Social Responsibility the United Way

The giving landscape is cluttered with different approach on how to make a difference. There is corporate philanthropy, corporate citizenship, venture philanthropy, social responsibility, giving to charities and setting up your own foundation. All of these approaches are directed towards making a difference.

As companies take more initiative in seeking to make a difference, charities must adapt or they will lose support. In particular, with corporations adopting their own initiatives how can charities maintain their value? The bigger the charity, the bigger the concern.

The United Way is one of the world’s best known and most respected charitable organizations. Previously it was a form of umbrella organization; people could give to their own cause through the United Way. They are moving away from being a flow through and undertaking their own projects.

In the Lower Mainland the United Way has reset its priorities to focus on community change. Lindsay Cavanagh, Campaign & Stewardship Assistant, explained to me that where they focus investments and why. First, over 25 per cent of children aren’t developmentally ready for school. The United Way helps kids aged 0 – 6 get a good start in life by funding community partners that provide literacy, nutrition and parenting support.

Second, many Lower Mainland children aged 6 – 12 don’t have the services, resources and programs they need to meet their development needs outside of school? The United Way funds out-of-school programs for children and educational programs for parents.

Third, as people age, they often need assistance to live independently and to participate in community life? The United Way engages seniors through housing support, transportation, care giving and social networking programs and services.

How does the United Way do this? Thousands of companies support the United Way each year through an annual appeal campaign. In 2007, funds raised by workplace campaigns represented approximately 80% of the $24.7 million raised for the Lower Mainland.

The United Way is in a sense helping companies activate a part of a social responsibility program. Companies are not simply giving to the United Way but instead they are able to motivate and activate their workforce.

One significant participant in the workplace program is Scotiabank. David Poole, Senior Vice President, BC & Yukon Division, Scotiabank notes, “Scotiabankers take pride in contributing to the well being of their communities and enthusiastically support the United Way Campaign which affords them the opportunity to invest in important social programs and causes.”

Another corporate supporter is Goldcorp. Lindsay Hall, Executive Vice President & CFO, Goldcorp Inc. explains that, “Being a leader in our community means leading by example. At Goldcorp we are committed to giving back to our communities to create opportunity.”

United Way has worked in the community for a long time and values its reputation. Michael McKnight, President & CEO, United Way of the Lower Mainland notes that, “Our commitment to the community remains constant in good times and in bad.” An annual United Way Spirit Awards gala, which is on February 26th this year, is one means of thanking their corporate supporters.

United Way is among the few charity-related organizations that go into the work place. By doing so, United Way is able to maintain its relevancy in a changing environment and an asset in helping companies achieve their own goal of social responsibility.