At United Way Toronto & York Region, we are always looking to improve the way we work. Anything to create more and more positive change in the communities we serve. Well, 2016 was no different.

Over the past year, we worked to become more effective and more innovative, strengthening our ability to create impact in the communities we serve—from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe.

Increased fundraising

We increased our revenue from 2015, with a campaign achievement of $102 million—the largest-ever for United Way Toronto & York Region, and United Ways the world over. These funds will support our work in the community.

Digital innovation remains a priority for our organization. We invested in new donation and engagement strategies that are necessary for future growth, as donor and workplace needs continue to change. To this end, our team has worked to streamline, simplify and invigorate our digital and online platforms: a mobile-friendly workplace-giving tool will make it easier and more convenient to donate; meanwhile, continued efforts with United Way Worldwide on the development of a state-of-the-art digital platform will help us better engage workplaces and improve the way we work with corporate partners.

Supporting the United Way movement across Canada was our “It Looks Like Me” campaign. Executed by United Way Toronto & York Region, but national in scope, it featured stories and videos of people whose lives have changed because of United Way. The campaign won an Applied Arts Award in the “Best Motion Series” category. A testament to its success, the campaign is now in development for a second year—laying the groundwork for our 2017 uprising of care.

Increased community investments

We committed $87 million for our community. This supports and strengthens our ability to tackle local social challenges, contribute to research and advocacy efforts, and deliver on our priorities: creating opportunities for youth, increasing programs and services in neighbourhoods, and building a more robust social-services sector overall.

United Way invests in over 200 agencies that work on the ground. We are investing in new agencies and programs to provide youth with access to meaningful career opportunities, and we expanded investment in our neighbourhood and Community Hub work. We are also developing new ways of working with agencies that provide a broad array of programs and services that serve people living in poverty or that address the underlying causes of poverty. The first phase of this new approach was completed with 62 anchor and partner agencies invited to strengthen their relationship with us and serve as the backbone for our work and connections to communities across the region. The next phase of our work will support many of our current agencies and open the door to agencies that are not currently funded.

Increased internal capacity

United Way was one of the first charities in the country to be accredited under Imagine Canada’s national Standards Program, which recognizes excellence in five areas of operations: board governance, financial accountability and transparency, fundraising, staff management, and volunteer involvement. In 2016, we were successful in our application for re-accreditation. Our letter from Imagine Canada commended us on being “a stellar application that demonstrates leading practice in a number of areas.”

Last year was historic for many reasons. It marked Daniele Zanotti’s first full year as President & CEO. We invested in senior-level digital-marketing skills. We offered staff professional-development opportunities related to leadership and innovation. And we reorganized various departments: the office of the Chief Operating Officer, Strategic Initiative & Public Affairs, and Donor Relations and Marketing.

These moves have better positioned us to successfully execute on our business goals.