How Philanthropic Groups Are Banding Together in Milwaukee

Multiple groups are coming together to help Milwaukee during a time of need.

To help alleviate the overwhelming effect the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the Milwaukee area, a group of philanthropic partners announced on Monday a coordinated approach toward identifying the most important community needs along with a pledge to quickly activate funding and volunteer resources. 

“Public health has been our primary focus, but the pandemic also has affected thousands of people by disrupting their lives and creating economic hardships,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says. “In our community, there are lots of concerned and generous people who are ready to help. Working together, we can make sure the greatest needs are addressed in a coordinated and thoughtful way.” 

The people and nonprofit organizations that serve local communities are facing mounting obstacles and disruptions to their missions at a time when those who rely on those services need them most.

Sustaining their essential work amid economic strain, physical distancing and increasing demand requires innovative solutions that mobilize resources and support the most effective strategies to address the unprecedented challenges caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the groups say. 

Among the needs already surfacing as most critical are access to food, housing and shelter, and medical treatment. To-date, the partners have raised $1.2 million and counting toward the effort.

The philanthropic partners have come together to align resources that complement the ongoing work of experts in public health and government while increasing the capacity of local agencies and programs on the front lines of the pandemic to do the greatest good. 

Initial community partners include:

“Though our community faces both uncertainty and adversity caused by the evolving Covid-19 pandemic, the philanthropic community is leaning on its long history of compassionate generosity and commitment to the health and well-being of greater Milwaukee to guide our cooperation today,” Greater Milwaukee Foundation President and CEO Ellen Gilligan says. “Our certainty that we are greater together is a powerful catalyst for today’s solutions, and we will continue to work collectively to protect our community’s health, economy and quality of life.”

Building on the investment each of the partners already is making in addressing urgent issues, the collaboration will help ensure resources are provided in a coordinated and strategic manner in response to immediate needs while also planning for the long-term recovery of the community. 

The intent is to jointly leverage resources and more effectively provide needed service to individuals, families and organizations. 

“Our top priorities continue to be getting supplies and money to nonprofits that are continuing to serve clients, as well as meeting other urgent needs in our community,” United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County President and CEO Amy Lindner says.  

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Keith Posley applauds the effort of Milwaukee’s philanthropic community. 

“We appreciate how the community is stepping up to help support the students and families of Milwaukee Public Schools during this challenging health emergency,” Posley says. “Our collective efforts will address some of our families’ most basic needs.”

The partnership also is developing a method for community engagement to keep apprised of emerging needs and address resource deployment. 

“At this unprecedented time of challenge, we need to take bold and decisive action,” says Dr. John Raymond, president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin, which is home to the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, a statewide health philanthropy. 

“As health care providers and public health experts across Wisconsin strive to bring testing to the front lines and to flatten the curve of the spread of Covid-19, this funding is badly needed for the health and well-being of our citizens and the communities that need us the most.” 

The collaboration will allow resources to be quickly deployed to meet the immediate needs of those most affected by Covid-19, according to Zilber Family Foundation Executive Director Gina Stilp.  

“In times of crisis, it’s more important than ever to ensure organizations serving the most vulnerable populations have the resources they need to operate at full capacity,” Stilp says.

Through the partnership, there are opportunities to receive help, get involved and donate to the response efforts.

If in need of help:

Call 2-1-1 or access online resources at 

To volunteer:

Explore options through United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County online

To donate:

  • Contribute to the MKE Responds Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation here.
  • Give to the COVID-19 Urgent Needs Fund at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County here
  • Give directly to your favorite organizations. Many have increased need for support.

To stay up to date on this effort:

Information will be posted on the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s website.  




Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.