On January 13th, United Way KW & Area and United Way Cambridge North Dumfries made a significant announcement. The two organizations are joining together. KW Board Chair Ingrid Pregel, and Cambridge Board Chair Frank Voss explore some of what that means in this opinion column in the Waterloo Region Record
United Way has had the privilege of being a deeply involved member of Waterloo region for more than 75 years.
We remain a significant part of this region because we have evolved as it has and we take an approach unlike any other organization. We understand and focus on the challenges most severely impacting the people who live and work in our communities. We then bring together the network of groups and individuals who can most effectively solve those problems, investing in the services which can make the biggest difference.
Currently, United Way serves the region through two organizations: United Way Cambridge and North Dumfries, and United Way Kitchener Waterloo & Area. In the not-for-profit sector, every day you need to engage with members of the community in a real way , remind them of what you do and why you are deserving of their time, energy and hard earned dollars. The status quo has never been an option for either organization.
And, the pace of change has quickened… for all of us as individuals, for society, for the workplace and for the non- profit sector. This is not the same place as it was back in the early 1940’s when we began. While the baby boomers are ageing, we are becoming much more diverse. The issues impacting the people in our region are increasing in complexity. And more people than ever work in one location, live in another, and may play in a third meaning they could interact with two different United Way organizations depending on the time of day.
At United Way, we know that to remain relevant and impact more people’s lives, we have to value partnership over competition. We must continue to tackle issues with a long-term view, while still providing the supports people need in the here and now. And, perhaps most importantly, we need to adapt.
With that attitude in mind, the time is right to take the most exciting step yet in the 75+year history of United Way in this great region. We are joining forces, building a new United Way focused on the 7 communities of our region
United Way Waterloo Region Communities – a brand new organization which will help people and families live better lives in Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, North Dumfries, Wilmot, Wellesley and Woolwich
The idea of collaborating in a more official way is not new. It has been discussed with donors, supported agencies and other stakeholders for many years. That’s because our two organizations already share so much – we fund a number of the same agencies, we prioritize the same focus areas around helping kids, reducing poverty and building strong communities, we fundraise with some of the same organizations, and we both depend on the incredible work of dedicated volunteers.
What excites us most about this move, which we hope will also motivate others, is how it provides an opportunity to create a real presence in every single community in our region, from the busiest neighbourhood in Kitchener to the most rural part of North Dumfries. Helping people succeed in their own backyard is at the heart of what we do, and local communities will continue to have a strong voice. And volunteers will continue to have a rewarding personal experience working in their own backyard.
This is an important time for United Way in the region. This process has given us the opportunity to reflect on what we have done so well in the past 75+ years, but more importantly look at areas where we need to better position ourselves for continued success and relevance. Doing things the united way requires a certain belief system, believing that we stand to make the greatest impact by working together. This unified organization will provide better service, a stronger voice, and more local engagement across the region. As we know in Waterloo Region, building something new and exciting can involve some detours, and some bumpy conditions. But we are eagerly anticipating the future as we work with you to build stronger, better lives for everyone.