BF Workplace’s team effort supports United Way
ENNIS Riley has dealt with the United Way in various parts of North America, including Toronto and California. But nowhere, he says, has he seen a United Way as wellsupported and run as effectively as in Winnipeg.
“The degree of generosity that Winnipeggers have is remarkable, far more than other United Ways I’ve seen in other parts of the world,” said Riley, president of BF Workplace.
“Other ones in other parts of the world have been patting themselves on the back for achieving X per cent or Y dollars per population, and Winnipeg does way better.”
United Way is well into its 2018 campaign, which runs from September to January. It raised $20 million last year, and its goal for 2018 is $21 million.
More than 600 workplaces in the city run internal fundraising drives, including BF Workplace, which is an office equipment company based in Winnipeg. It boasts 100 per cent staff participation and has “pacesetter” status, meaning it runs its United Way campaign during the summer months before the official campaign begins.
That gives the larger campaign momentum, with 30 per cent of the campaign already achieved by the September launch.
When Riley returned to Winnipeg in
1996 to helm BF Workplace, he became part of the “cabinet” of business leaders that urges other businesses to get on board with United Way fundraising.
“I got to know how good Winnipeg’s United Way is. It’s not just about raising money and giving it out. It helps nonprofit agencies run themselves better and gives them advice,” he said.
“If a non-profit agency isn’t running itself properly, it won’t get the money. But the United Way helps them to pull their socks up.”
For youth alone, United Way supports
33 agencies, 11 counselling and crisisintervention programs, 39 out-of-school and summer programs and 23 leadership and mentoring programs. It affects an estimated 83,000 Winnipeg youth.
Another unique feature of the local United Way is that the province and various agencies pay 100 per cent of its fundraising and administrative costs.
“So when Winnipeggers give their money to United Way, they know 100 per cent goes directly to the good works of people like at Rossbrook House, or the Elizabeth Fry Society, or the (Canadian Institute for the Blind),” Riley said.
He has a connection to the CNIB, because his late mother used its services when she developed macular degeneration and lost her sight. “The CNIB wouldn’t exist without the United Way,” he said.
BF Workplace runs a variety of events during its fundraising week, including a 50-50 draw and pizza lunch fundraiser.
One of its events is racing remote cars on tracks set up around the office. Each participant contributes two or three dollars and workers race each other. Prizes are given for the best times.
There is also a draw for everyone who donates to the United Way: the winner gets a day off with pay.
Sheri Pallen, the BF project manager who has run the United Way campaign drive at the company for almost two decades, won this year’s draw. It wasn’t fixed, she said jokingly. “I didn’t draw the number.”
The events are about raising money, “but also getting to know each other and having fun together,” Riley said.
BF has been in business for 57 years, selling numerous lines of office furniture. Volunteer campaign chairwoman Barb Gamey, the CEO of Payworks, said companies such as BF “show that even small workplaces can run strong campaigns and have successful results. You don’t need to be a huge corporation with tonnes of staff.”
BF Workplace project co-ordinator Sheri Pallen (from left), CEO Dennis Riley and president Jeanette Hiebert. The company is a big booster of the United Way.