The story of today’s United Way Toronto
In 2003 United Way Toronto made the most important decision in our 54-year history: we decided to change. We changed the way we saw ourselves—and our role in making the communities we serve a measurably better place for everyone to live. For almost half a century, United Way has raised and distributed money to an important network of charities that was doing great work. We also highlighted the problems facing our community, and we drew attention to the plight of the most vulnerable. We raised awareness and leveraged compassion. But at the end of the day, when we looked around our community, we understood it wasn’t enough. Despite all the money raised, and all the programs that were funded, some of our most pressing challenges were getting worse, not better. And so, seven years ago, we took the first steps on an important journey of transformation. We set for ourselves a new centre of gravity: our own success would revolve around the collective success of the community we serve.
We’re working to address the root causes of social problems
In many ways, this decision was a return to our roots: our organization was founded on the principle of mobilizing others to solve community problems. Despite periods of sustained economic prosperity, systemic family poverty has been growing at an alarming rate. Instead of becoming vital, sustaining communities of opportunity, too many of our city’s neighbourhoods risk becoming places of growing isolation, depravation, and disenfranchisement. An increasing number of young people are becoming harder to connect with and, collectively, we’re failing on our promise of potential to a new generation of newcomers to Canada. We haven’t changed our mission. We haven’t changed our values. Instead, we’ve changed our perception—both of ourselves and of the community. We’ve also learned new skills and exercised new capacities, like research and advocacy; leading strategic initiatives, not just funding them.
We bring people together from all walks of life to build a better city
At United Way Toronto, we’re touching the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year:
- Our membership agencies form a network of over 200 community service organizations from across the city.
- More than 50 organizations—from all three levels of government, universities and colleges, hospitals and institutes, community non-profits and local residents—work directly with us in community partnerships.
- Our annual campaign reaches nearly half a million employees. 140 thousand of them respond by giving. Over 23 thousand reach out to volunteer on our behalf.
Every day, no matter what we do or where we work, our relationship with the people we connect with is an opportunity to advance our community agenda. The ability to engage so many people directly in the work of building community—this is our great advantage. It’s also our great responsibility: to embody the value of community and, in our own actions, to model the values we ask others to share. At the end of the day, we believe that all of us are connected, one to the other, in a common cause of caring.