The results of the Community Needs Assessment show us the most common needs in each county.
These findings also show us how interconnected needs are to each other and the strong necessity for supporting not just one cause, but many causes, thereby creating a safety net for the region.

United Way plays a critical role in supporting our region’s safety net by providing food and shelter, improving health, fostering learning, establishing financial stability, and strengthening communities. It’s never been clearer how important the safety net is to keeping people safe, healthy, and thriving and how important United Way is to our region.

The following Community Needs Assessment (CNA) report sheds light on the needs often only seen by the people experiencing them. The CNA serves our community as a foundation to better understand what challenges people in our region are facing every day and how important it is for our region to come together to support one another. The findings show us the most common needs across our 16-county region; but recognizing that our region is made of varied and unique communities, the research was gathered intentionally to understand the distinct needs of each individual county.

Priority Needs

Seven of the 24 topics were identified as a highest priority need in a county.
The values below represent the number of counties that selected a topic as the highest priority.

  • Housing Security (x4)
  • Jobs (x4)
  • Access to Healthcare (x3)
  • Community Building (x3)
  • Behavioral Health & Substance Abuse (x2)
  • Child Welfare (x1)
  • Disaster Preparedness & Response (x1)

To understand priority needs in each county and the most common needs across the region, the following process was utilized:

  • Primary research and community input through a surveys, focus groups, and interviews.
  • Secondary data from sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Census Bureau, data from local, state, and federal government entities, and United Way 2-1-1 data.


Guided by a committed group of volunteer leaders, United Way engaged four external entities to conduct a comprehensive, regional assessment to understand what services and resources were most needed across our 16-county service area and within our impact areas. The Assessment researchers designed a collaborative approach to understand priority needs, map regional funding, and discover community partnerships, allowing us to not only identify needs, but uncover gaps in existing funding and collaborations working to address these needs.

The Assessment team designed a collaborative approach to understand priority needs, map regional funding, and identify community partnerships.

Regional Overview

United Way of Greater St. Louis’s service area covers a population of more than 3 million people in two states with both rural and urban areas. Recognizing that each community faces unique challenges, the Assessment team focused on understanding the distinct needs of each individual county. A total of 24 areas of need were identified within United Way’s five impact areas. Using a process that reviewed all available data, priority needs for each county were identified. The table below provides a comprehensive overview of each county’s top priority needs, followed by a summary of how needs are addressed with direct funding.

Some needs ended in a tie. In the case of a tie, those numbers accounted for the tie number and the following number. (Example: St. Charles had two #1 answers, so the next need is ranked #3.)

*Crisis intervention was not included in the needs prioritization process because it so often could be placed under other need areas, such as housing or food security.

**In these instances, some data were not available (existing secondary data for Legal Assistance and Financial Education; primary data from community members for Debt). The needs prioritization methodology did account for how much data were available to prioritize each topic, and even with score adjustments for these three topics, they were not elevated to a priority need in any county.

†Aging and Senior Support and Services for Individuals with Disabilities were classified under the impact area of Strengthen Communities for this CNA.

Top Needs

Sixteen of the 24 topics were identified in the top five needs in the 16-county service area.

Need# of Counties
Housing Security9
Built Environment8
Access to Healthcare8
Community Building7
Child Welfare7
K-12 Education and Out-of-School Time7
Behavioral Health & Substance Abuse6
Justice System3
Aging and Senior Support3
Disaster Preparedness 1
Early Childhood Education1
Food Security1

Top Funded Needs

Top 10 funded needs across the 16-county service area. Funding includes grants of $50,000 or more made to entities in the 16-county region during fiscal year 2017.

K-12 Education and Out-of-School Time$302M
Early Childhood Education$151M
Food Security$136M
Housing Security$99M
Services for Individuals with Disabilities$43M
Behavioral Health & Substance Abuse$33M
Community Building$33M
Post-Secondary Education$29M
Physical Health$28M

Community Partnerships

To better understand not only needs but also assets in the region, United Way sought to better understand the landscape of community partnerships in its geographic footprint and impact areas. A survey was dispersed, and a scan of existing information was conducted to develop an initial picture of regional partnerships and their efforts to address need.


Partnerships Working on
Strengthening Communities


Total Number of Partnerships
in the United Way Service Area


Partnerships Working on
Improving Health


Partnerships Working on
Fostering Learning


Partnerships Working on
Basic Needs


Partnerships Working on
Financial Stability

Looking Forward

Our goal in completing this Needs Assessment was to gain a better understanding of what services and resources are most needed to help every person in the St. Louis region be successful and thrive. In doing so, we recognize the vital role United Way plays in supporting our region’s safety net of services through basic needs, education, health, financial stability and strong communities. We will continue to do this by making strategic investments, improving access to resources, promoting systems change and strengthening capacity.

View County Profiles: Dive into important indicators for each of the 16 counties in our region alongside a summary of community engagement, funding, partnerships, and area demographics.

Explore the Data: Create your own report of indicators for one or multiple counties in our region to see how your work can impact important community outcomes.