How do you decide what agencies to partner with?
Members of the United Way family of agencies are invited, on an annual basis, to submit funding applications to United Way in order to access grants from the United Way Community Fund. Through a citizen review process, trained volunteers review funding applications by evaluating program summaries, budgets and through on-site interviews. Grant recommendations are then presented to the United Way Board of Directors (also volunteers) for final approval. The members of the Community Investment (Fund-Distribution) Committee understand the great responsibility they have to the general public in ensuring that donated dollars are wisely invested in programs and services that meet urgent community needs. The reality is that there are never enough dollars to meet all of the needs in the community and many organizations are asked to do their important work with limited resources. If the United Way campaign were to surpass its objective, many of the agencies could receive the dollars they need to provide necessary services. From time to time, the United Way Board of Directors will set aside additional funds (usually from savings generated through the management budget and/or non-campaign revenue) for “Community Impact” Grants – designed specifically to address new and/or emerging community needs. Some previous recipients of these types of grants include Blenheim Youth Centre, YMCA Youth Leadership Project, Community Living Chatham-Kent, Chatham-Kent Community Health Centres, St. Clair Catholic District School Board, J. G. Taylor Community Centre and Chatham-Kent Children’s Safety Village.
How accountable are the agencies that receive funds through United Way?

All of the recipients of United Way’s grants are either Registered Canadian Charitable Organizations or Qualified Donees. Our funded agencies sign a funding agreement, on an annual basis, which ensures that dollars are being used to provide services described in their annual funding proposal. In this agreement are various pledges of compliance that include – a provision of a minimum of 30 days written notification to United Way of any significant changes to United Way funded services, the submission of updates and surveys, responses to information queries as required and other partnership requirements. These organizations must also file an annual income tax return with the government.

Once the funds are distributed by the United Way (usually on a monthly instalment basis), the Director of Community Engagement & Operations (Karyn O’Neil) stays in contact with the funded agencies to ensure that the funds are utilized for the purpose for which they were provided. In rare situations, the needs of an agency can change and the United Way Board must approve a redistribution of funds for another program or service.

Wouldn’t it be better to donate directly to the supported agencies?
The United Way “system” is efficient and effective, accountable and transparent – for donors and grant recipients alike. Each time a recipient charity receives an individual gift, it incurs processing costs – which redirects precious time and talent away from the provision of services to people in need. When United Way handles the processing for its agencies and other donor choice recipients, it saves significant dollars and helps organizations to keep their overhead low. When United Way conducts its annual federated fund-raising campaign, funded agency staff and volunteers can focus on their core businesses.
What proportion of the dollars raised in Chatham-Kent stay in Chatham-Kent?

One hundred percent of the dollars raised in Chatham-Kent stay in Chatham-Kent – with the exception of donor-directed contributions to non-member charities such as War Amps, Doctors without Borders, etc. where head offices are located outside our catchment area (there are over 85,000 Registered Canadian Charities in Canada). Each of the 85 United Ways in Canada pays a membership fee (like a franchise fee) to United Way Centraide Canada (National Office in Ottawa) for the use of the logo and name, research and other promotional materials; this amount equates to approximately ¾ of 1% of the announced campaign achievement for the previous year.

I heard that United Way’s administration costs are too high. What are they?

United Way of Chatham-Kent understands that when you donate to a registered charity you want every dollar to be used to the best of its ability. We want this too! That is why we make strategic investments on how to best serve our community's most vulnerable, which includes necessary investments in administration and fundraising.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) expects public foundations to have fundraising expenses at or around 35%. In 2018, our combined fundraising AND administration expenditures sat at 30% of our campaign revenue, which is well below CRA's expectations.

You can check out the Canada Revenue Agency report on United Way of Chatham-Kent and other organizations here.

If you have any questions about our fundraising or administration costs, or questions around the changes we are helping to create in our community, we are an open book and happy to have a conversation with you. To request a time to get together for a chat, you can either call our office at 519-354-0430 or send us an email at [email protected].

Are low administrate and fundraising fees the key to creating change for our community’s most vulnerable?

It is important to understand that looking at a charity’s overhead as a measure of its effectiveness is not a useful of measure of as it was once thought to be. A much more useful measure of effectiveness and efficiency is understanding how the charity is operating to create change to improve the lives of individuals, families, and our community (i.e. the whole reason why someone donates!). 

For example, Charity A can house a homeless person at their shelter for an overhead cost of $20/night and Charity B can do it for $10/night. So where do you invest your charitable dollars? By using overhead measures alone, you might quickly jump to Charity B as cost per night is lower, so therefore they must be the more efficiently run charity. The real question then becomes what is the difference the two charities are making in the community? To answer this, you need to look beyond the numbers to see what else is happening (i.e. is Charity A bringing in extra supports and having a higher success rate of getting people off of the streets and housed, reconnected with family, receiving mental health and addition support, reducing ER visits, hospitalizations, incarcerations, etc.?).

If the goal is to end homelessness, which charity is making the most progress towards meeting this goal? It is an important question to ask and often the difference between a long-term solution that is equipping people with the resources and tools they need to live a better independent and more connected life versus a short-term ‘quick fix’ solution that keeps people dependent upon that solution (i.e. stuck in the cycle of poverty).

For a short video that helps to explain this point further, check out Dan Pallotta’s TedTalk ‘The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong’.

If you have any questions about our fundraising or administration costs, or questions around the changes we are helping to create in our community, we are an open book and happy to have a conversation with you. To request a time to get together for a chat, you can either call our office at 519-354-0430 or send us an email at [email protected].

I heard that the CEO/Executive Director makes a six figure salary. How are executive salaries set?

The governing body – the Board of Directors - sets salaries based on the size of the organization and similar roles in other not-for-profit organizations. Salaries in the not-for-profit sector are found to be currently, and traditionally, lower than those in the private and government sectors. No one employed by United Way of Chatham-Kent is in the “Sunshine Club” – defined as those public sector employees who earn more than $100,000 per year.

Do employees of the United Way donate to United Way?

United Way Staff Members are the first to give in any annual campaign. They cannot ask others to give unless they have given themselves. In the 2018 Campaign, the employees donated in excess of $16,000 to the fund-raising effort.

United Way doesn’t do anything for me. Why should I give?

United Way improves the lives of your family, friends and neighbours by helping to build a stronger, safer and more caring community. United Way provides you with an opportunity to give, to volunteer and to act for the betterment of the community where you live, work and play. Research shows that one dollar invested in prevention saves seven dollars – down the road – in treatment services. So … in a time when we have so little control over our taxes, mortgage payments, utility bills, etc., charitable contributions are still something that you can control.  You can decide when to give, how much to give and to whom. Surveys demonstrate that contributors to charity are actually happier people!

Don’t our government social services cater to our needs in our community? Isn’t that what our tax dollars are doing?
The government is not able to meet all of the needs in any given community. This has been a historic fact. United Ways work in partnership with business, government and voluntary sector organizations to identify community issues and to mobilize resources to address them. No one sector of the community can do it all.
If people are poor they should get a job. Why should I spend my hard earned dollars to support people who don’t support themselves?

Many people in Chatham-Kent have very strong feelings about the economy, religion, politics and other extremely important current events. United Way’s mission seeks to understand and to assist where it makes the most effective use of every donor dollar. Our policy of neutrality prevents us from taking sides or passing judgment. The fact is that 17% of our current population in Chatham-Kent lives in low-income households and our Prosperity Roundtable is developing strategies to address this complex social issue. United Way donations (as depicted in our logo) are used to provide a “hand up” as opposed to a “hand out”.

It is important to note that United Way does not give funds to individuals. Donated dollars are either allocated – or designated – to support agencies, programs and services that address specific needs throughout Chatham-Kent.

In actual fact, many people who live below the poverty line are some of the best managers of money; they know how to stretch a dollar. United Way dollars are used to provide such items as gently worn winter coats and backpacks for kids, which frees up dollars to spend on other necessities such as food and shelter. No child asks to be born into poverty. As a community, we have a responsibility to take care of these children – who are our future.

Besides donating money, what can I do to help in my community?

You have the power to do incredible things. United Way is a trusted organization with the abilities to offer volunteer opportunities geared to your strategic skill set, provide exclusive workplace team building opportunities, and works with the Gigit platform which tracks your hours and volunteer experiences.

Learn about your community as awareness is the key to change!
For those who have attended a “Seeing is Believing” bus tour, share the information you've learned! If you were inspired, inspire others, encourage others to attend a "Seeing is Believing" tour, help eliminating myths that interfere with United Way’s ability to improve community involvement, or join one of our many community committees that work first hand in addressing #UNIGNORABLE issues.

With so many agencies how would I find the right one if I was in need of some type of assistance and didn’t know whom to call?
You can now call “211” – the three digit information and referral service provided free within Chatham-Kent.
Does United Way support one specific political party or one specific candidate?

For more information about your local United Way of Chatham-Kent and the agencies, programs and services supported by United Way contributions, please review our Annual Report to the Community and/or contact Patricia Peters, acting CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent at 519-354-0430.

Understanding United Way of Chatham-Kent

An introduction to United Way


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent


Photo: Wes Thompson, Campaign Cabinet Volunteer; Patricia Wright and Steve Pratt, 2016 Fundraising Campaign Co-Chairs.



Earlier this year, I was invited by Peter Epp of Post Media to write a weekly article for the Chatham Daily News to tell the United Way story.  It was a timely request, given the fact that I had recently interviewed with another local newspaper reporter about the lack of growth of the United Way Campaigns over the past decade.  And while there were a number of points that I would have liked to include in that particular article, there was insufficient space to elaborate.

About the same time, I also received some supportive advice from a major donor about United Way's need to “make a better connection between the donor and the service recipient.”  With one in three residents - that's 38,000 people throughout Chatham-Kent - impacted either by United Way partner agencies, programs and services - or by United Way's direct services, you would think that would be an easy task.  Not so much.  Why?  It’s because the majority of people touched by United Way are not comfortable sharing – openly - their personal challenges of living in poverty, or coping with addictions, family violence, physical and/or mental disabilities.

"Walking through the doors of a funded agency of United Way isn't an easy thing to do,” says Steve Pratt, one of the 2016 Campaign Co-Chairs.  “Anyone who has ever had to ask for help with a ‘sensitive’ issue knows exactly what I’m talking about.  There’s pressure to fit in – to be ‘normal’ – so you don’t necessarily want others to know what you or your family members are going throughPatricia and I are working hard with our team this year to ensure that the services are there for folks – like us – who need them.”

When you think of single-focus organizations like Hospice, or Habitat for Humanity or the Cancer Society or Community Living - some of our community's well respected charities - we understand what they do.  But when it comes to United Way - with its 21 partner programs and 13 direct services - like a smorgasbord of 34 different dishes - the image is not as clear.  While the United Way brand is easily recognizable, the work we do is not - and often puzzling if you are not already an active volunteer on the United Way Board of Directors or one of its working committees.

So … over the next few months and weeks, I have been given this opportunity to provide answers to the 5Ws and 2Hs - Who, What, Where, When, Why, How and How Much?  I'll be writing about why donors give to United Way, showcasing personal stories of lives changed, featuring some of the folks involved with our organization, focussing on the costs associated with running our local charity and highlighting the work United Way staff and volunteers are doing to make a long-lasting and measurable change in society.

United Way and Labour - Working Together


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent


Photo: United Way's Brian Armitage and Karen Kirkwood-Whyte with Hassan Yussuff, President Canadian Labour Congress


It only seems fitting each Labour Day, that we take the opportunity to celebrate the long-standing relationship between United Way of Canada/Centraide Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress – a relationship solidified with the signing of the “Statement of Principles” agreement in March of 1988.

As the agreement states … “Both the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and United Way Centraide Canada (UWC-CC) are membership organizations existing to serve and represent their members.  The CLC is dedicated to the proposition that Canadian workers are entitled to secure and protect their mutual welfare and that of their families by all legitimate means.  The mandate of UWCC is to assist its locally autonomous members and the United Way Centraide movement as a whole to promote the organized capacity of people to care for one another.”

Our two organizations share a common vision of building a society which provides a wide range of social and public services which are accessible, universal and of the highest quality.  In order to achieve these mutually held objectives, the two organizations have agreed that social and public services be fully staffed by properly trained and qualified government employees, supported by appropriate complementary services and programs offered and run by the voluntary sector on a nonprofit basis the two organizations strive to attain the highest quality and effective delivery of public social services possible and that these services should not be put in jeopardy by the displacement of paid employees the voluntary sector be supported through personal participation on boards and committees and through financial contributions to the annual United Way campaign working people have the right to decent pay and working conditions, and where United Ways raise over $1 Million annually a staff member be dedicated to enhancing the relationship with organized labour and educating members of organized labour about the various health and social services available for their family, friends and neighbours.

This past June, we hosted a special luncheon where Hassan Yussuff, President of the CLC spoke about the numerous changes that had transpired over the past two decades – not the least of which included a significant downturn in the economy, a reduction in major manufacturing jobs and earlier than anticipated retirements on the part of labour members well versed in the need for support of United Way.

It goes without saying that these changes have impacted our organizations’ ability to address the needs of some of our community’s most vulnerable citizens.  But all is not lost!

Humble Beginnings - Born In The Faith Community


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

The winter of 1887 was particularly cold and hard in Denver, Colorado.  The silver mines had closed and people wandered the streets hungry and homeless.  A group of visionaries – a woman and five clergymen from the four largest parishes - believed there must be a better way to meet the needs of local people.  As they sought help from local merchants and businesses, they discovered very quickly that they were in competition with each other as they made their calls.  So they decided to join forces and form the Charity Organization Society (COS).  This group set about collecting funds for local charities, coordinating relief services, counselling and referring clients to cooperating agencies and making emergency assistance grants.  In those humble beginnings, the first United Way was born.

United Way has had a presence in Canada since 1917.  The organization – then referred to as a “community collective ” - began during the First World War period in Montreal and Toronto.  In 1939 the National Office was created as a division of the Canadian Welfare Council and Charlotte Whitton was named as Executive Director.  She was an influential feminist and one of the first female mayors and companion of the Order of Canada.

Locally, our United Way was established in Chatham in 1948 with the help of dedicated volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce and local Labour Council.  The first campaign was chaired by Sydney Amherst Morse, the third President and General Manager of Union Gas Ltd. and raised a total of $50,023 for six charities.  Today, the local United Way provides funding to 34 health and social service programs within 19 local charities.

Over the past six decades, the organization has gone by various names – Community Chest (yes … just like the Monopoly Game!), Torch Drive, United Appeal and Red Feather.

In 1972, a new structure was created with a broader approach to include social policy and development and three years later – in 1975, the name was changed to United Way of Canada.  A year later, Centraide Canada was added to the national name to acknowledge the members from Quebec.

Today there are 108 locally autonomous United Ways across Canada.  Each United Way raises money and allocates funds to support its community.  With support provided by volunteers and staff, the local United Way strives to create opportunities for a better life for everyone in the communities throughout Chatham-Kent.  By addressing not just the symptoms of problems, the organization works to get at the root causes of social issues and focusses its attention on making long-lasting measureable changes to community conditions.

And, in May of 2015, our national organization voted to join United Way Worldwide – making our local United Way one of 1,800 United Ways across the globe in 40 countries and territories.

Greenfield Specialty Alcohols - Supporting United Way Their Way


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

Photo: GreenField Specialty Alcohols - Harvest Run Team

Each year, during the annual United Way campaign, local businesses, employees and individuals are encouraged to provide their financial support for the numerous programs which provide critical health and social services to over one in three Chatham-Kent residents.


There are various ways to support the annual United Way fundraising campaign.  Historically, annual revenue for United Way has been generated through corporate gifts, employee workplace campaigns, individual contributions and special events.  Donors can also provide planned contributions through gifts in wills, life insurance policies and special memorial donations.  (I'll be elaborating on this subject in a future newspaper article.)

While approximately 35% of annual contributions to United Way come from workplace campaigns - which allow employees to contribute through payroll deduction, several companies have selected additional - and unique - means to show their support.

One such company is Greenfield Specialty Alcohols. For the past five years, this corporate partner - together with its employees - has hosted the Harvest Run for United Way.  This event not only supports United Way's "Healthy People, Strong Communities" focus area, but demonstrates a corporate philosophy that results in enhanced employee morale and increased productivity.

According to Angelo Ligori, Plant Manager, "Our 75 strong workforce is relatively small by comparison to others in the community.  In addition to supporting an easy-to-administer payroll deduction campaign for United Way, we know that choice is important to our employees.  Not only does our involvement in the Harvest Run demonstrate our company's corporate social responsibility, we have evidence that giving our employees choice in how they support local charities also enhances their commitment to civic engagement - a key ingredient in building a stronger, safer and more caring community.  A healthy and engaged workforce means a healthy bottom line."

With this year’s sixth annual Harvest Run, Greenfield will be able to boast a total of over $100,000 for this unique fundraising event. These funds help to ensure that the services are available for our community's most vulnerable citizens.  And we thank them for that!

Steve, Jaymee and Cory all say, “The unique medals, the long sleeve New Balance shirts and food will make this year’s run one of the best ever.  The one-of-a-kind medal will not be matched by any other race out there!”

Engaging Our Youth - Building Our Community


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

Photo: Erica Kitchen, United Way of Chatham-Kent, Youth Engagement Co-ordinator.

With this week devoted to traditional Red Feather Week activities, today’s article highlights the work that United Way is undertaking to achieve Success in School, Community Engagement and Leadership Development and Emotional and Physical Wellbeing.  These are the desired outcomes of our organization’s "All That Kids Can Be" Focus Area.


Erica Kitchen, hired as United Way's Youth Engagement Co-Ordinator in the summer of 2014, has a long history with United Way.  As a teen, she was a member of the United Way Youth Committee, representing Blenheim District High School.  She left the community following secondary school, acquired her post-secondary Child and Youth Worker Diploma, did Post Graduate studies in Autism and Behavioural Science, and then spent some time working for St. Clair College in Windsor.

This position with United Way is funded by United Way donations as well as a government grant from the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.  United Way dollars allow Erica to focus on the development of local youth engagement initiatives through the Youth Engagement Partnership (YEP) Group.  This local group consists of over 30 local government and nonprofit staffers who work directly with youth aged 14 to 35.  The most recent initiatives undertaken by the YEP Group were the hosting of International Youth Day at the Downtown Chatham Centre and the installation of a mural in the downtown core.

Erica also provides staff support to the United Way Youth Committee – an enthusiastic group of student representatives from each of the ten Chatham-Kent high schools.  The Youth Committee meets monthly and is responsible for planning – and administering -  the annual Red Feather Week fundraising events - Baseball, Volleyball, Dodgeball, Football and Dance.  A traditional part of the annual United Way campaign, these special events generate approximately $25,000 for the annual appeal - and are subsequently reinvested to ensure ongoing youth engagement activities.  Planning for each of the components of Red Feather develops leadership skills among our local youth and introduces them to the value that the voluntary sector contributes to society.

Because our local United Way houses and administers one of the 40 Volunteer Centres in the province, our organization is eligible to receive annual provincial government funding in the amount of $25,000 to host the six-week ChangeTheWorld youth volunteer challenge.  Having undertaken this project for the past seven years, our United Way has been able to boast engagement of 4,396 youth contributing 73,802 hours of volunteer service.  This particular program plays a vital role in assisting students to acquire their 40 mandatory volunteer hours required to graduate from high school.

Erica says, "Many people say that youth are our future.  I say that youth are 'the now'.  Having experienced the United Way Youth Ambassador program myself, I believe that the United Way is the perfect organization to lead and co-ordinate youth engagement initiatives.  United Way opens your eyes to the needs in the community and the importance of giving back.  For me, involvement in my community is rewarding and gives me a sense of pride."

Our United Way supports Erica's position that strong youth make a strong community. We are facilitating a "united" approach to youth engagement by inviting local youth-focussed organizations to come together, to share innovative ideas for youth engagement and to avoid duplication of effort.  Youth who engage in volunteering at a young age tend to continue that commitment to community into adulthood ... and that's good news for those of us in the community benefit sector!

Making A United Way Investment - How It Works


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

Photo: 2016 United Way of Chatham-Kent Fund-Distribution Volunteers.

For those who have not been intimately involved with our organization over the past ten years - either on the Board of Directors or one of our committees - this article will highlight some of the changes that have taken place in the distribution of funds raised through the annual United Way campaign.  But first, a bit of history.

In 1948 when our organization was established, United Way provided an annual allocation to six agencies to allow them to provide "charitable" works to those less fortunate in our community.  This same process was followed for six decades thereafter as the annual campaign grew and new funded agencies were added to the “family”.

In the last decade - and specifically the last two years - the United Way, like many other funders across the country, has shifted its funding model from agency funding to program funding.  With United Way's new Focus Areas - "From Poverty to Possibility", "Healthy People, Strong Communities" and "All That Kids Can Be", investments are being made to ensure that funding flows to agencies that provide programs that align to or address these priority areas.  This shift has resulted in the funding of programs not necessarily delivered by the group of traditional funded agencies - but programs that are co-funded by United Way and government partners who wish to achieve similar results.  In each case, a volunteer advisory committee provides oversight to ensure that investments are made wisely and to achieve program objectives.

Today, there are a larger number of local organizations established to address issues at all stages of life.  The local Best Start Program - administered by local government in partnership with numerous nonprofit health and social agencies - has been established to address the needs of children aged zero to six. Other charitable organizations, like Chatham-Kent Hospice, are now addressing the needs of people nearing end of life.  United Way and its partner programs tackle the numerous challenges of daily living - everyday realities related to poverty, homelessness, hunger, mental illness, addiction and family breakdown ... and the list is, regrettably, exhaustive.

During each year's annual campaign, donors are given the opportunity to choose the charities they wish to support - through United Way - a service that has been offered for many years.  It provides donors with the opportunity to consolidate their charitable giving with one gift designated to a number of favourite causes.

If the donor chooses a particular funded agency of United Way, there is no processing fee applied - as the United Way forwards a monthly installment to members of the United Way family of agencies.  If, however, the donor wishes to designate to a non-member charity, there is a flat $12.00 fee. All charitable organizations incur costs associated with processing donations – production of pledge materials, bank services and credit card fees, receipts, office supplies and postage – and staff time devoted to collecting payments, disbursing collected funds, accounting for funds collected and disbursing and communicating results.  Given that the cost of processing a single charitable gift is estimated to be $35.00, United Way's modest fee provides an efficient alternative to the donor who might wish to give directly to a particular charity. There are significant savings to be generated through the “united” approach to consolidating administrative expenditures - thereby allowing the funded agencies to focus on delivery of services. This is a major advantage to recipient charities that would prefer to devote precious time and talent to helping people.

Addressing Poverty In Chatham-Kent


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

Photo: Kate Do Forno, Prosperity Roundtable Co-ordinator.

One of the three focus areas for United Way investments is "From Poverty to Possibility".  In addition to a number of funded partner programs and direct services - including the Student Nutrition Program, Tilbury Information and HELP Centre Foodbank and Operation Cover-Up - the work being undertaken by the Prosperity Roundtable has been developed to ensure that no person in Chatham-Kent will live in poverty.  With 59 community partners committed to addressing the issue, the group has been established to collaborate on strategies that will help the estimated 17% of our local population who are living below the poverty line.


This past week was Poverty Awareness Week in Chatham-Kent, commencing - on Monday - with a flag-raising at the Civic Centre to commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  That same evening, Kate Do Forno, Roundtable Co-Ordinator, highlighted the activities being undertaken through the Roundtable's four action teams – Social Determinants of Health, Education, Food Security and Social Inclusion.

According to Kate, "A fundamental shift in society's attitude is the only way to make major inroads on this critical community issue.  We must realize that poverty affects everyone.  Even if you aren't having financial stresses yourself, just about everyone knows someone who is.  We must get ahead of the curve."

Research reveals that poverty creates other challenges for communities.  Poor health and poor nutrition result in costly health care.  Unemployment and lack of education can lead to homelessness, family violence, mental health issues and addictions.

One of the ways to address the issue of poverty is to ensure that people have secure, full-time jobs with a wage that allows them to take care of their families.  On Tuesday evening, after several years of discussing the establishment of a "living wage" for Chatham-Kent, the number was revealed.  What the working group identified was that a family of four - including two working parents with one child in daycare and one child in school - requires $15.86 per hour to cover necessary expenses such as food, clothing, shelter and transportation, and additional costs that enable a family to participate in their local community and have a decent quality of life. While being sensitive to the needs of small business, the Roundtable members noted that an annual household income of approximately $61,127 does not allow for many "extras".  The reality is that some families with minimum wage jobs are just getting by with the help of local food banks and social service agencies - like those that provide winter clothing and back-to-school supplies.

In order to tackle community issues and make long-term social change, it will require the engagement, commitment and investment of our business, government and voluntary sectors, working together to support, develop and implement strategies to eliminate poverty in Chatham-Kent.  If we want our community to be the best it can be, we must be willing to make whatever changes to current systems - and to our individual behaviours - that are necessary.  As United Way's current slogan says ... "Together, we are possibility."

Being Bold. Driving Change. Together.


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

I recently had the pleasure of attending the annual Ontario Nonprofit Network Conference in Toronto – along with some 500 nonprofit sector colleagues from across the province … and several special guests from outside Ontario anxious to hear about the exciting work being done here.  Honourable Laura Albanese, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration was on hand to extend greetings and to help us celebrate the powerful impact that nonprofits have at the grassroots level.  She highlighted the vital role that the nonprofit sector plays in strengthening the economy, creating healthy communities and improving the lives of Ontarians. The Presenting Sponsor for the Conference was United Way Toronto and York Region – the largest United Way in Canada and one which advocates for strong collaboration among our sector’s organizations as we work together to create a more equitable world.  The Lead Sponsor was the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.

The big question posed during the opening plenary at this year’s Conference was “What is our sector’s role in driving policy change to address society’s biggest challenges?”  As highlighted by Cathy Taylor, ONN’s Executive Director, we are facing unprecedented challenges today – climate change, labour market transformation, youth unemployment, truth and reconciliation, poverty and the income gap and a host of other issues.  The trick is to transform these challenges into opportunities.  Working together with business and government, the nonprofit sector can create long-lasting measurable change in communities throughout our province and our nation.  And, in the words of several in attendance, we have a responsibility to drive policy change - a moral obligation, in fact.

As you are encouraged to do at these Conferences, you choose the workshops and breakout sessions that will provide new information and help with initiatives underway at home.   For me, I chose sessions that resonated with current and ongoing discussions on the subject of decent work for those employed in the nonprofit sector, what’s on the horizon with regard to changing legislation outlined in both the Labour Relations and Employment Standards Acts, making sense of new nonprofit funding trends … and reframing the narrative around operating and administrative costs (a separate article on this issue coming soon!)

While this space does not permit me to elaborate on my key learnings, attendance at each of the above sessions has, undoubtedly, created fodder for future articles!  In addition, a full report on this year’s ONN Conference will be forthcoming … and available on the ONN website.

For those who may not be familiar with the Ontario Nonprofit Network, it is an independent network focused on policy and advocacy work to create positive change for Ontario’s 55,000+ nonprofits and charities – organizations which, collectively, employ almost one million staff members and engage over five million volunteers.  And, it’s a sector which contributes more to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than other key industries like auto manufacturing and retail. Their vision speaks to “A Strong and Resilient Nonprofit Sector. Thriving Communities.  A Dynamic Province.”  They activate provincial networks to develop and analyze policy and work on strategic issues.  They engage working groups of sector volunteer leaders to develop strategies to strengthen the sector and help it thrive.  They bring the diverse voices of nonprofits to government, funders and the business sector to create and influence systemic change.  And, they engage the sector through communication platforms to mobilize local networks, curate conversations for change, convene the annual sector-wide provincial conference and champion resource sharing.

In a future article, I will be highlighting the work of our own Chatham-Kent Nonprofit Network – which has just begun its third year of a five-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.  I’ll be talking about how other local nonprofits – not yet members – can join our network and help us use our collective voice to drive positive change – right here in Chatham-Kent.

When you don't know where to turn, call 2-1-1

WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE TO TURN, CALL 2-1-1! - November 5, 2016

By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent


Photo: Patricia Weiler, United Way of Chatham-Kent, Manager of Volunteer and Information C-K.


On the 2nd day of the 11th month, Ontario 211 Services launched their "Help Starts Here" campaign.  This campaign was developed to raise awareness of the usefulness of 211 in helping people navigate community services, especially those living on a low income or coping with a significant change in their circumstances.



2-1-1 – the three digit – non-emergency telephone and online service connects people in their communities to highly trained experts who can direct them to local programs and services.  Operating in over 100 languages, 211 Ontario is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to all residents of Ontario.  It is a wonderful resource to increase access to services that can improve the health of vulnerable people.  Readers are encouraged to view a new YouTube Video (go to 211 which has been generously funded by Green Shield Canada to help healthcare providers connect people to the services they need.  The video describes how 211 can help healthcare providers across Canada - doctors, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, midwives, nurses, personal support workers, physiotherapists, caregivers and paramedics.  The focus of the video is to highlight the importance of adequate housing, social inclusion, reliable income and healthy food, on a person's health.

Locally, our database of community services is updated on a regular basis by United Way's Manager of Information Services, Patricia Weiler.  The only CIRS - Certified Information and Referral Specialist - in Chatham-Kent, Patricia is responsible for staying on top of changes in over 1,000 records housed in the 211 database.  These records contain basic "tombstone" information such as name of agency, address, telephone, purpose and hours of operation as well as additional information accessible only by those trained to make enquiries and offer referral services to callers.  Information Chatham-Kent is one of 13 direct services provided by the local United Way - thanks to the donations raised during the annual fund-raising campaign.

As with many partner programs and direct services, this initiative would not be possible without the generous support of United Way donors and private sector partners - in this case, Green Shield Canada. Through their Front Line Care strategy, Green Shield Canada (GSC) has invested $1M over three years to help build 211’s capacity to “open doors to better health” by connecting Canadians to programs and services that address the social determinants of health. Ontario 211 Services is the lead partner in the project, working closely with United Way Canada and Findhelp Information Services, as well as all of the 211 Service Partners in Ontario and in the rest of Canada. The GSC investment is furthering 211’s work in offering to follow up with vulnerable clients, awareness raising, agency outreach, internal education and training, and research and evaluation. The focus is especially for people stressed by the demands of the cold winter and holiday season and the expectations to spend money they may not have.  The digitally animated four-minute YouTube video - available in both English and French – has been developed so that healthcare providers can show it in waiting rooms and share with patients and clients.

By way of background information, Atlanta, Georgia became the first community to introduce 211 service in 1997.   In 2001, in response to an application by United Way of Canada – Centraide Canada and its partners, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) assigned information and referral about community, social, health and government services to the 2-1-1 number.  The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) has provided over $1.9 million since 2002 to help develop 211 in Ontario. In 2006, the Province of Ontario provided the United Ways of Ontario with $1.4 million to expand the network of 211 service providers from three sites to eight sites. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Community and Social Services also provided $3 million to develop the database of 56,000 agencies and services that form the core of 211’s website.  Ontario 211 Services Corporation was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in early 2007 with a mission to develop, sustain and improve an integrated Ontario 211 system.  In 2008, the Province of Ontario set aside more than $13 million over four years to expand 211’s capacity to reach all Ontarians. In the same year, 211 was identified by the province in the provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy.  As part of that strategy, the province committed on-going funding of $4 million per year to sustain 211 for all Ontarians, starting in 2012.  Since 2011, 211 service has been available everywhere in Ontario.

Why Giving The "United" Way Makes More Cents


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

During my time with United Way, I have sometimes been told … “I’d rather give directly to the charities of my choice” OR “It’s just as easy – with today’s on-line giving - to make my gift directly to the charities I’d like to support.”

There was a good reason that the “United Way” was created back in 1887 … and that reason is still valid today.


For those who care about efficiencies, using the United Way “system” can result in significant savings.  In other words, it comes down to dollars and cents.  For a small charity, with limited staff or volunteer resources, capacity to fundraise while still providing services can be a real challenge.  Picture the small agency which – with only a few staff – is required to deliver services every day AND fundraise to support its work.

There are costs associated with processing a charitable gift which include staffing, rent and utilities, office supplies and postage – to name just some of the pieces that need to be in place.  And … like all online transactions, online charitable gifts are subject to processing fees for banks and credit card companies.

United Way can undertake this processing for much less because we work in volume.  When donors give through the United Way “system”, donations earmarked for non-member charities are currently charged a flat fee of $12.00.  We can consolidate a number of donations to the same recipient charity and send one cheque – which can be immediately deposited with less expense.  The recipient charity can then devote its precious time to provision of service – which is its primary purpose.  The less a recipient charity spends on fundraising and administration – and processing of donations – the more time can be spent on serving those in need of help.

In addition, many employers offer payroll deduction for their employees – giving them an opportunity to combine charitable gifts to several charities in one easy deduction from their pay cheques.  Recording these donations on T-4 slips not only saves the charity money but saves the donor from preparing separate cheques and collecting individual income tax receipts.

United Way wants the focus of its work to be on helping people.  We do not want to spend any more of our donors’ charitable gifts on administration and fundraising costs than is absolutely necessary.  For years, our organization has prided itself on ensuring that these expenditures are kept to a level that supports the structures necessary for an efficient and effective organization.  This includes transparent finance and accounting, fair human resources practices, capable and responsive board governance and talented and engaged staff.

So just a friendly reminder … before giving directly to a specific charitable organization, please know that there are costs associated with operating the charity … and consider utilizing the United Way “system” to ensure that your gift is getting its biggest bang for the buck!

Give As You Go CK... AND while you're still here!

GIVE AS YOU GO CK … AND while you’re still here! - November 19, 2016

By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

Photo: Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, Angela Corso and Jodi Maroney.

I’m a proud member of the local Chapter of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners - CAGP, for short!  I’m currently serving as Secretary/Treasurer, Jodi Maroney (Chatham-Kent Hospice Foundation) is Chair and Angela Corso (Community Living – Chatham-Kent) is Vice-Chair.


Together with nine other local charity representatives, we are championing the growth and development of strategic charitable giving.  Our goal is to help donors learn that with a little pre-planning, you can leave a larger donation through your Will or an insurance policy than you may be able to give when you are alive.

While United Way – as well as several other prominent charities – are in the midst of their annual fund-raising appeals to ensure that sufficient operating funds are available, we’d like to encourage donors to consider “both/and” … as opposed to “either/or”.  If we are able to encourage more donors to give – or those who are already giving to give a little more - the size of the charitable “pie” in Chatham-Kent will grow and there will be sufficient funds to meet more of our community’s needs – throughout all stages of life.  While some local charities are focused on a “best start in life” and others on a “good end of life”, United Way and numerous other partner agencies are focused on an “improved life”.

This fall, our local CAGP Chapter launched “Give As You Go CK” – an awareness campaign developed to encourage local citizens to help our good work live on.  Why Give as You Go?  Would you like to reduce income taxes?  Honour a loved one?  Help the good work continue?  We trust that your answer is “yes”.

How do you give after you’re gone?  It’s easy.  Take an insurance policy on yourself and make your local charities of choice the beneficiaries.  A small monthly payment now could result in a very significant donation later.  And/or … make your local charities of choice beneficiaries in your Will.  Some people set a fixed amount; others simply stipulate that a percentage of their estate go to their charities of choice.  As little as 1% can do a lot.  This has minimal impact on your heir’s inheritance but makes a big difference for your community.  And/or … ask that in lieu of flowers at your funeral, that people donate to your local charities of choice; then specify in your Will that your Estate match the total of donations made.

Looking for next steps?  Talk to your spouse and/or family.  Consider what local charities you would like to support and share the reasons why with your family.  This will help foster a generous spirit for generations to come.  Talk to your lawyer, financial planner and/or insurance agent.  They have the experience and skills to make sure that you take the steps that are right for you.  Ask them about strategies to take care of your family and your community while reducing your final income tax bill.

United Way doesn’t typically come to mind when individuals are considering an “end of life” gift.  But … the programs and services United Way funds, in order to address the numerous challenges faced “during life”, need ongoing support.

Make a plan to give today so your gift lives on through good works after you’re gone.  Go to for a list of local member charities and allied professionals who can give you sound advice.  You can feel good knowing that you’ve done your part to support your community after you’re gone.

Special Events - To Do Or Not To Do... THAT IS THE QUESTION


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

Several years ago, my Pastor invited me to accompany him to a Leadership Conference hosted by Willow Creek Community Church just down the road in Tecumseh.  It showcased a number of inspiring world-renowned authors and community leaders who spoke about the importance of leadership in running today's businesses and organizations.

It was there that I was introduced to Patrick Lencioni and his work on executive team development and organizational health.  I purchased several of Patrick's books and a subscription to The Table Group. 

As I read his latest article on "Corporate Envy" and his personal story of working for two companies in the same line of business, I was relating his message to some input that our organization has recently received to change our current methods of fundraising to "keep up" or "outpace" the competition.  We appreciate this feedback and acknowledge that we need to generate increased revenue and financial support for our organization and those agencies with which we partner.  But … here’s the rub.

There are organizations in our community that do a fabulous job of organizing and hosting gala events, golf tournaments and other unique "themed" special events. The beauty of these is that they are time limited for the volunteers who are involved, provide great entertainment value for the attendees and can generate anywhere from $10,000 to $300,000 in a single event.  I attend them for the entertainment value and look forward to supporting my colleagues who are in the same nonprofit "business". But ... these large special events require huge amounts of time and people power - to plan, carry out and follow up ... and a significant amount of financial resources to purchase giveaway items, food and entertainment.  These are resources which United Way has chosen to invest in other strategies to lift people out of poverty, help kids in need and pull the community together.

For United Ways - all 1,800 of us across this globe - our fundraising strategy does not include a large focus on special events.  Alternatively, we strive to develop relationships with local businesses who want to ensure that their employees are not only engaged in our community, but are knowledgeable about the programs and services that exist to support them as they deal with the challenges of everyday life.  Companies are learning about the importance of civic engagement, decent work, work-life harmony and access to health and social services that make better employees … as well as a more productive bottom line!  Many are helping by hosting a United Way employee workplace campaign, approving a payroll deduction plan and - in some cases - even introducing a "corporate match" to encourage charitable giving.  Locally, we have a number of companies that do this for United Way, "multiplying" the impact of their charitable investments in our community.  Giving through an annual payroll deduction campaign also provides an opportunity to consolidate charitable giving to a number of favourite charities – in one easy deduction.

In addition to developing ongoing partnerships with private sector businesses and local government, United Way’s focus is also on maintaining and developing new relationships with individual donors who want to invest in life-altering change for some of our most vulnerable citizens.  United Way wants to ensure that its partner programs and direct services continue to be there for our neighbours, friends and co-workers who are experiencing the "messiness" of life's challenges.

Having said all that, it doesn't mean that traditional fundraising methods shouldn't be "tweaked" or "refined" to enhance outcomes.  United Way doesn’t do many large special events; we leave those events to those local organizations who do not have the same access to workplace payroll deduction campaigns as we do.  While special events are not our organization’s primary “bread and butter”, they do produce approximately 12% of our total revenue, create awareness and generate opportunities for increased community volunteerism.

As Patrick Lencioni noted, an attempt to be more like the competition - or "copy" - can jeopardize a value system or compromise a mission that makes the organization unique.  In his own words ... "Whether you're a consumer tempted to keep up with the Joneses, a teenager hoping to fit in and be cool, or a CEO wanting to outdo a competitor, it's always critical to understand the positive qualities that make you unique, and embrace them. Most healthy companies, and people, are grateful to be who they are. Their customers and friends are, too!"

What The Canada Revenue Agency Says About Charity Fund-Raising Costs


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

With our United Way in the midst of its annual fundraising campaign - and a lot of other charitable appeals vying for donations - it is crucial that United Way be open, transparent and accountable for the dollars we receive and expend.

Each year, we have traditional and prospective donors ask "How much are you spending on administration?" The straight answer (for 2015) was 4%. If the question is "How much are you spending on fundraising costs?", the answer (for 2015) was 17%. And if the question is "How much really goes to the agencies - or the programs - you are supporting?", the answer (for 2015) was 79%.

For those who have heard that United Way's administration - or fundraising - costs are too high, please let me set the record straight. Our United Way's "overhead" costs are among the lowest of any registered Canadian charitable organization. And while “overhead” should not be the only measure of a charity’s effectiveness (more on this in a future article), several individuals have asked me to address this issue in one of my articles.

The Canada Revenue Agency has provided some guidance on the subject. A charity's fundraising ratio can serve as a self-assessment tool to see whether it is likely to have questions or concerns about a charity's fundraising activities. As a general rule, the higher a charity's fundraising ratio, the more likely it is that the CRA will seek additional justification for fundraising costs. A high fundraising ratio is an indicator that a charity may be engaged in fundraising that is not acceptable. For example, a ratio of under 35% of costs to revenue over the fiscal period (in United Way's case, the calendar year) is unlikely to generate questions or concerns by the CRA. If the ratio is 35% or above, the CRA will examine the average ratio over recent years to determine if there is a trend of high fundraising costs - which may point to the possibility that fundraising is not acceptable and a detailed assessment of expenditures may be required.

Each year, our United Way - like all other registered charitable organizations - must file an annual income tax return called a T-3010. The Canada Revenue Agency then reviews the information provided and transforms the data into the pie chart shown here. What may not be as clear to the reader is what is included in "Gifts to Other Charitable Organizations and Qualified Donees" and what is included in "Charitable Programs". The "Gifts to Others" category includes those investments that United Way makes to support partner agency programs and services that address outcomes within United Way's three focus areas – “From Poverty to Possibility”, “Healthy People, Strong Communities” and “All That Kids Can Be”. This category of support includes our traditional funded agencies - such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Family Service Kent and YMCA (three of the 18 currently on our recipient list). The "Charitable Programs" category includes those direct services provided by United Way itself that are funded by donations, by government funding or by fees for service. This category of support includes such programs as the Tilbury Information and Help Centre Food Bank (formerly a funded agency of United Way), Information Chatham-Kent (211) and Operations BackPack and Cover-Up.

A Decade Of Service At United Way's Community Hub


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO United Way of Chatham-Kent

My ... how time flies!  It is hard to believe that United Way has been in our present location at 425 McNaughton Avenue West in Chatham for ten years.  Moving from the WISH Centre (J. G. Taylor Community Centre) on April 1, 2006, our organization has been blessed to enjoy a comfortable and productive working environment - thanks to a generous "hand-up" from a local individual who supported a dream and made it become a reality for our United Way.

In the fall of 2005, while searching for a new home for our organization, I happened to drive by the building which is now our office and home away from home.  Outside was a large real estate sign which advertised 10,000 square feet of office space.  My first reaction was that the building was just too big - at least twice what our organization needed.  And then I remembered the amazing space in which I had attended Board meetings of the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC) in Toronto. I imagined the creation of a similar community hub in Chatham to that of "The 215" - the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto - named after its address at 215 Spadina.  It was here that I had an opportunity to witness the synergies and efficiencies inherent in the sharing of community space.

Over the course of the following five to six months, Mr. Jim Fisher – the owner of the building - and I had several conversations.  He wanted to learn more about the vision of a shared space - or collaborative community hub - for Chatham ... and, as we concluded our discussions, he made our organization a lease offer that was just too good to pass up.  And then, four years later, when it was time to consider a purchase of the building, Mr. Fisher added to his previous generosity once again by helping us secure a mortgage. As the new owners of the facility, we were then eligible - in 2011 - to apply for a $113,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to build a Training Room and Classroom within the building.  Another smaller grant from the local Municipality allowed us to renovate and create a Teaching Kitchen.  And it has become one of the best decisions our Board of Directors has made.

Our United Way office has become affectionately known as "The 425" - our address on McNaughton Avenue West in Chatham.  We currently share space with five other community organizations that pay monthly rent, which helps to support our organization’s core business.  Current tenants include the Chatham & District Labour Council, Weekend Islamic School, Changing Ways, Chatham-Kent Block Parent Program and Local Immigration Partnership.  In addition to these tenants, "The 425" also houses United Way's community building initiatives – the Chatham-Kent Nonprofit Network, Prosperity Roundtable, Volunteer and Information Chatham-Kent and Youth Engagement Partnership.

Victoria Bodnar of the Chatham-Kent Local Immigration Partnership advocates for the “hub” concept, noting that “being part of the United Way Centre allows collaborative agencies, such as the Chatham-Kent Local Immigration Partnership, to engage with each other and the community in immediate and proactive ways.  By sharing physical space, we are able to share ideas and resources more easily, thus enhancing the impact of our respective missions.”

Those wishing to book meetings at "The 425" have a choice of the Board Room (which accommodates 24 comfortably), the Training Room (which can accommodate 36 at tables and 80 in theatre-style, the Library (from 6 to 8), the Lounge (from 12 to 18) and the Kitchen.  The rental fee is $25.00 regardless of which of the rooms is desired, but if the organization purchases a "425 Card" up front for $425, 25 hours of meeting space are provided - which equates to eight free hours.  Effectively operating as a social enterprise, "The 425" - United Way's Centre for Community Innovation - offers a warm and welcoming environment for community groups and organizations.

There's Still Time To Make A Difference


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO, United Way of Chatham-Kent

In another month from now, we will be closing the books on the 2016 United Way Campaign.  As of this date, we have raised approximately $1.2 of our $1.9 Million Goal. We are currently waiting on a number of employee workplace campaigns to report in … as well as hundreds of individuals who have not yet responded to our annual appeal.

No annual fundraising campaign is easy.  But this year's annual appeal has been particularly difficult.  There are a number of local nonprofits and charities which have captured donors’ attention and have touched the hearts of those who have been personally impacted by their services - services which are necessary for many of our local residents.  As I reflect on some of the realities faced in this year's campaign, I want to believe that United Way's vital programs and services will not be taken for granted and will always be there for those who need them.  In order to do that, we need to reach this year’s target of $1.9 Million.  That means we need all hands on deck.

In simple terms, United Way is focused on lifting people out of poverty, helping kids reach their full potential and bringing the community together to ensure that no one is left behind.  The dollars we raise each fall support the work of caregivers – year round - who assist people to live as normal a life as possible.  These people are our neighbours, co-workers and friends - individuals with medical challenges, individuals struggling with addictions and mental health issues and the working poor just trying to make ends meet from pay cheque to pay cheque.

No matter what size of contribution you make, please know that your gift is making a difference in the life of another individual - perhaps someone you will never know.  And in this season of giving, what better way to demonstrate your love of community and your fellow man.

I recently asked a communications specialist ... "When you think of United Way, how you would describe what we do?"  His answer?  "You help people.  Tell people you help people."  Yes, we do.  We help people by connecting them with the programs and services they need to deal with the struggles of everyday life.  We invest in agencies that provide critical health and social services.  We help donors meet their philanthropic goals by fulfilling their desire to give back – through volunteering or donating to the causes that matter most to them.

For almost 100 years, the United Way movement has helped people in need.  Over 100 United Ways in Canada are now investing over a half-billion dollars annually into Canadian communities with the support of thousands of corporate, labour and workplace partners and over one million donors and volunteers.  But charitable fundraising has changed.  All charities have had to adapt to demographic shifts, digital technology, increased competition – particularly within international and disaster-based aid, corporate social responsibility, employee engagement demands as well as donors who are looking for an investment experience that meets their personal goals in giving back to their communities.

In February, we will turn the decision-making process over to our fund-distribution volunteers to determine what level of support each of our current 34 direct services and partner programs will receive during 2017-2018.  These upcoming discussions and decisions will impact greatly on the lives of one in three Chatham-Kent residents who depend on United Way’s programs and services.  These decisions will be much easier to make if we achieve our goal.

Although our Campaign Touchdown is not scheduled to take place until the middle of January, those wishing an income tax receipt for 2016 are encouraged to visit any one of the three United Way offices in Chatham, Tilbury or Wallaceburg before December 31 or to go on-line to and hit the DONATE NOW button.  With sincere thanks!

And Now... What Ultimately Unfolds Depends On You...


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO United Way of Chatham-Kent. January 7, 2017


Photo: United Way of Chatham-Kent Campaign Co-Chairs, Patricia Wright (and Georgia) & Steve Pratt posed as jailbirds for the launch of this year's 99.1FM CKXS Radio Hostage Event on Monday, January 9th, 2017.



Happy New Year, Everyone!

One of our family’s "must dos" during the holidays is to watch the classic "It's a Wonderful Life" - the story of George Bailey - who is given an opportunity to see his life as if it had never existed - and, in the end, discovers that he is valued and has, indeed, made a significant contribution to his community.

As I watched this movie for the umpteenth time, I thought about our local United Way - and what our community would be like without it.  And it reminded me of a short video which was produced several decades ago by another United Way out west.  It depicted - in a rather serious but humorous, way - "What if" there were no United Way. In the video, an employee has just been approached, at work, to give through his payroll deduction plan.  He appears unmotivated by the appeal on the part of his co-worker.  Falling asleep at his desk, he experiences - in a dream (or is it a nightmare?) - the impact of the loss of United Way and specific community services on his co-workers, friends and family.  Still in the dream, he leaves his workplace, only to be confronted by numerous individuals representing organizations now requesting a handout because "United Way used to fund us ... but now we have to do our own fundraising".  On his drive home, he picks up several hungry souls in his van to take them home for a meal, only to find that his wife has done the same by offering food and shelter to another dozen neighbours in need. Facing a crowded living room full of strangers seeking marital and family counselling, assistance with health issues and help with other life challenges, he reaches the end of his rope and suddenly awakens at his desk.  There, in front of him, he sees his United Way pledge card, exclaims "Thank goodness!" and proceeds to complete it.

I'm deeply troubled by the tough decisions that will need to be made if our goal is not reached and the programs that may need to be reduced or withdrawn – along with the passionate nonprofit staff who run them … and the impact it will have on the individuals who need those services to change their lives for the better. For example, what would the residents of Chatham-Kent do without the support for survivors of acquired brain injury and stroke offered by New Beginnings; or the children’s autism program at Chatham-Kent Children’s Services; or the support and protection offered by the Chatham-Kent Women’s Centre.  And what would we say to those served by the CNIB, or Restorative Justice, or Big Brothers Big Sisters?  What would the residents of West Chatham-Kent do without the Tilbury Information and HELP Centre food bank and its information and referral services?  What impact might a campaign shortfall have on  the Wallaceburg Information and HELP Centre and the partnerships they’ve established within the community if we have insufficient funds to continue to support these, and other, much needed partner programs?

Many friends and colleagues have asked me in recent weeks ... "How's the campaign going?"  I have answered honestly. "We're really struggling this year and are at serious risk of not meeting this year’s required fundraising goal.”  While we know that there are now several businesses and organizations yet to report in, our projections indicate that we could be at least $285,000 shy of our target of $1.9 Million unless we can encourage traditional donors to return or new donors to help close the gap.

It is impossible for this article to tell the personal stories of 36,000 individuals who were touched by a United Way program or service last year.  This year’s United Way of Chatham-Kent Campaign Co-Chairs, Steve Pratt and Patricia Wright have committed a tremendous amount of their personal time telling their own stories at workplace presentations and community events as a representation of just two of the thousands whose lives have been changed because of donations to United Way.  If you haven’t already heard their stories, watch them here at

Would you like to change more lives like Steve's and Patricia's?  If you haven't already pledged your support to this year's United Way Campaign, there's still time … but not that much.  Our 2016 campaign will close on Friday, 2017 Jan 20.

I want to express my sincere thanks to those who have already made a pledge or outright gift to support this year's United Way Campaign.   To those individuals and/or businesses who gave $25 and to those who gave a hundred or a thousand times that amount – thank you!  All gifts - large and small - matter.

This message is a serious appeal to those who have not yet made a contribution to this year's fundraising campaign. Please don't hesitate any longer.  We can’t do this without you!

Let’s not risk the dark scenarios depicted in the “What if” video.  Your gift DOES matter and very much determines what ultimately unfolds.  Believe it.

Time for Expressions of Gratitude


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO United Way of Chatham-Kent. January 14, 2017

Photo: United Way of Chatham-Kent 2016 Campaign Co-Chairs, Patricia Wright & Steve Pratt (far right) with Les Herman of Guspro Inc.

With one week remaining in this year's United Way Campaign, it is time to begin our long list of sincere "thank yous" to those individuals, employees and corporations who have stepped up to help reach this year's ambitious campaign target.

Earlier this week at our regular Campaign Cabinet meeting, committee members shared the results of their fundraising "asks" and celebrated the contributions donated thus far in the annual appeal.

One such report came - along with a cheque - from Cabinet Member, Les Herman of Guspro Inc. - a long-standing supporter of United Way and its funded agencies.  A global leader in the manufacturing of skate-sharpening equipment, curling ice profiling machines and industrial heat cleaning ovens, the local company has operated in Chatham since 1932 and has supported numerous local charities since its inception.

When asked why he accepted the invitation to serve as a volunteer on this year's United Way fundraising team, Les Herman, Manager of Finance and Administration at Guspro, said, "I have the help and understanding of my employer.  They believe in the work of United Way and they demonstrate that through the opportunities they provide to allow the employees to give through a payroll deduction plan.  And then they add a corporate match of employee gifts."

Les goes on to say, "When people ask me why our United Way campaigns are so successful, I tell them that the biggest factor is the commitment we receive from the ownership and top management.  For over a decade, senior leadership at Guspro has challenged us to dig deep to help the community ... and it is quite an incentive to the employees when they know that each dollar they pledge will be matched by the company - thereby doubling their donations.  The second factor in our success is the unparalleled generosity and loyalty of our employees who make their pledges year after year.  In addition, many of my co-workers know someone who has or is currently benefiting from one or more of the partner programs or direct services supported by a United Way.  It's personal for them.  And they want to give back."

United Way was fortunate during this year's campaign to have a Guspro employee's spouse step forward to share his personal story about services he has received from the local CNIB – one of the 34 partner programs and direct services funded by United Way.

We are grateful to each one of the local citizens who have volunteered to tell their life-changing testimonials - in order to demonstrate the impact that United Way donations have made for one in three individuals throughout Chatham-Kent.

A small business with just 50 employees, Guspro is proud of its track record for United Way.  Over the past five years, contributions to United Way have more than doubled with this year's contribution topping $20,000 for the local charity.  Needless to say, a "high five" is well deserved!  Thank you, Guspro and employees!

With opportunities for other local employers to follow suit, our organization looks forward to establishing more partnerships with those small businesses who want an opportunity to showcase their love of community through contributions to United Way.

United Way's Annual Citizen Review Process Begins


By Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, United Way of Chatham-Kent CEO

The 2016 United Way Campaign has officially come to an end, and the work of allocating campaign proceeds is now underway.

Last Saturday morning, 14 community volunteers came together to participate in a training session for the annual citizen review process - the important work of making recommendations to the United Way Board of Directors on the level of funding to be approved for partner programs.

The training session was led by United Way's Director, Community Impact, Helen Heath who has served the local charity for 21 years.  The three-hour session included an overview of the community investment process and specific direction on the use of the online evaluation tool.

Having already approved three-year funding for 11 partner programs within United Way's "All That Kids Can Be" Focus Area, this year's community volunteers will review 12 additional partner programs within the "Healthy People, Strong Communities" and "From Poverty to Possibility" Focus Areas.

Challenged with a shortfall in this year's annual appeal, the citizen review process will be more difficult than in previous years.  Although commitments for three year funding were made in last year's citizen review process, funding levels may need to be revisited in view of limited funds.  In addition, United Way's own direct services will be evaluated to ensure that they are adding value and supporting the mission of the organization - to improve lives and build community.

Each of the 14 community volunteers has been assigned to one of three panels; each panel will review four program requests.  Over the next four weeks, these volunteers will meet with representatives of local charities which have made application for United Way funds; they will learn more about the services these agencies provide; and following these meetings, they will convene to formulate their recommendations to the members of the other two panels.  Coming together on February 15th, the volunteers will review requests against funds available and finalize recommendations to the United Way Board of Directors, who have final approval.

As explained at the outset of last Saturday's training session, the citizen review process is one of the most important aspects of United Way's work in the community.  While local volunteers have assisted in raising the funds, these specific volunteers will now determine where those funds - although limited - will be invested to ensure that local residents receive services they need to thrive.