I’m pleased to announce that Acooa Ellis has accepted the position of SVP of Community Impact. She’s the perfect candidate for this position, given her strong experience in policy, community engagement and equity. Most recently, she was the director of social justice at Catholic Charities, and currently co-chairs the Governor’s Task Force on Housing. Acooa officially starts on May 21. Please see the announcement below for more details on her background.

As many of you are aware, we’re in the midst of building our new ecosystems approach in Education, Jobs and Safety Net. In line with the new long range plan, our intent is to bring deeper, more comprehensive thinking to how United Way supports community progress by leveraging systems change, coalition building, 2-1-1 call for help, restricted grants and program grants. The first draft of this work will be coming into focus over the summer, and I know Acooa looks forward to hearing your input on our developing strategies. There will multiple opportunities for you to meet Acooa and share your point of view in the coming months.

In the meantime, if you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me or your primary contact in United Way’s Community Impact department.


President & CEO, Greater Twin Cities United Way

Ellis to advance education, workforce, safety net and equity strategies to support people in poverty

Greater Twin Cities United Way today announced that government and policy executive Acooa Ellis will be joining the organization on May 21 as SVP of Community Impact. In her role she will leverage her expertise in policy, coalition-building and social and racial justice to fuel holistic community solutions around education, jobs and safety net services to support people living in poverty. Specifically, she will oversee grant making, coalition engagement, systems change, public policy and United Way’s 2-1-1 resource helpline.

“Acooa’s nonprofit, public and private sector experience is outstanding,” said Sarah Caruso, president and CEO, Greater Twin Cities United Way. “I’m really looking forward to working with her to advance our long range plan with the goal of tackling poverty at the micro- and macro- levels. She will focus on fostering community collaboration and influencing and shaping the systems at play to help strengthen the nonprofit sector.”

Most recently, Ellis served as director of social justice advocacy at Catholic Charities. Under her leadership, the organization successfully executed a public engagement strategy to secure millions of dollars from the state for permanent supportive housing and wrap-around services for people experiencing homelessness.

Prior to Catholic Charities, Ellis worked in government affairs and supplier diversity at Target Corporation. She also worked as a legislative aide to former St. Paul City Councilmember Melvin Carter, representing Ward One, one of the region’s most diverse communities. In that position, she created the community development strategy for what later became the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood, a network of support to improve education outcomes and pave pathways of opportunity for children and their families in the Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods. Ellis started her career in direct service to families and adults at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Twin Cities and Summit Academy OIC.

An active leader in the community, Ellis currently co-chairs the Governor’s Task Force on Housing, charged with producing recommendations to equitably address the state’s housing crisis. She also is a St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce board member. Previously, Ellis served as co-chair of the Metropolitan Council Equity Advisory Committee and was a Citizens League board member, as well as on the advisory board of the multicultural endowment fund of the St. Paul Foundation.

Ellis holds a master’s degree in public policy from the U of M, with emphasis in social policy and community economic development, and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and sociology from the University of Iowa.