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The Crucial Role of Corporate Partnership in Strengthening Charitable Organizations

December 19, 2023 by David Leonard, CEO, McCarthy Tétrault LLP

It’s no secret that many of our neighbours are struggling right now. Over the past year, we’ve seen food bank lines stretch around the block. Near-daily headlines about the cost-of-living crisis. Long-time local businesses and residents leaving neighbourhoods they can no longer afford to be a part of.

Behind the scenes, several less-visible factors are compounding these challenges to create a perfect storm. Charitable giving is down and community services – long overstretched – are now at a breaking point. Earlier this year, CanadaHelps’ annual Giving Report quantified just how dire the situation is: Less than 50% of charities report funding levels that match pre-pandemic levels, while 33% are seeing funding levels below pre-pandemic levels. 57% of charities are unable to meet demand for their services and many are beginning to close their doors in the face of these harsh financial realities. This is all taking place as 22% of Canadians – that’s 1 in 5 – say they will need to access charitable services within the next 6 months.

One in five Canadians could very well mean someone you know. In my case, it did.

A family member’s issues with their mental health eventually led them to a case of addiction, which, in turn, put them at risk of homelessness. This path isolated them from their family and friends, which further put their life in danger. Eventually, an agency funded by United Way intervened, providing my relative with stable housing and medical support for their mental health and addiction issues. This resulted in a reunion with family and friends, and a much happier and rewarding life. All of this happened because members of our community supported United Way, who then helped change not only the life of my relative experiencing difficulties, but the lives of my entire family. Without United Way, things could have been quite different.

This is all to say that I have seen firsthand the difference community services can make. And if we, as a society, do not invest in their ongoing ability to support people through life’s challenges, we may all come to understand the difference their absence can make.

United Way Greater Toronto has been supporting and sustaining the GTA’s social safety net for 67 years. As the largest non-government funder of social services in the GTA, they support over 300 community agencies and initiatives in neighbourhoods across Peel, Toronto, and York Region. This breadth uniquely positions them to understand what’s happening both on the frontlines and the view from 30,000 feet. It allows them to build strategic, lasting solutions that go beyond emergency interventions.

Central to their success over the years, particularly during a period of heightened inflation impacting individual giving, lies the invaluable support and partnership from the corporate sector. While corporations routinely contribute financially to charities and nonprofit organizations through their corporate social responsibility programs, the potential for support could extend beyond monetary donations to include creative solutions to challenges faced by the local community.

In the case of McCarthy Tétrault’s collaboration with United Way, we understand that exercising our corporate responsibility involves looking beyond the walls of our offices to aid the efforts to create an inclusive workplace and an inclusive society. By collaborating with United Way, we are not only investing in our community’s shared prosperity, but demonstrating to the next generation of workers what can be gained by doing so.

As leaders, whether it be of company or community, we can make a difference. We can cultivate neighbourhoods where affordable housing, economic opportunity, and local services are accessible to all. Only then will residents be able to afford to care – not only for themselves – but for one another as well. And at a time when so many are struggling to stay afloat, we have an even greater responsibility to do so.

As you take stock and think about 2023 and its highs and lows, I encourage you to end the year by helping your community and giving generously to United Way.

Dave Leonard

Chair, Community Campaign Cabinet
Partner & Chief Executive Officer
McCarthy Tétrault LLP

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