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United Way of Canada

United Way of Canada (French: Centraide Canada) is the national organization for the 117 autonomous, volunteer-based United Ways across Canada.[1]

United Way campaigns raise money for local groups that address community issues and problems, and the national organization provides leadership, services and coordination to the members. In Canada, United Ways and Centraides are led and supported by more than 200,000 volunteers all dedicated to improving the lives of individuals in their community.[1] Volunteers sit on United Way-Centraide boards, work on local fundraising campaigns, and help out in other capacities. Each United Way-Centraide is responsible to its own community, raising the resources and distributing it back to their community.

Each year, United Ways and Centraides raise upwards of $480 million, the majority of which is reinvested in local communities to support programs and services.[2][3] In 2011, the United Way of Canada raised $4.9 million. [4]

United Way-Centraide is primarily focused on poverty, homelessness, and families or individuals in crisis or need.[5] The local organizations work with many partners, such as government or other community organizations to address these issues.[6]

Community Impact Mission

The Mission of United Way of Canada is: "To improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action."[7] Adopted in 2003, this mission represents a shift in the organization's focus of umbrella fundraising to community impact.[8] United Way of Canada regards community impact as the achievement of positive long-term changes to the quality of life in local communities which is brought about by addressing the root causes of social problems, as well as their symptoms.[8]

The National Office

The National Office, which was founded in 1939, is located in Ottawa, Ontario. As the national organization, United Way of Canada-Centraide represents local United Ways and Centraides within Canada's voluntary sector, internationally and provides services such as leadership training and education opportunities. The national organization convenes local United Ways-Centraides on a yearly basis at its annual conference, for the purposes of professional development training, the sharing of best practices and learning from leading thinkers.[2]


File:Thirty-Seven Welfare Organizations Ask Your Help.JPG
A broadside published in the 1930s by the Federation for Community Service in Toronto, showing how donations are distributed to member agencies

The United Way - Centraide movement began in 1917, when charities in Montreal and Toronto started community collectives inspired by similar activities in the United States. In particular, various clergy in Denver were trying to raise money individually to support their community, but started working together in 1887 when they realized that they could have a greater impact if they worked together to raise and distribute funds. This approach began to be adopted in Canada during the turmoil of the First World War period.[9][10]

Other collectives were initiated in other parts of the country over time, under a variety of names (including Red Feather (or Plume Rouge in French), Community Chest, Fédération des oeuvres de charité and the United Appeal). It was not until the 1970s that these organizations took the name of United Way and Centraide (in 1973 and 1975 respectively). [9][10]

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