Skip to main content

United Way of Minneapolis records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: SW0070

Scope and Content Note

The records provide extensive systematic documentation of the planning, fund-raising, and budget-allocation activities of the United Way of Minneapolis -- previously known as the United Fund and as the Community Chest and Council -- for the period 1920-67, with more limited coverage of activities before and after that time span. The records include minutes of meetings, studies and reports, correspondence, memoranda, financial records, pamphlets, photographs, and scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings and campaign literature and memorabilia.

Viewed as a whole, the collection represents a remarkably comprehensive source of information about health and welfare programs and needs in Minneapolis and Hennepin County. The United Way was directly involved in analyzing such needs and coordinating and supporting the services of its many affiliated agencies, and it displayed an active interest in programs not under it auspices. The records reflect the complex structure and process through which issues were deliberated, so that materials relevant to a particular area of research interest are typically found in many locations throughout the collection. Topics include the full range of social services provided under United Way auspices, among which are day care, family services, group work, health care, recreation, settlements and neighborhood centers, and services for children, youth, and the aged.

The collection is arranged in seven major series, reflecting the filing system employed in the United Way offices. The History and Policy Series(boxes 1-8) comprises corporate documents, records relating to the origins of the organization, historical summaries, and studies of the council and its effectiveness. TheBoard and Committee Minutes Series(boxes 9-50) contains the minutes (and, in some cases, the supporting documents) of the board of directors and the many committees, thus affording an official record of all decisions and activities. Included is a comprehensive index to the minutes. The Alphabetical Files Series(boxes 51-180) includes working and reference files formed around studies and reports, projects, internal administrative units, other agencies and organizations, and subjects. These provide the most detailed information about activities and conditions. The Reports Series(boxes 181-190) contains copies of reports and studies prepared between 1968 and 1983 by the Community Health and Welfare Council and the United Way Planning Department. The Agencies Series(boxes 191-238) documents the relationship with member agencies whose programs were supported and coordinated by the Council. Records contained in this series are primarily concerned with issues related to budget allocations. The War Chest Series(boxes 239-250) documents World War II-era activities, during which time the Community Chest fund-raising activities were merged with those of the War Chest. The Scrapbooks Series(oversize boxes 1-22) contains compilations of publicity materials, photographs, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia, mostly related to annual fund drives. The descriptions, which follow, provide more detailed descriptions of the contents of each series.

Cross references.The files, as originally received, included numerous cross-reference cards (particularly in the alphabetical series) pointing to related items in other folders, some of which were destroyed before transfer to the archives. In cases where such cross-reference cards represent the only item in a folder, the archives staff added the box and folder number of the alternate location if it could be found (e.g., "53:27 American Library Association, See instead: Victory Book Campaign, Folder 178:19"). Additional cross-reference cards that are interfiled with other documents in a folder have not been checked to see whether the link is still valid.


  • Creation: 1915-1983
  • Creation: (bulk 1930-1967)

Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Open for use in Social Welfare History Archives reading room.


The United Way of Greater Minneapolis retains copyright to items created by its staff. Permission to quote must be obtained from the administrative offices of the United Way.

History of the United Way

A United Way typically serves two main functions for private-sector social agencies in a community: planning and fund raising. The need for coordinated efforts in these areas became evident in Minneapolis with the proliferation of social agencies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which resulted in duplication of some types of services while other areas of need were neglected. In 1915 a number of social agency executives took the initiative in forming a Central Council of Social Agencies to provide a means of better coordination. Initially 39 private and eight public agencies were represented.

The War Chest of 1918 represented the first effort at consolidated fund raising. The majority of funds raised by that solicitation were directed to various war-related welfare services, but $700,000 was set aside to support ongoing programs of members of the Council of Social Agencies who agreed not to conduct their own competing fund drives. In 1919 the War Chest was dissolved but the Council repeated the consolidated fund drive, known that year as the Town Tea Kettle and thereafter, from 1920 until 1942, as the Community Fund.

In 1942 another War Chest was formed in response to war-related needs. For the following three years, 1943-46, the Council stopped its Community Chest drive in favor of cooperation with a unified War Chest drive that funded war emergency services and existing community service agencies.

The basic organizational structure remained constant throughout the Council's existence: each member agency was represented by its executive director and a second representative selected by its board of directors. The full Council acted as a sort of delegate assembly which elected a board of directors to manage the organization's affairs. Committees and departments were formed to carry out specific functions, the most important being Planning, Budget and Distribution, and Campaign. Reorganizations in 1948 -- which changed the name from Community Fund to Community Chest and Council of Hennepin County, Inc. -- and in 1951 did not alter this basic structure.

In 1960 the Community Chest and Council was reorganized to become the United Fund of Hennepin County. As a result, the previously independent fund-raising activities of organizations such as the American Red Cross, U.S.O., and United Cerebral Palsy were consolidated into a single federated financing campaign. At the same time, the planning and research activities that had been performed by the Community Welfare Council -- a division of the Community Chest and Council -- were assumed by a new, separate organization, The Community Health and Welfare Council of Hennepin County. This Council drew its financial support from the United Fund and, in turn, provided the Fund with planning and consultation services. In 1976 the Community Health and Welfare Council was reabsorbed into the newly renamed United Way of Greater Minneapolis, becoming the Planning and Allocations Division of that agency.

For additional information and analysis, researchers are referred to Maynard M. Miller, " A Historical Study of the Planning Structure and Function of the Minneapolis Council of Social Agencies, Inc., now the Community Chest and Council of Hennepin County, Inc." (Master's Plan B Paper, University of Minnesota School of Social Work, 1959.)


150 Linear Feet (250 document cases and 25 oversize boxes)


Included are records related to the overall development and operations of the United Way organization; minutes of various boards and committees; program files formed around functional activities, studies, relationships, and topical reference materials; files on member agencies, formed primarily around the budget allocation process; and scrapbooks.

Arrangement of Collection

The collection is arranged into seven series:

  1. Series 1. History and Policy, 1915-1972 (boxes 1-8)
  2. Series 2. Board and Committee Minutes, 1917-1976 (boxes 9-50; oversize 23-25)
  3. Series 3. Alphabetical Files, 1919-1967 (bulk 1930-1967) (boxes 51-180)
  4. Series 4. Reports, 1968-1983 (boxes 181-190)
  5. Series 5. Agencies, 1911-1970 (boxes 191-238)
  6. Series 6. War Chest, 1941-1947 (boxes 239-250)
  7. Series 7. Scrapbooks, 1918-1968 (oversize 1-22)

Acquisition Information

Received as a gift from the United Way of the Minneapolis Area in 1982, with later accretions. The scrapbooks were transferred from the Minnesota Historical Society in 1985.

United Way of Minneapolis records
David Klaassen
June, 2004
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Social Welfare History Archives Collecting Area