Bigger. Braver. Bolder.

Report to the Community

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The promise we keep

From meeting urgent needs to improving long-term social conditions, we fight to level the playing field for people across our community. But, we couldn’t do it without your help. Over the past year, your generous financial and volunteer support has fuelled significant change—one meaningful act at a time.

A message from Susan

Susan McIsaac

It’s been an exceptional year, thanks to you.

United Way has always been in the business of transformation. But, during the last 12 months, it’s been different. We navigated some big changes of our own, merging to become United Way Toronto & York Region and increasing our ability to tackle social challenges across the region.

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We didn’t miss a beat, however, in making real progress for everyone in our community.

We released new research on how our region is at risk of becoming Canada’s income-inequality capital, and on the negative impact of precarious jobs. We advocated for policy review, which led to improved legislation. And we expanded our strategy for youth success, ensuring that more of our young people can realize a bright future.

In consultation with the community, we are even changing the way we support our agencies—ensuring greater impact where it’s needed most.

On a personal note, 2016 will mark my final year with United Way. And, after 18 years, one thing remains certain: it’s you, our dedicated supporters, who inspire us and fuel us in our efforts to push forward.

I hope you’ll continue to lead from where you stand. By volunteering. By advocating. By donating. Our organization is stronger—and our entire region will keep growing stronger—because of you.

My heartfelt thanks,

Susan McIsaac
President and CEO

The change you make possible

In 2015, we worked each and every day to create opportunities that improve the lives of individuals and families across our region. We invested in building stronger neighbourhoods and communities, helping young children and youth successfully transition into adulthood, and moving people from a life of poverty to one of possibility.

Bigger is better

Map of United Way Toronto & York Region area

Our strategic merger, which came into effect on July 1, 2015, has strengthened our capacity to respond to issues that affect our entire region—like job precarity, youth unemployment, and the growing divides between neighbourhoods that are doing well and those that are not.

As the largest United Way in North America, we also partnered with United Way Worldwide on new strategies to engage donors, share best local practices, and better leverage partnerships.

A monumental achievement

Campaign achievement number is revealed on a large screen at the Celebration Gala event: $100,250,000

In January 2016, 1,500 of you gathered at our Celebration Gala to celebrate a monumental fundraising achievement for our first-ever region-wide campaign—$100,250,000 for United Way.

mobile phoneDuring the Gala for campaign volunteers, #MyUWstory had almost three quarters of a million social-media impressions. It trended not only locally, but in all of Canada. (Of course, we like to think that great supporters like you are always trending.)


Investing big in our community

Thanks to you, $86 million was invested into our community and to ensure appropriate supports and oversight of this funding by United Way. Of the amount directed into our community…


went to building strong communities. That meant 414 programs and services to help reduce the gap between neighbourhoods.


went to helping kids be all they can be. That meant 209 programs and services to help with the education, employment and engagement of our region’s young people.


went to meeting people’s basic needs. That meant 195 programs and services to help people connect with employment, shelter and food.

Bold support for youth

We launched our Youth Success Strategy this year, designed specifically to connect young people who face barriers—like poverty and under-education—to meaningful careers. In the years ahead, and with donors like you behind us, we’ll be helping these important young people obtain credentials for in-demand jobs, develop soft skills like written and verbal communication, make connections to professional networks, and gain valuable work experience.

Career navigator™

Our Youth Success Strategy signature initiative, Career Navigator™ is a United Way–designed education-to-employment program that provides a set of coordinated education, training and support services, helping vulnerable young people gain industry-recognized credentials and work experience in five growth industries:

A future that works

A future that works

Olissa has a job she loves. She’s a full-time production assistant at Lush Cosmetics, where she enjoys benefits, childcare-friendly hours, and opportunities to move up in the company.

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Life as a single mom, however, wasn’t always so promising. At 25, she was unemployed and struggling to support her two young children. For years, she searched for work, but options were scarce.

Fortunately, she was able to connect with Career Navigator™, a United Way–supported education-to-employment pipeline that helps youth facing barriers access meaningful job opportunities.

Over the course of four to eight months, youth get industry-recognized training and social supports that help them secure the credentials and experiences they need for future success.

Your generous gifts make this innovative program possible. “My life has completely changed,” she says. “I feel secure in my future and am so happy I can provide for my kids—in a way I never thought possible.”


Adding a bold voice

Thanks to you, we continued to drive groundbreaking research around our region’s most daunting social problems. Research that helps us understand the root causes of community challenges and convene the right partners to implement sound strategies to tackle these issues.

The Opportunity Equation

The Opportunity Equation (February 2015) revealed how Toronto is at risk of becoming Canada’s income-inequality capital, since not everyone has equal access to opportunities like quality jobs, affordable housing and meaningful social networks. Our efforts are encouraging others…

The Opportunity Equation report cover

Learn more in this video, featuring Michelynn Laflèche, United Way Toronto & York Region’s Director of Research, Public Policy and Evaluation.

The Precarity Penalty

The Precarity Penalty (May 2015) exposed the negative impact of precarious jobs, which trap people and families in a cycle of low wages, limited benefits and uncertain futures. The discussion we helped to spark is gaining traction…

The Precarity Penalty report cover

Count Me In

Count Me In, York Region’s first-ever Point-in-Time Count (January 2016), was led by United Way Toronto & York Region. Part of a federal strategy across 31 communities, it gave us a snapshot of homelessness in the region, at a single point in time. Increased understanding of this growing issue will give us a benchmark for measuring our progress in reducing homelessness.

A door to opportunity

A door to opportunity

Mathew has a regular job, with dreams of something bigger: starting an online company that links people facing homelessness to essential local services.

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His focus wasn’t always this clear. His mother struggled with mental-health issues, and he was subject to her unpredictable bouts of anger. “The future looked dark,” he says. At only 17, and out of options, he found himself on the streets.

Thanks to your gift, he was able to access Blue Door Shelters, a United Way–funded agency that offered a hot meal and the immediate support he needed. “From the moment I walked in, I felt safe, accepted and cared for,” he says.

From here, he attained proper identification (crucial to finding employment), secured a spot in a transitional-housing program, and eventually got back on his feet.

“Now, I want to give back,” says Mathew. “I want other youth to know there is hope for them, too.”


A network of care

In 2015, 219 community agencies were supported by your gift. We invested in vital programs and services. We also put your donation to good work, increasing the efficiency and capacity of agencies, so they can continue their work for years to come. Here’s the kind of difference you made:


of agencies reported program enhancements, including new and expanded programs to better serve the community


reported exciting collaborations and/or partnerships with other agencies and organizations, increasing not only efficiency but effectiveness as well


reported improved management practices, including training and new positions, ensuring the best people are there to make a difference

A network in action

The importance of community agencies is clear. Every day, they are on the front lines, working with us to improve lives. This year, integrating thousands of Syrian refugees—and responding to the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time—required community-wide effort and coordination.

Thanks to the strong network of agencies that you helped us build, we embraced these families, offering vital resources—from housing support to employment counselling.

New ways of working

A warm welcome

A warm welcome

The Khalils are accessing supports—from after-school homework help to career training—and otherwise settling into their new life in Toronto’s Thorncliffe community.

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But, it’s far from the life they imagined. When the humanitarian crisis unfolded in Syria, they were forced to abandon all that they knew. “No one wants to leave their country, but we couldn’t stay because of the death and destruction,” says Khalil.

Arriving in Toronto, they connected with Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office—one of United Way’s 40 community agencies that deliver vital programs to newcomers.

They found the immediate help they needed: securing affordable housing, accessing health care, completing necessary documentation, and learning basic English. All because of you.

With a newfound confidence, they now have their sights set elsewhere: “I feel optimistic for our future,” says Khalil. “I want all of us to succeed. I want our children to go to university and get good jobs.”

Unique partnerships

Toronto Enterprise Fund

An innovative partnership between United Way and all three levels of government funds social enterprises that connect people facing employment barriers with job training and work opportunities.

What comes after 15 years of our bolstering social enterprise?

Toronto City Council voted unanimously in favour of a new social-procurement policy, a commitment to buying goods and services from social enterprises.

TO Prosperity

  • We helped to bring 50+ organizations together to sign a letter to Council urging action, and we also participated on the City’s advisory committee for this new strategy.
  • We led community consultations in partnership with the City, bringing agencies, training facilitators and people with lived experience to the table.


In 2015, your support allowed us to partner directly with residents to develop new solutions to issues or bring to life new ideas to improve their own communities:

  • 2 Strength Investments were made in the towns of Whitchurch-Stouffville and East Gwillimbury, to support exciting grassroots initiatives.

Community Benefits Agreements


Increasing the Impact

There were incredible instances of people and organizations giving in ways that inspire others—ways that dramatically increased the effects of their generosity.

Donald Guloien and Irene Boychuk

Donald Guloien and Irene Boychuk pledged a challenge grant of up to $1.2 million that doubled the impact of donors giving $1,200 or more to United Way. What a tremendous gift!

Carol Mitchell and Richard Venn made an extraordinary $1.5-million gift—establishing a generous endowment fund, and ensuring that their family’s support for the community lives on in perpetuity.

Transforming the landscape

There were examples of large-scale, transformational investments that ignited wholesale change—altering entire communities and kick-starting new initiatives.

Shirley Granovsky

Shirley Granovsky made an extraordinary gift of $1 million to our Youth Success Strategy, sharing our vision and taking it from strategy to action.

Working for the community

Last year, 710 organizations ran workplace campaigns in support of United Way. Their combined and generous efforts are proof of how partnering with us, actively engaging their employees, and participating in special events (including the CN Tower Climb for United Way) can mean big things—like significantly contributing to the more than $100 million raised for our community!

Large group of CN Tower participants photographed from above

Volunteering our thanks

23,000 volunteers gave us their time, energy and expertise, supporting our work throughout the community in many different ways. They helped with everything from board leadership to ensuring that our special events run smoothly. We sent them all a very special thank you during National Volunteer Week. Watch it here.

Gordon Brown

In 2015, Gordon Brown celebrated 10 years as a United Way volunteer.



Our Commitment to You

Every year, United Way’s campaign to build a better community is supported by generous people like you. And you can be confident that your gift was put to optimal use—helping people and families, both today and in the long term.

In 2015, our total disbursements to the community were as follows:

Pie chart showing 2015 total disbursements to the community
  • 53% Program and operating funding for United Way Toronto & York Region supported agencies and partners
  • 8% Grant-funded programs
  • 3% Donor designations to United Way Toronto & York Region supported agencies and partners
  • 4% Allocations, programs and needs assessment expenses
  • 4% Programs delivered by United Way Toronto & York Region
  • 2% Programs and organizations supported by targeted gifts
  • 2% Donor designations to other United Ways
  • 24% Donor designations to other registered charities

See the full list of agencies that are supported by United Way Toronto & York Region (including funding amounts).

Not only do we value the trust you place in us, we go above and beyond to earn that trust in the first place:

Imagine Canada

As a flagship member of Imagine Canada’s Standards Program, we are safeguarding donor rights by demonstrating excellence in sector best practices.

We insist on stretching every dollar as far as possible:

In 2015, our combined fundraising and administration costs were just 17.4%—well below the 35% threshold recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency.

In 2015, our administrative and fundraising costs were as follows:

Pie chart showing 2015 administrative and fundraising cost
  • 82.6% Invested in the community
  • 13.1% Fundraising costs
  • 4.3% Administrative costs

Management discussion and analysis

Over the past year, we continued to find ways of working smarter, building our capacity for making an even greater impact in the communities we serve. Read more.

Financial Highlights

We deliver financial statements consistent with Canadian accounting standards for not-for-profit organizations and United Way Canada – Centraide Canada’s Transparency and Accountability Financial Standards. Read highlights from our Finance, Audit and Risk Committee and our full 2015–16 Audited Financial Statements.