United Way chapters go the extra—and virtual—mile in 2020

Enbridge campaigns raise US$4.9 million (C$6.4 million) across North America in the face of the COVID pandemic

Moving people from poverty to possibility is a big responsibility at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic.

But that was the challenge for United Way chapters across North America in 2020, with the continent gripped by COVID-19.

“Before COVID-19, 47% of our neighbors were struggling to make ends meet from month to month. We know the pandemic and related hardships have only made that worse,” says Amanda McMillian, President and CEO of the United Way of Greater Houston.

“Eighty percent of our annual investments are in programs and services now directly helping people affected by COVID-19 with basics, like food and housing, as well as childcare, physical and behavioral health care, and employment assistance.”

Enbridge has been a staunch supporter of the United Way in the United States and Canada for many years—and our virtual 2020 United Way campaign raised US$4.9 million (C$6.4 million) in supporting about 140 organizations across North America.

Right across its footprint, the United Way of Greater Houston has seen increased needs across its communities during COVID. Earlier this year, the chapter co-launched a recovery fund with the Greater Houston Community Foundation to help meet the emergency needs of those affected by COVID-19 in the area.

“We have deployed all of the $17 million raised to help vulnerable members of our community through this crisis thanks to the generous support of so many, including Enbridge,” says McMillian.

Enbridge’s United Way 2020 campaigns ranged from the big city to the small town, across the U.S. (Houston to Duluth, Chicago to Nashville to Waltham) and Canada (Prince George to Ottawa, Edmonton to Regina to Toronto), with a series of creative virtual events in support of more than 40 United Way chapters across North America.

In Calgary, the United Way has also seen a significant growth in demand, with a 37% increase in calls to Alberta’s 211 service for help accessing food, or mental health or financial support.

“COVID-19 is shining a light on issues facing our neighbors and our friends that aren’t new but are increasingly more complex,” says United Way Corporate Account Manager Patricia McFarlane. “We have seen an incredible response through our COVID-19 Community Relief Fund, with more than $11.8 million distributed to over 200 agencies in Calgary and area—people have shown up in new and different ways that I don’t think anyone could have anticipated.”

Adds McFarlane: “I am proud of our community partners, like Enbridge, who are continuing to support United Way and the critical work we are doing to recover stronger, as we move into 2021.”

Without gatherings, volunteering in person or physical events, many non-profits have had to maneuver new approaches to fundraising this year.

“This year, our biggest barrier in shifting to virtual campaigns was Zoom fatigue,” says McMillian. “We have worked very hard to make our campaign events fresh, worthwhile, and exciting—and this actually led to our biggest successes.”

(TOP PHOTO: Enbridge Gas leaders help kick off the utility's 2020 virtual United Way campaign.)