an intact family. 

A program of Champaign County Regional Planning Commission



Provides Champaign County seniors age 60 or older with non-medical, in-home assistance with activities of daily living.

A program of Family Service of Champaign County


Legal Help for Champaign County Homeowners

Free legal assistance to low-income homeowners living in Champaign County who are at risk of losing their homes.

A program of Land of Lincoln Legal Aid


Legal Help for Champaign County Public Benefits

Free legal assistance to low-income and vulnerable individuals in Champaign County who are seeking benefits or who have lost or are at risk of losing their benefits. 

A program of Land of Lincoln Legal Aid


Meals on Wheels

Home-delivered hot noon meals and optional cold supper bags. The hot noon meal provides at least 1/3 of the nutritional needs of older adults & can accommodate dietary needs such as low sodium, low cholesterol or diabetic diets. Primarily serves Champaign and Urbana.

A program of Family Service of Champaign County


Medical Care for Low-Income Adults

Promise Healthcare provides primary medical care to low-income adults regardless of their ability to pay and welcomes new patients daily.

A program of Promise Healthcare


Medical Care for Low Income Children

Promise Healthcare provides medical care for low-income children at Frances Nelson, the Urbana School Health Center and the Community Resource Center.

A program of Promise Healthcare


The Resource Connection

Connects residents of northern Champaign County with basic needs services and with other social, physical, and mental health services provided by CU-based agencies/programs. 

A program of Community Service Center of Northern Champaign County


Senior Counseling & Advocacy

Provide information and referral services to the community as well as one-on-one assistance in the homes of Champaign County residents age 60 and older, helping them access benefits and services as well as providing supportive counseling.

A program of Family Service of Champaign County


Senior Transportation

Rides for Champaign County seniors who, for reasons of health or safety, can no longer drive and/or may not be able to use public transportation due to physical or mental limitations or lack of access to it. Clients can receive one round-trip ride per week to attend medical or business appointments, go grocery shopping or participate in life-enriching activities. 

A program of Family Service of Champaign County


SmileHealthy Dental Center

Full time dental clinic co-located at Frances Nelson that provides high-quality dental care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay.

A program of Promise Healthcare


Support for Immigrant Families

Provides immigrant clients with access to public benefits resources, including assistance with applications, counseling, and case management. 

A program of The Refugee Center


Tax+ Options Counseling

CRIS utilizes evidence-based, person-centered, "Options Counseling" in the process of social service case management for individuals experiencing financial distress including assistance with tax returns. 

A program of CRIS Healthy Aging

United we can help every person thrive.

United Way has issued a Request for Proposals. A pool of $600,000 in grant funds are available. Local programs working to improve Community Essentials, as defined below, are invited to apply.

  • United Way grants support the best approaches and strategies to achieve the goal and solve our community's toughest problems.
  • This is a competitive grant process. Not all applicants may recieve a grant.
  • Our review panel is looking for strong alignment with United Way’s community essentials definition and ability to report on the Output Metrics. We also look for evidence-based approaches, strategic partnerships, commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, program sustainability, and effectiveness.
  • Anticipated grant award range is $10,000 - $50,000

Community Essentials Definition

Community Essentials funding from United Way of Champaign County targets services that are designed to meet physical needs (such as food and water, safety, shelter, and healthcare) as well as help navigating and accessing complex human service systems (identification and documentation, technology, and resource navigation).

Output Metrics

Each applicant is required to measure a minimum of one output metric. Please click here to view the metrics.

Adding outputs beyond the minimum will create a more substantial application.

Eligibility Requirements

United Way of Champaign County's funding guidelines are specific. We do not provide funds to individuals, political institutions, school fundraisers, capital campaigns, capital items, endowments, marketing opportunities, event fundraisers, or sports events.

Eligibility Requirements: 

  • Must serve clients in Champaign County, Illinois.
  • Must have bylaws that state the purpose of the organization, make provisions for the size of the Board of Directors, and provide rules for selection, tenure, number of officers and committees, financial and legal procedures, conflicts of interests, and quorum requirements. A Board that is actively engaged in an advisory, governance, and/or fiscal capacity. 
  • Your organization has policies and procedures on non-discrimination in employment and provision of service. Equity is a core value of United Way. (See our Antiracism statement here).
  • Your organization has the mechanisms and capacity for regularly reporting measurable, qualitative, and quantitative outcomes.
  • Your organization is a human service agency OR tax-exempt under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue code OR has another tax-exempt organization act as a fiscal sponsor.
  • Your organization is able to provide United Way of Champaign County with a completed financial audit or letter of financial review and an IRS Form 990.
  • A funded agency with total revenue of $300,000 or greater will be required to have an audit performed by an independent audit firm.
  • An agency with total revenue of less than $300,000 will be required to have a financial review performed by an independent audit firm. Agencies with total revenue of less than $300,000 may also choose to provide an audit.
  • Your organization must be willing to support and cooperate with United Way of Champaign County in the areas of fundraising, planning, data collection, data reporting, training, and communication. 

* Organizations that have a faith-based mission may receive a grant, as long as a lack of participation in the faith-based mission does not disqualify a person from being served.

Required Information

Your organization must provide

  • Nonprofit agency budget
  • Proposed Grant Program budget
  • Program narrative and output metrics
  • Board of Directors list and meeting dates
  • Financial documentation (Audit or Financial Review, and IRS Form 990)
  • Verification of 501 (c) (3) non-profit status for your Agency or Fiscal Agent

Please note, United Way grants are awarded to support the work of a specific program within a nonprofit organization. We do not fund agency general operating expenses. 

RFP Information Sessions

Informational sessions were held on March 22, 2022. Both sessions presented the same information. You may view the recordings below.

Morning Session Recording (Password: 1kJZ!6hY )

Afternoon Session Recording (Password: #rWp3M.X )

Grant Application Portal

The RFP application is now open. Click here to access the portal.

Important Dates

March 18, 2022 - Request for Proposals issued. Grant Portal Opens for applicants.

April 18, 2022 - Grant Portal Closes. The deadline is firm, no extensions will be offered.

April 19 - May 12 - Grant Review conducted by United Way Community Solutions Team, Community Impact Committee, and Board of Directors.

May 27, 2022 - Notification of application status. One-year contracts awarded to selected applicants.

July 1, 2022 - Grant funds disbursed.

Ongoing reporting will be required.


For technical questions regarding the Application Portal, contact:

Carolyn Butterfield
Manager, Community Impact Data & Operations
Note: Carolyn is in the office from 8:30am - 1pm daily.

For all other questions, contact:

Javaite Burton
Director of Community Impact