Recovery and rebuilding: The United Way of Greater Victoria Covid-19 Response
In this episode, Paul and Dave chat with Chief Executive Officer, Mark Breslauer, of the United Way of Greater Victoria (UWGV). Mark shares how their organization quickly pivoted at the start of the pandemic to narrow their focus to provide immediate assistance in three key areas of action:
- Isolated seniors
- Families in need
- Mental health and addictions
Mark talks about the ways in which the UWGV has changed the way it operates and their “new normal” when it comes to fundraising. In closing, he sheds some light more broadly on the nuances of local giving.
I think innovation and collaboration, [are] absolutely key, continued efficiencies and this narrowing of the focus as we’ve done it. There’s so much need out there, so how do we do our best to make the impact that makes the difference on the most lives in the most meaningful way, which may sound a little bit generic, but it’s taken a different approach certainly on our end, more focussed, while very much staying with the community partners we’ve had.
Click here to read the full transcript
Paul: This is Paul Holmes and joining me as usual is Dave Monahan for Island Thrive.
Dave: Good morning, Paul.
Paul: How are you?
Dave: I’m good, thank you. How are you?
Paul: I’m doing great, and we’re really excited today to have Mark Breslauer with us, who is the Chief Executive Officer at the United Way of Greater Victoria. Mark, how are you today?
Mark: I’m Great, thank you very much. Paul hope your well.
Paul: We’re apparently all doing great.
Paul: Yeah, so Mark, of course, everybody, mostly everybody should have heard of the United Way and certainly the United Way of Greater Victoria, but maybe you can give us a little bit of background on that organization and your role there.
Mark: Sure. Well, United Way Greater Victoria is an organization that has been in our community for over eighty years. Really, our mandate, our mission is to improve lives and build community, really to give individuals the opportunity to succeed and to live the best life possible. So that involves a number of things – it’s support for partner agencies, it’s direct funding to certain initiatives, there’s a fundraising component, really to…We view ourselves as an influencer, a catalyst for community change, really in the human services field.
Dave: That’s great. Can you tell us a little bit about your role there and your background, how have you end up at United Way of Greater Victoria?
Mark: Thank you. So I have been the CEO here at the United Way greater reporter, just over two years. So by some standards in this sector, relatively a newcomer. My background, prior to that was really in a variety of different enterprises, all in the private sector. So I’m originally from Winnipeg. I’ve worked in Alberta a few times, Ontario in big corporate. I moved to the island to work with a business I was involved in that private sector business for four years, and soon thereafter joined the United Way.
Paul: That’s not an uncommon thing with the United Way, often times…I know the United Way of Greater Victoria, but I think in other cities as well, they will recruit some top talent from the private sector people who are go-getters and obviously get things done, like raising millions and millions of dollars, so that’s probably a fairly common story, what inspired you to make that shift in your career?
Mark: Well, thanks for that compliment as well, Paul. And it was a really interesting shift, I was looking at a number of opportunities and certainly well-acquainted with the United Way throughout my career in various cities, and interestingly as I came to know the work within the United Way of Greater Victoria leads through all activities staying local. So the fundraising, the funding is all in the Greater Victoria region, so that local appeal… I had quite a bit of experience doing volunteer work, I served on the National Board of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, so in the healthcare sector. I’ve done some local things, was part of the Think Local First board when I moved to Victoria. So the local component, the opportunity to make a difference and really a well-known brand, but perhaps not the best understood brand. So an opportunity to parlay some of my experience and passion around how do we reposition, reinvigorate this brand with a really committed team and Board so support volunteers. So it was a process, it seemed there’s really an opportunity to make a difference, and it was certainly served the community good there was an aspect of making a difference, but also the business aspect of helping to improve performance in a pretty tough fundraising world out there with so much need.
Paul: Yeah, and I guess 82 years on, since the United Way of Greater Victoria began, I can imagine 2020, it’s got to be one of the more challenging years in many ways. Maybe speak a little bit to how the pandemic has affected your organization. And then maybe we can talk about how it’s impacted some of what you’re seeing on the ground as well.
Mark: Sure, well that’s a little bit of where to begin Paul, wow?
Paul: Wow, I just load them up.
Mark: Well for us very clearly the entire world was obviously impacted in March. For us, what became very clear is the need is on every front, and we saw one of the best opportunities to make a difference was to really narrow our focus. So we’ve been in the community, good business and touching so many lives for so long, our intention was to impact even more positively, but how can we do that with what we deemed areas of action? It became very apparent as things were unfolding in March and April that the not-for-profit sector was really under siege, so many of the partner agencies we may have had a direct involvement one way or another, perhaps might have been shuttered, unable to deliver their services given the physical distancing for a myriad of reasons couldn’t perform. So we identified support for the not-for-profit sector as one. Clearly isolated seniors emerged as a very big issue and mental health. So we began to narrow what may have involved 15 plus human services issues, this is still a pretty broad umbrella, so that was beginning to emerge in the early stages of a pandemic.
Paul: That makes sense, that you’d narrow that focus down. And those three key areas sure make a lot of sense. Yeah, and you do that primarily through working with partners in the sector, right?
Mark: That’s right.
Paul: Is there any of those partners in particular that you know that you want to talk about today that are doing some especially good work in the community? I imagine there’s tons, right?
Mark: Yeah, thank you. Well one of the more fascinating and perhaps more complex aspects of this organization as a whole is the myriad of stakeholders were involved with community impact groups like those agencies. We fundraise in order to do the good work that we do, and that involves working in alignment with… So how do we fundraise? Well, there are hundreds of workplaces that generously donate to the United Way, we have individuals and we have labor as a partner, we have the public sector on a number of fronts. So there are a number of stakeholders, and how can we at United Way really provide that value-add to say, if this particular agency in isolation was doing a particular initiative let’s say it is food supply, how might we bring the value-add, whether it’s…so how do you scale this program? And that’s what we put into place over the course of this time. So some of the work that we have certainly, what we call our special sauce what can the United Way bring, that wouldn’t otherwise exist, because there are other opportunities to some of the partners we work with to perhaps donate directly. But if I donate to the United Way, where can I get this, what we call the multiplier effect that much more scale and impact.
So I put that out there as the variety of stakeholders but I think your question Paul was specific to the agencies…We’ve supported so many through a number of the initiatives and certainly happy to elaborate on that.
Paul: I think, obviously, you mentioned the areas, the isolated seniors, the families in need, and mental health and addictions, is there any organizations particularly around mental health that because that’s what I think…Maybe it’s not obvious, but I think those first two areas, there’s lots of obvious ones, whereas mental health, I think there’s probably some that maybe people haven’t heard about that are doing some really good work in the community, and I didn’t know if there was any worth highlighting that, or in any of those categories for that matter.
Mark: Well, I’d like to comment on a number of initiatives and each if I may. Starting with isolated seniors, we have created a program called More than Meals. And More than Meals has been a great initiative really addressing seniors isolation, both from the fundamentals of nutrition, but also social interaction, just human companionship, that visit from Jimmy or whoever to really make a difference. So a number of agencies in town had traditionally offered some meal programs throughout and pre-pandemic for an order of scale, there may have been 200 meals per week being offered up one way or another. With our involvement and working with a number of partner agencies Beacon, Oak Bay Services as well, we came together to create a program that brought community kitchens, some local restaurants really a collaborative effort to bring a number of parties together to come up with nutritious meals at a much lower cost and a distribution system of volunteers, and that volunteer piece is the great intangible, that point of interaction which is what so many seniors had said is a gamechanger.
Paul: What’s the practical part of that? I mean, in the middle of a pandemic, we’re all of course told to keep our social distance, and of course, especially with vulnerable populations like seniors, and this is of course been one of those horrible trade-offs of the current situation where on one hand, you want to keep our seniors or vulnerable populations, safe, but on the other hand, even before this, those people are often some of the more isolated and lonely groups, and there’s been tons of studies, I’m sure you’ve read several about just the health factors around loneliness and that sort of thing. So how do these organizations strike the balance between providing companionship and keeping them safe?
Mark: That is a great question and to earlier point about kind of delivery services with safety protocols in place, you really touched on a few things here, Paul. Well this is more than meals and isolated seniors, there is a big mental health component to it. So that is achieved through rigorous training and safety protocols. I guess to some degree we’re fortunate, it’s a little more temperate here than in other areas of the country, but with this very original initiative, physically distanced so ringing the doorbell, find a way, if there isn’t a texting capability or those kinds of things in advance, but find a way or establish a regular time and protocol. Drop it at the door. In some cases, the senior may not be able to physically bend down but all those things are customized for that senior. A huge piece of this was identifying those seniors at the very outset that in itself required some rigor, people living in your apartment building or in your neighborhood that maybe no one had seen and was aware of. So it was the identification of safety protocols that are practiced each and every time to the extent we get a continuity of the visitor. Certainly the diversity of different volunteers is enriching but that familiarity helps. And in the end, we have taken this program to roughly 1200 meals per week right across the region making huge impact, and unfortunately, the need continues in a very good way. So More than Meals is a program that we’re so happy we’re making an impact with so many partners and it’s impacting so many seniors in need.
Paul: That’s truly incredible. That’s what six times pre-pandemic?
Mark: Yes, exactly and required over the long haul. And an area that we’re very focused is families in need with such disruption. And another initiative we call a signature initiative along these lines is called the Little Phoenix Daycare. And it’s located just outside of downtown and it is a trauma-informed daycare, which effectively means as it sounds there’s been some extraordinary trauma over the course of time that impacts children and that could be a situation of an unsafe environment, domestic violence, it could be newcomers to Canada, coming through a refugee process. So for these children, there’s a real art and a science around taking care of them from the caregivers, to the color schemes, to the type of day. So we have joined forces with the Family Resource Center and a Victoria Immigrant Refugee Centre to collaborate on this initiate to build a trauma-informed daycare. It’s the first of its kind in BC. We have some understanding, maybe the first in Canada, but uncertain about that, but it’s unique, daycare is obviously the premium anyway, but this is specialized and impactful. So we built this initiative to bring the parties together that likely otherwise wouldn’t have had this underway, and we were fundraising for that. We actually did a virtual event, a fun event, the art of making Gin back a couple of months ago specific to this cause, led in part by one of our volunteer groups with a mission and a volunteer group called Women United part of the United Way group.
Dave: Mark I was on your site there and saw you had some upcoming events, one of them being as were recording right now December 8th…so tomorrow, December 9th, the virtual office party. So maybe share a little bit about that. We’ll miss it as this is published, but maybe for next year or just as a unique new idea?
Mark: Yeah, sure. We’re very excited about this Dave. So Sparkle and Sip is an event…a lot of things are happening as I’m sure in your business, and the listeners are very much demonstrating nimble and quick reaction. So about a month ago, it was very apparent recognizing the safety protocols likely to not have a lot of latitude to how do we respond this year to both the holiday party and opportunity for friends and family to get together? And how can we have some fun with that? But primarily, how do we direct funding toward one of these key initiatives. So the primary recipient will be More than Meals and so the seniors programs spoken about earlier, that is where the funds will be directed. So we have a great program, we wanted to tie together local, so our appeal was through the community was to say, “you can’t have your office party this year in the traditional sense.” Let’s have some fun with that. Originally, when we presented this a month ago, we could use terminology like “bring your safe six” that’s been scaled back a bit. It is virtual, so wherever you line up… So we’re on tomorrow evening, December 9th. We have Ocean DJs doing a great job for us, and so they’re going to host. We have a professional mixologist who’s going to teach us the art of working with some various rum concoctions. The Empress is the sponsor that has come forth with some treats and Divine Distilleries is helping us with the rum. So wonderful media sponsors, including Jack and the Times Colonist. So we’re expecting a strong attendance across various sectors, workplaces, individuals, newcomers to the United Way to long-time supporters. And the venue will also have the opportunity for an auction again with local artisans and artists an opportunity to give on their great work. So great cause, great fun. We expect the auctioneers a good time, and we’re hoping to raise lots of money.
Dave: Creative collaboration, I love it. What about 2021, any events you want to share with us coming up?
Paul: Live or innovatively online or we don’t know yet.
Mark: They’ve been part of the big change, and I know there’s so much to cover, but I want to talk about this real shift to virtual. Part of our fundraising with workplaces has been a long-standing great support from workplaces across greater Victoria, wherever the type of business across the public sector, post-secondary, it’s so many great supporters and often there may have been events to pull various team members together at these workplaces to generate funds and have some fun along the way. Clearly, that wasn’t going to be a case of this year. So we did a number of really interesting things, developing a virtual toolkit where we may have had launches to talk about some of the great initiatives that are under way, and these may have been conducted in the past show up onsite so in some cases, we did zoom to over 100 employees in an organization, hard to be super interactive but different. And then provided a toolkit and a technology company like yourself might appreciate we started to introduce things like QR codes to make it easier to remote donate. So we’ve been learning a few things along the way, picking up ideas in some cases from customer/donors along the way, and this whole virtual shift has really enabled a great flow of information, wonderful generosity.
And so the virtual piece starts to become reflective I think of what we’re going to see much more in future. People are certainly craving an opportunity to congregate again, but at the same time from a business standpoint of balancing some of the efficiencies of putting things across while at the same time being impactful, we expect the virtual piece, the way people donate, the types of causes being perhaps more tangible, specific, in the line of sight, those seem to be what we’re very much planning around.
So many of the human services issues out there, maybe the areas we’ve talked about have only been exacerbated one in four, British Columbians have spoken about the impact of mental illness and that has been compounded because during the pandemic, 50% of us have talked about that being a big issue, so the issues very much remain. Continued collaboration, innovation…We sound a little bit like the buzzwords of business and overall, they’ve been very much in play, we’ve done such amazing collaborative partnerships. I mean we did an initiative with Accent Inns where we developed (literally on a weekend) an opportunity back in April when things were first emerging to provide a fundraising vehicle for frontline workers in the healthcare sector primarily to seek refuge and have funded hotel space so they wouldn’t go back to their family and put anyone at risk. So that was a collaborative partnership that came together, we took that a step further and we began to hold, similar to your podcasts on interesting subjects, began to bring some community leaders together to talk about collaboration. So bringing that thought leadership that we work hard at while working so hard with the community issues, bringing those to the forefront for a variety of stakeholders.
Paul: We are recording this on December 8th, and of course, everybody is excited to hear the news out of the UK that the first Pfizer vaccine has been administered, and we’re all looking forward to a day when we can put this pandemic behind us, but it’s really not yet. People have to be really, really careful over the next little while. We’re seeing numbers rise in various regions, including, of course, here in British Columbia and on the island, so we’re going to probably need the United Way for a few other initiatives before related to the pandemic before we get along.
But I didn’t want to touch a little bit on that fundraising piece, because I think for some people, it is a bit of a mystery. It certainly was for me. I hosted a fairly large event and partnered with the United Way as a charity partner several years ago probably six or seven years ago and had the opportunity to learn a little bit more about what you guys do and how you do it. And so maybe we can break that down a little bit for people who are listening. You’d mentioned the giving and a lot of organizations, and maybe if you’re listening, maybe your organization, to our listeners, you can give through your payroll, and that’s still my understanding is that still is very common.
Probably a significant portion of… If you’re fundraising, I’m not sure, do you have an actual number on what percentage that represents for your fundraising?
Mark: It is significant, Paul and thanks raising that. Payroll deductions are in place across many of those workplaces, and it’s got great appeal, give a little bit, and you may not notice through the same extent once established, so it’s a regular routine. Payroll giving is very common, certainly credit cards, as we talked earlier about the QR codes and easy pledge there is that straight online. You can set it up for one-time giving or through the course of multiple gifts, so they’re all kinds of avenues and clearly that’s all part of the donor experience, how to make it as easy as possible. There are skill cheques that make their way in, so depending on the donors, we really try to make it as easy, you can certainly donate straight from your phone, so it’s a big part of it, and ease of transaction because fundraising is mission critical. Certainly, the community impact is the business we’re in.
Paul: And that’s the piece that I love is by giving to the United Way, you’re giving to a local focus, and so for a lot of people, it’s very challenging because they want to give locally, but they’re not sure who to give to. Whereas the United Way has a demonstrated ability to identify the need as we’ve seen with this pandemic, and so you can be assured when you give to the United Way, that is, it’s going to important local causes, but at the other factor is as well and maybe you can speak to this a little bit, is that multiplication factor, a lot of big donors and that sort of thing, as I understand, will match funds and that certain fundraising initiatives and stuff, so your $100 donation can turn into, in some cases, $200 or $400 on the matching and that sort of thing happens, and that’s the part that I think is really great, versus writing a cheque to an organization which can be very worthy, but if you give out $100, you’re giving $100, whereas with the United Way, you might be giving a lot more so maybe I’ll let you speak to how that works.
Mark: Yeah, you gave a great overview there, Paul thanks for the lead in. Basically, there are several components to answering why United Way, and thank you for touching on local. United Way is not only Canada-wide organization consisting of individual entities across the country, so we operate under the guise, there are certain things that bring best practices, for instance, going to the federal government, the United Way nationally was a recipient of funding from the federal government for the not-for-profit sector over the course of this pandemic, the United Way was entrusted along with the Victoria Foundation to disperse funds to the not-for-profit sector. So that kind of national scale is helpful. But it’s critically important that when the question is asked, where do the dollars go? At the United Way of Greater Victoria, all dollars stayed in this local region from Sooke to Sidney to the Gulf Islands, so that’s really an important distinction. We do have matching programs, what that means is some generous donors may put forward, if I were to give $500 providing, you can come up with an additional $500 that might come by way of new donors or donors from the past increasing, then I will contribute by $500. And we can build to get that multiplier fact.
The bigger multiplier effect of why United Way is really to what I spoke to earlier, and that is where’s the value out of the scale we can bring. So a number of the partner agencies or initiatives that we fund may not have their own fundraisers, so we actually serve in that capacity as well. So they are attempting to deliver on programs and services without much in the way of resources. We don’t have a lot of resources ourselves, we’re very fiscally prudent in that regard, but between our community impact team, as well as the fundraising efforts we do, we really can bring what is a great value to the community, literally in the millions of dollars of funds that aren’t available in those agencies, so by that, they just have the infrastructure and resources we are serving in that capacity when we support those agencies. And then to the scale of some of those programs such as More than Meals, to be able to take it to the next level is really where we can power this by United Way and make an impact.
Dave: And with the pandemic is very different year, so I’m curious whether or not the overall fundraising has gone up or down, I mentioned it’s shifted in who and when, and perhaps why, but yeah, how’s this year compared to others…
Mark: That is a great question, Dave. Over the course of the last number of years, charitable giving has been stagnating on the decline on an overall basis. Well, it’s really interesting because on the one hand, pre-pandemic, there was some increasing opportunity for wealth redistribution from generations. On the other hand, there are so many terrible causes out there, there are new avenues to donate, whether it’s crowdfunding, those kinds of things, and so not everything is necessarily accounted for, but all in all, the dollars available for more long-standing charitable organizations have certainly had their challenges. And entering the pandemic, we were no different, and hence the need to continuously assess, re-imagine how to continue to do great work, and we’re very fortunate to have pontoons, how to maintain that and into the next years and years. So through this pandemic, we’ve been very fortunate through our initiatives to attract new individuals. Some of our longstanding workplaces have fortunately remained fairly stable in terms of employment, a number have been hit seriously. So on the workplace front, it’s a bit of a mixed scenario. Overall giving we’ve been very fortunate to attract new donations, we’ve again been managing some of the federal funds. So from an overall standpoint, it’s been very active, but it’s certainly challenging to raise funds and a number of the organizations in this space are seriously impacted.
Paul: You talked earlier, a lot of governments and some larger organizations have payroll giving programs and stuff. A lot of our listeners will be small business owners, if they’re interested in setting up a payroll giving program at their workplace. Is that a difficult process? Is that something you help guide people through and give some information, and I imagine it’s sort of the opt-in opt-out for employees and that they can do their own matching programs and that sort of thing?
Mark: Thank you very much for that, Paul. It is really simple. We are at uwga.ca. It’s a very simple process, we have a car bit of information on there, but there is a pretty turn-key approach, if you’re interested in a workplace organizational mission. And totally respect there are so many generous businesses out there and so many causes, and maybe that particular employee’s passion or cause. What we bring is an opportunity to certainly impact multiple human services issues so that’s something to consider and the ease of giving, which we don’t want it to be intrusive, we want people to take a heart and mind to it and to feel passionate. So the easy thing is going online to do a simple set up, but we have certainly a number of us here who would be more than delighted to help educate on what it is and where you can customize if your individual health and addiction it could be your counseling and some of those items initiatives that we fund a variety of agencies. If it’s inclusivity and diversity, there’s a number of agencies we work with on that front. Pretty sure we can have great appeal on a number of things. When you say what is a community issue? Well, it’s everywhere you walk and drive and bus, and it’s all around you, it may sound a bit simplistic but it’s the daily things that go on in life, and it’s all about the people around you.
Paul: And you also helped, you mentioned a little bit earlier, alluded to this federal bail out, you didn’t call it a bail out but federal aid package to non-profits. Of course, in a lot of our episodes we are talking about supports for businesses and supports for individuals, and of course, the non-profit sector in various varying degrees has been hit depending on which areas they’re in and that sort of thing. So federal government did come up and then they looked to, as you mentioned, yourself and the Victoria Foundation to disburse those funds. I wonder if you can tell us a little bit more about how that unfolded.
Mark: There has been two rounds of funding, so it falls under the federal government’s emergency community support funding, primarily directed at not-for-profit agencies who are challenged, unable to deliver. And the federal government designated three national bodies so the United Way, nationally, Foundations of Canada and the Red Cross. The Red Cross was primarily focused on personal protective equipment, and then across Canada, that foundation… So in our case the Victoria Foundation, the Greater Victoria United Way, could work together to disperse these funds. I think from all accounts, we served as probably the case study in collaboration and we’re jointly working on a common portal on a rigorous process to jointly distribute funds. The funds were distributed separately in each city and town to that foundation or that United Way. In our case, we worked very closely with the Victoria Foundation and went through two rounds of funding in excess of $2 million impacting 100 plus agencies, so that actually served as a lifeline to many allowed programs where they may have needed to pivot, new ways to provide their services, so it really was something the whole community could be proud of.
And I think from a donor standpoint, really important to indicate that is what’s the difference if I give my money to this entity or that, and here, one could have competence to the collaboration and the fact that their dollars were likely going with optimal impact. Because in the end, as with business, there’s X amount of dollars out there, and some may view it as a competitive game, but we don’t like to the comfort that, we’re collaborating wherever possible, and that was a great exercise in that, so over $2 million to not-for-profit sector, conducted collaborative.
Dave: That’s great. And preparing for the podcast, I went on your website and I’ll just say to the listeners a great news feed, very active, and I think it really illustrates a lot of things they’re doing. So check that out. One of the things that really caught my eye was the bridging the digital divide initiative. So it sounds like quite a unique idea that you’re sort of experimental so I’d love to hear about that.
Mark: Yeah, thanks Dave. Well, clearly, access to technology certainly helps mitigate the isolation factor. So through the emergency funding program, we actually identify this great need, and we have been assessing digital opportunities and connectivity for the months and months and months through this pandemic. So what digital divide is, is really a virtual community help desk. And we are working with the Sooke Family Resource Society to service the host for this whole piece. So really it’s lending technology hardware to vulnerable families, individuals that may not have otherwise have access. So how to navigate their way around. So in working with the Resource Center, it’s an opportunity to lend the equipment to ultimately be a start point in how we may apply this elsewhere. We’ve worked with other partners here from Camosun College, we’ve spoken to the Greater Victoria Public Library about this and other opportunities as they have obviously have to shift as well in how they go about providing resources. And so clearly there’s a huge opportunity. We’re very excited about this pilot just launched, and we expect it to become that much bigger and that much more abundant across the region. The need is clearly there.
Dave: That’s great. I’m curious if that equipment is new or used, I guess part of why I’m asking is, we occasionally come across lightly used equipment and maybe there’s something we could participate in and get that to the right people to get it in the hands that need it.
Mark: Very generous of you Dave. It is certainly functional gently used computers, phones, tablets, Internet connectivity that is what’s being provided through this digital divide to the extent that you could assist we would be most grateful so yes that’s what we’re going with.
Dave: I’ll ask the Smarter Dolphins here what we come across, and it’s great to put that back to use too, right, so if there’s still life in it, we often just recycle it.
Mark: Big demand so that’d be fantastic. I’ll follow up on that.
Paul: Part of the community here in Sooke I know the Sooke Family Resource Center Society does a lot of incredibly good work, and of course, a lot of their fundraising was through a thrift store that they operated, which has had its ups and downs during the pandemic as well. Right. So it’s great that you’re able to work with that organization. They do a bunch of fabulous work out here. So, where are we at? Maybe we’ll jump over to the crystal ball, Mark, and ask you what you see as happening in 2021, where do we go from here? Are people more aware of need in the community and are we going to see record fundraising or…What else do you see, I guess, on the horizon, nobody knows all the answers, so just from your point of view is?
Mark: Yeah, building on some earlier thoughts I think really this continued collaboration is so key. What partners may traditionally have operated head down in isolation, this imperative to consider how we can come up with ideas jointly and more effectively efficiently, so that’s very key. Innovation, perhaps not normally assigned to the sector, to the greatest extent but what new ways to deliver service, and I think that just given how we don’t have a ton of resources, again, with our whole local theme, we certainly can gain access to some intellectual properties nationally, so we have some good resources, we only have X amount of people, so how do we draw on for instance, the Smart Dolphins of the world, some of our clients and donor partners to perhaps find new ways. Technology being so critical. So I think innovation collaboration, absolutely key, continued efficiencies and this narrowing of the focus as we’ve done it, we’re still very much where we began this podcast with community good, it’s a very broad term. But at the same time, there’s so much need out there, so how do we do our best to make that impact that makes the difference on the most lives in the most meaningful way, which may sound a little bit generic, but it’s taken a different approach to certainly on our end, more focused, while very much staying with the community partners we’ve had, and how do we encourage those community partners to take a different position to bring their programs forth. It won’t necessarily be in you give me a three-year commitment, just to help pay the bills, which is a critical piece, but how do we do it differently? How do we take that process check to really improve? So it’s going be tough. Certainly, you refer to the super exciting news of a vaccine on the immediate horizon, but it’s going to take time and there’s going to be some shift changes in behavior, and this pandemic has certainly compounded the need in all the areas we work with, in whether it’s isolation, mental health, I can’t think of too many where we’ve said, “well, we’ve seen some kind of limited or marked improvement.” The need is there.
Dave: Early on in the podcast, you had alluded to a misunderstanding of the brand in the community, and hopefully we cleared some of that up today and got a better sense. I certainly learned a lot, and so I appreciate that. Is there anything else that you’d want to, clear up or educate the community on in terms of what your brand is about?
Mark: Yeah, the brand really is about…We envision it as co-creating. So yes, in trust in us. And while we pride ourselves, if I could be the less and humble with our community issues expertise, we sure don’t have all the answers, we invite people who say, this is an area that seems to have great need. What can you do? So, it really is part of what we’re bringing forth more recently, and that is what is your organization’s social responsibility statement, how can we tailor specific initiatives to support that passion project? So it is all about local, it’s all about working together to better understand individuals and workplaces and bringing that expertise. I guess in the technology terms, were a little bit of the contact experts, sort of that open source piece, and then it’s, how do we best parlay that in other areas, continue to work on an easier way to give, better ways to understand.
I’d like to think that through the pandemic, our profile has emerged somewhat in terms of again, I think people to the earlier question day, people knew of the brand, but not necessarily the kind of business we’re dealing and the impact we’re making.
Paul: Well, I know… One of the things with the United Way is you don’t have to look too far to find somebody that’s been touched by some initiative or some partner that has worked with the United Way in the community. And so it’s really incredible, just the impact that you guys have had in our community over the years, and obviously 2020 being an especially difficult year, so many people I think really want to give, but really don’t know how or where they should prioritize, and so it’s been a really great Mark that you’ve been able to join us today and hopefully we’ve educated some people, obviously, everybody that wants to give out there, I should give to those cases that they feel passionately about, but if they want to give in a more general way locally, the United Way is obviously a great option as well. And so on behalf of the community, I guess, thank you for the incredible work that you guys continue to do, and I really appreciate you being on the podcast today and sharing with us as well, so thank you.
Mark: Well, thank you very much, Paul. Again, the entire team at Smart Dolphins for this kind of forum. I certainly want to applaud our team here, it’s not a huge one, for the dedicated work day in, day out, and many volunteers and donors who support us from our board to various organizations. But again, it’s with community partners like this, the opportunity to tell the story, to make the appeal that really is a difference maker. So again, my sincere thanks.
Dave: Thank you Mark.
Paul: You’ve been listening to Island Thrive. Thanks, Dave.
Dave: Thanks Paul.
Paul: And we’ll see everybody again next episode. Thanks.