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Donor Profile

Photo of Colleen and Brian Johnston

Colleen and Brian Johnston give back in different ways, but they share a passion for getting involved with the causes they care about.

“We follow our hearts when it comes to charities that we donate to or get involved with,” says Colleen. “We’re both very engaged with the work.”

One common cause of caring? United Way. The Johnstons have been proud supporters for more than 25 years. With so many grassroots and non-profit organizations in the GTA, it’s hard to pick just one, Brian explains. That’s why, he adds, it feels right to invest in United Way’s network of social service agencies, because it’s an investment that goes beyond a single organization and has the power to create change across the entire sector.

“I know our support is really getting to the frontlines, touching people’s lives directly, but is also having an impact at the policy level and at the advocacy level,” adds Colleen. “We’re very proud to be part of something bigger and bolder like United Way.”

Colleen, who recently retired after a 14-yearlong career at TD Bank, where she served for many years as CFO, and Brian, an industry real estate veteran and now the CEO of CreateTO, agree that time and money should go together when it comes to giving back. Both have chosen to volunteer or work for organizations that they believe will create lasting change in their community.

Ever since she had an opportunity early in her career to join the board of a hospital, Colleen’s taken a hands-on approach. She’s lent her time to many community organizations, including United Way, where she’s served as a member of the Major Individual Giving Cabinet and been an avid supporter of TD’s annual workplace giving campaign. “I’ve loved doing it,” she says. “It’s been so positive for my life in ways that I could never have anticipated.”

Brian chooses to give back through the professional commitments he takes on. In fact, he recently came out of retirement to take on his role at CreateTO, the organization that manages the City of Toronto’s portfolio of real estate assets. It’s work that he sees complimenting his philanthropy, including his support of United Way. He shares this vision of expanding the amount of affordable housing in the city to help make the GTA a more accessible place for everyone.

“I see that there’s a housing problem that needs to be solved and I ask myself and those in influential positions: ‘What can we do to help move this along and deliver supply to a housing market where there is deep, and urgent, need?’” he says. “I know if we do things today it’ll solve a lot of challenges tomorrow. We’re not going to solve them all, but if we try, it’s worth it.”

Making the world a better, more caring place is also a belief they’ve passed along to their two daughters, who are just starting out on their own philanthropic journeys.

“All of us can be kinder citizens,” says Colleen. “That’s what United Way is doing. It’s helping people take care of their community so it can be a better place and a kinder place.”