10 Common Questions about UWC SDG Answered

Published on May 24, 2023

As a charity, we have been in this community for more than 80 years, working with community partners towards a common goal of tackling poverty in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

In 1975, we became the United Way of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry and have been working under this name for nearly 60 years.

Over the past couple of years, with all the ways we’ve been challenged as a community, we knew we had to adapt not only the way we worked as an office, but we also had to determine what our role would be in supporting our community through so many unknowns.

We quickly realized our role was building connections. Getting different people talking. Understanding the issues and who was impacted. What work was already being done and what gaps needed to be addressed.

That was a new beginning for us.

Our mission and vision began to expand to focus not only on fundraising and community investments, but to also be a strong voice in advocacy, to be a leader in bringing together people to tackle complex issues, and to be a resource that local nonprofits can come to when facing challenges and require support getting new projects off the ground.

We’re evolving. And we’re excited about it.

But we’ve realized, with all the work we’ve done to grow our role in supporting our community, we haven’t taken the time to sit down and share more about who we are and what we do right now.

That’s why we want to take some time to answer some of the most common questions we receive and hear about the United Way to re-introduce ourselves to you and to share what it actually means to support the United Way.

So.. hi.

We’re the United Way Centraide SDG. A small team of passionate staff and a volunteer Board of Directors who care deeply about the community we live in.

We are taking the time to answer some of the most common questions we receive and often hear about us and about the network we’re part of.

1. What is the United Way?

The name “United Way” is known worldwide. United Way exists in 37 countries, and there are nearly 1,800 operating today. In Canada, there are 69 United Ways, supporting 5000 communities.

It is not a top-down organization that has ownership of all United Ways. It is a federated network where we all run independently, raise our own funds, are governed by a local volunteer Board of Directors, and work with local partners to address issues impacting our community. We often use the example of being like a non-profit franchise.

We’re 100% local, but we are backed by a global and national network which, in our opinion, is the best of both worlds.

2. Does United Way Centraide Canada pay operational costs of local United Ways?

No, we don’t receive money from United Way Centraide Canada to operate. All money that is raised locally covers our costs to operate and to support our local community.

To be completely transparent, we pay a small fee to be part of the network. Less than 1% of all money we raise helps us cover the fee to get access to the United Way brand and network of resources in Canada and worldwide.

3. How does the United Way Centraide SDG benefit from being part of the United Way network?

Being part of United Way Worldwide and United Way Centraide Canada has so many benefits for our local United Way.

We have access to shared resources when it comes to marketing, communications, advocacy, research, policies, etc.

Issues that impact our community like homelessness, poverty, hunger, and mental health are not unique to Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Many other communities have worked on solutions that have been successful and that haven’t worked as planned. We can learn from that experience, knowledge, and research by picking up the phone and calling a neighbouring United Way for guidance, by accessing tools/frameworks and by collaborating as a network on best practices.

Access to this network permits us to be hyper local with a small staff (3 full time and 2 casual). We are not starting from scratch or needing to hire as many consultants and experts for most of our day-to-day operations. This helps keep our admin costs much lower than if we were to develop these resources for ourselves.

4. Does my donation just pay for United Way CEO salaries?

We see and hear this one all the time, so let’s talk about it. The short answer is no. Your donation is not going only to salaries of upper management.

We are a very local organization that runs independently from United Way Worldwide, United Way Centraide Canada, and United Ways in other Canadian communities. Salaries you see posted in the news or talked about amongst your network are not the reality for us.

However, we do believe that all staff, no matter their position, should be paid fairly based on a combination of experience, skill, and the calculated living wage for our region. Because we cover our own operational costs, we ensure that salaries are competitive for our market and work within our budget.

5. What geographic area does the United Way Centraide SDG cover?

While we are based in Cornwall, our local United Way covers the rural townships of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry along with Cornwall and Akwesasne. Many of the programs we fund, while based in Cornwall, offer services across our entire region.

Over the past couple of years, we have been strengthening our relationships with rural organizations. We are currently working in Morrisburg one day a month at the Community Hub to support South Dundas community members applying for the Ontario Electricity Support Program. We also work closely with House of Lazarus on a program called Last Resort to help rural residents who are struggling with bills or are facing homelessness access a grant to cover expenses to keep them in their home or find a new home.

6. What is your mission and vision?

Our mission is to improve lives and build community.

Our vision is to respond to our community’s needs through progressive, evolving and informative actions.

What does this mean? We’ll break it down.

Improve lives:

Last year, we funded 15 local organizations and 18 programs that are serving people in our community. This includes a free hot breakfast three days a week for someone who is food insecure. A free course to learn and improve skills to find a job. An after-school program for youth to create connections and find community. A counselor to help women who experienced domestic violence heal and rebuild their lives. These are just a few examples of the programs our donors helped us fund last year that improved the lives of people living in our community.

Build community:

We don’t work alone. To have a positive impact in the community, we must engage the people who live and/or work here to be part of our mission. This includes working with nonprofits, schools, businesses, governments, individuals with lived experience and more.  The challenges we tackle in SDGCA – such as homelessness, rising cost of living, and mental health – demand community collaboration. We know this is cheesy, but we’ll say it anyway… united is the way forward.

Progressive, evolving and informative actions:

Because of our collaborative work through groups that we have created like the Regional Emergency and Strategic Response Council (20+ agencies, nonprofits, government representatives and service clubs) and our involvement on many different committees and working groups, we have an understanding of some of the gaps in our community and have developed new programs to address these.

We developed a new community program based on learnings from our involvement in these groups. With the rising cost of living, we learned that many were one bill away from facing homelessness or were working full-time without a home, and there were little to no resources they could turn to for support. Our community needed a flexible program to help people get back on their feet. With Agape (serving Cornwall clients) and House of Lazarus (serving rural clients), we created and implemented the Last Resort program. It’s exactly what the name suggests. When people can’t get support from any other source of funding, this program is what they are referred to. It helps people pay that one bill (rent, electricity, gas, etc.) to keep them in their homes or to cover first and last month’s rent on a new home to help those facing homelessness.

For the first two years, this was funded by our major donor program. Because of the success of this program in ensuring no one is left behind, the City of Cornwall is currently funding it to keep it running. For those with the capacity to pay back a grant, there is also a microloan option through Your Credit Union to support with these expenses and help build credit.

7. Does the United Way Centraide SDG still fundraise?

Fundraising is still very much at the core of what we do. Our fundraising efforts are to ensure that our community has a pot of money available each year to invest in the critical programs and services people need to access.

For our partner agencies, this means that they have an annual investment that they can plan for. In the non-profit sector, funding is never guaranteed. This is a huge challenge for many non-profits to keep current programs running and develop new programs. We want to help our community, as best we can, be able to plan in an uncertain industry.

With the current strain the cost of living is putting on our community, fundraising is more challenging than ever. By making it one of our key areas of focus, it takes some of that pressure off our local charities and non-profits, so they can focus on the needs of their clients.

8. How far does a dollar go when donated to the United Way Centraide SDG?

In 2021-2022, 71 cents of every dollar we received went directly back into the community

This is how that money was invested in the community last year:

9. How do you select which programs receive funding?

We often hear people ask, “Why should I donate to the United Way when I can give to other organizations directly?” This is a good question. If you are passionate about the work done by a local charity or non-profit, we encourage you to give to them directly. Our intention is not to compete but rather to supplement what they fundraise to run their critical programs.

What’s the value in giving to the United Way? Through our community collaborations and access to United Way’s global and national network of research and expertise, we have a deep understanding of national and local issues impacting our community. We also have a bird’s eye view on what’s currently available in our community and what’s missing to tackle these issues.

We strive for balance in what we fund. We fund programs that focus on prevention, meet people where they are currently and that unlock someone’s future potential. Our goal by funding a range of programs is that we are taking a multi-pronged approach that is layered and complex just like the local issues we are tackling.

We fund programs for the general population living here, but we also look for programs that also focus, specifically, on youth, women, 2SLBGTQ+, seniors, racialized groups, and other specialized groups to meet the complex needs of our most vulnerable and marginalized neighbours.

Our staff also doesn’t make these decisions. We lead a volunteer allocations committee to review and score community program grant applications to determine what we invest in each year. We provide guidance and history, but this group of volunteers are the ones who make those informed decisions. This is another way that we make sure that everything we do meets our mission to build community.

10. How do you leverage volunteers to keep operations costs as low as possible?

The engine of a charity is its volunteers. With a small team, it would not be possible to achieve as much as we have in the past 80 years without the gift of time and expertise from our community. Current committees include volunteers who help us run fundraising events, a volunteer board of directors, and a community investment allocation committee. Last year, we had a provincial government employee on secondment with us. This is a loaned representative who is paid by their current employer, and we benefit from their expertise. And we did (shout-out to Mel!).  We have also been lucky to have support from St. Lawrence College students who have done their work placements in our office.

It is our goal to continue growing our volunteer base to have an even bigger presence in our community. We work with so many passionate individuals who donate their time and expertise to us every year.

If you are interested in volunteering, reach out to us!

AMA: We want to hear from you

If you have a question we didn’t address above, ask us! We’ll add more Q&As to this post as we receive them.

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