Milwaukee, Wis., March 20, 2020 – The enduring work ethic and spirit of determination that so often define the greater Milwaukee community are once again rising to meet the extraordinary challenges the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting for all people in all places.

To help alleviate the profound impact the coronavirus outbreak is having on Milwaukee and beyond, a group of philanthropic partners today announced their coordinated approach to identifying greatest needs and quickly activating funding support and volunteer resources for maximum community impact.

The people and nonprofits who serve local communities are facing mounting obstacles and disruptions to their missions, just as the people 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 for today’s unprecedented challenges.

Driven by this necessity, 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. 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 leverage resources jointly and more effectively provide needed service to individuals, families and organizations.

To-date, the partners have raised $1.2 million and counting toward the response effort.

The partnership also is developing a method for community engagement to keep apprised of emerging needs and inform resource deployment. Among the needs already surfacing as most critical are access to food, housing and shelter, and medical needs.

Initial community partners include:

There is a place for everyone in this partnership, with opportunities to receive help, get involved or donate to the response efforts:

Need help?

Call 2-1-1 or access online resources

Want to volunteer?

Explore options through United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Want to donate?

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

Want to stay up to date on this effort?

Information will be posted at

No one is alone in this effort. Together, the greater Milwaukee community can persevere through today’s anxiety and hardship to emerge thriving as a region and a people.

Partner statements

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

“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,” said Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “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.”

“Every day I hear from members of our community who ask one simple question: ‘What can I do to help?’” said Amy Lindner, president & CEO of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. “We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed to our Urgent Needs Fund, as well as offered their volunteer services. 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. In these unprecedented times, United Way is proud to stand alongside so many great organizations to help those in need. Together, we are showing the world that we are at our very best when we Live United.”

“Brewers Community Foundation and Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club are appreciative of the effort put forth by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and United Way for identifying resources and coordinating efforts among philanthropic partners to address this critically challenging need,” said Cecelia Gore, executive director of Brewers Community Foundation. “Clearly, COVID-19 impacts the entire community and is proving to be extremely challenging for our most vulnerable population. As we tackle our individual issues, joining with others to positively impact those in need provides an opportunity to demonstrate a deep care and concern for our community.  It is my hope that others will join us in raising needed dollars to address immediate pressing needs.”

“At this unprecedented time of challenge, we need to take bold and decisive action,” said Dr. John Raymond, Sr., 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.”

“This public health crisis is an unprecedented event already impacting our community,” said JoAnne Anton, director of giving for Herb Kohl Philanthropies. “As the situation rapidly evolves, this group of dedicated community partners is rapidly responding with much-needed support. We humbly join this unified effort, applaud the leadership and stand in heartfelt solidarity with our entire community.”

“In these challenging times, business and community collaboration is more important than ever. By working together, a ripple of extraordinary events will be set in motion,” said Eric Christophersen, president, Northwestern Mutual Foundation. “As needs continue to grow and evolve, we are committed to providing critical resources to the members of our community who need it most.”

“The Burke Foundation stands together with others in supporting the MKE Responds Fund to help those most impacted by COVID-19,” said Tina Quealy, executive director, Burke Foundation.

“Milwaukee Public Schools is extremely grateful to the philanthropic community in the city of Milwaukee. We appreciate how the community is stepping up to help support the students and families of Milwaukee Public Schools during this challenging health emergency,” said Dr. Keith P. Posley, superintendent of schools, Milwaukee Public Schools. “Our collective efforts will address some of our families’ most basic needs.”

“Through this collaboration, we are able to deploy resources quickly to meet the immediate needs of those most affected by COVID-19,” said Gina Stilp, executive director of the Zilber Family Foundation. “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.”

“Bader Philanthropies is fully committed to meeting the basic needs of people of all ages – today, tomorrow and in the days to come,” said Daniel J. Bader, president/ CEO for Bader Philanthropies. “As we bear witness to this historic time, we are inspired by the selfless acts of humanity and kindness from Milwaukee’s school faculty to health care providers, to countless colleagues around the globe who are using technology to maintain social distance, while staying mission focused.”

Communications contacts

Greater Milwaukee Foundation
Jeremy Podolski,

United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County
Dan Herda,

Medical College of Wisconsin / Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment
Holly Botsford,

For media inquiries

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Jeremy PodolskiMarketing and Communications Manager