Guerilla project aims to increase awareness of community poverty


United Way of Pierce County is tackling a big issue. One in three families in the county are affected by poverty or asset limits combined with income constraints. Prior to COVID-19, 8% of households were living below the poverty line while another 23% were struggling to make ends meet. The situation is now worse. Inequality in income and wealth will continue to rise as wage growth and job stability in high-wage jobs greatly outpaces growth and stability at the lower end. More than 50% of all jobs in Pierce County pay less than $20 per hour or $40,000 per year. When we break down the numbers by race, 50% of Black families have incomes above the federal poverty level but below the threshold of affording basic needs. Compare this to 33% of households in Washington overall.

Faced with limited resources and waning opportunities for donated advertising space, the nonprofit was seeking new ways to broadly increase awareness of our community’s issue along with increasing understanding of United Way’s mission.

Inspired by United Way’s unique position of “tackling poverty at its roots”, we dreamed up a tree that can be transported to events across the community. It made its debut at the Washington State Fair.

The tree’s leaves each have stats about poverty in Pierce County along with a trackable QR code to encourage a donation. One third of the leaves have tags with an enamel pin that says “I believe in you, South Sound” that people can take as a gift and to wear as a conversation starter.

The tree assembles and disassembles easily and can fit into the back of small SUVs for easy transportation for the United Way team.