United Way’s work is comprehensive. To meet urgent needs and lead systemic change on a wide array of social issues, we use everything we have, taking action on no less than five fronts. To learn more, click each of the tabs below.


This is where United Way got its start, using our grantmaking expertise, deep knowledge of issues, neighbourhoods and social service infrastructure to make investments where they can have the greatest impact.

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Emergency funding

For 2021/2022, like the year before, supporting a strong social safety net has been crucial and challenging, given the strain of the ongoing pandemic on resources and frontline staff — a demand that is only likely to grow. So, included in the core funding of $5.8 million a month that fuels a 300-strong agency network — flexible funding for which agency partners determine the best use — we stepped up with emergency funds:

$1.2 million in COVID Relief Grants which supported over 125 programs. Focused on basic needs from food and hygiene to mental health and children's programming, these projects — many culturally specific — allocated resources to the people and places in Peel, Toronto and York Region in greatest need.

Program funding

Across the board, we’ve taken what we’ve learned about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 plus poverty and evolved our grantmaking in ways large and small: deeper outreach and upstream engagement; low-barrier applications and trusteeships to support smaller community-specific applications. This all makes for a stronger-than-ever focus on Indigenous, Black and racialized communities and support for those equity-deserving groups and underserved neighbourhoods for whom change has been so long coming.

Our new three-year Community Program Grants — a total of $26 million going to almost 300 programs — will empower communities to lead local solutions across Peel, Toronto and York Region. Targeting 13 core issue areas — from early learning and living independently to gender-based, intimate partner and family violence — they complement our responsive emergency grants and five-year anchor funding. Together, these streams make up an intentional funding approach to address varied needs and service gaps across our region.

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Relationships are another key element of how we work. Simply put, our partnerships make everything we do better: smarter, stronger and more impactful.

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We work with every level of government to serve our communities. Over the course of the pandemic that’s included being the go-to for getting emergency federal dollars out the door and working in tandem with local authorities to overcome challenges and streamline support

People experiencing homelessness have faced even greater difficulties accessing the most basic of necessities, from safe shelter and nutritious food to hygiene and mental health services. In York Region, United Way has ensured that federal Reaching Home funding — both core and emergency — makes it to the frontline supports that people depend on.

Visionary philanthropists

Civic leaders committed to sharing their resources to support our communities partner with us to shift the paradigm from charitable contribution to next-level systems change and social justice.

The Allan Slaight Seniors Fund continues to break new ground in connecting seniors to vital community supports. And last year the Barrett Family Foundation established the Barrett Building Opportunities Greater Toronto Fund, championing innovative new grants to enhance organizations led by, focused on and serving Indigenous peoples and equity-deserving groups impacted by poverty, systemic discrimination and long-standing cycles of oppression.

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“We hired our new Operations Manager... As a result of the Reconciliation and Equity Organizational Infrastructure Grant, we were in a position to increase the salary to a level that would allow her to accept the offer—without it we would have been unable to do so. Already, [this grant] is making a difference. Thanks!”

Kemi Jacobs,
Executive Director at Delta Family Resource Centre

Cross-sector Innovator

Our long-time engagement in community building puts us in a unique and trusted position. This enables us to bring diverse parties and perspectives together to drive strategic initiatives and multi-sectoral solutions.

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Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity

Starting with local residents, and bringing community agencies, corporate Canada, and municipal government to the table, this change-from-the-ground-up project is mapping out new opportunities in Scarborough’s Greater Golden Mile as it undergoes revitalization. Five forward-thinking pilots are changing the way we do business AND build community. Headlined by the community-owned Aecon-Golden Mile Joint Venture, which flows 51% of the profits into the neighbourhood and trains residents in the trades and associated roles, ILEO is working with some of the biggest names in the sector, like Kilmer Group and EllisDon. So far, the initiative has employed close to 50 Greater Golden Mile residents. A corporate charter, commitment to social procurement and tailored supports for aspiring entrepreneurs are all part of the mix, which makes this approach anything but business as usual — and ripe for replication in communities elsewhere.

Researcher & Advocate

At United Way we know that real and lasting change for our community can only come at a systems level. So, we invest in research to learn, share and inform progressive policy and legislation. And we use our platform to amplify calls for change.

United Way Greater Toronto Vertical Legacy report cover

Vertical Legacy: The Case for Revitalizing the GTA’s Aging Rental Tower Communities

A project in collaboration with the University of Toronto’s Neighborhood Change Research Partnership and the Tower Renewal Partnership, this follow-up to our noteworthy Vertical Poverty report, published a decade ago, shows that aging high-rise rental towers are in jeopardy. While still comparatively affordable, these purpose-built pre-1985 “legacy” rental towers are deteriorating and increasingly unsuitable, posing health and safety concerns for residents. Grappling with rising costs amidst stagnating incomes, a growing number of high-rise households — mostly racialized and low-to-moderate-income — are also finding them increasingly unaffordable and facing housing insecurity. Recommendations focus on how to work across sectors and with low-income rental tower residents: by strengthening the social safety net and rent control regulations; encouraging tower owners to maintain good repair and affordability; and improving social infrastructure, services and opportunities for the people and neighbourhoods that call these towers home.


Joining forces to shape public policy

We’re working closely with partners to identify opportunities to address urgent needs and much-needed long-term change on the issues that deeply affect our region:

Open Letter

To ensure that affordable housing made it on the agenda of the 2021 provincial-municipal housing summit, we convened more than 75 sector partners — Ontario United Ways and anti-poverty and housing organizations and networks — to write an Open Letter. Following the Summit, the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force released its report, including recommendations for all levels of government, a number in keeping with the 10 outlined in our submission, particularly with reference to investment and the need for a new definition of ‘affordability.’


After community consultations with United Way Greater Toronto anchor agencies and network, we partnered with Ontario for All to facilitate policy roundtable discussions with over 550 participants representing 300 nonprofits to develop shared priorities for action on decent jobs, income security, housing, support for the community services sector and more.


Everything we do — as funder, partner, cross-sector innovator, researcher and advocate — is just not possible without the support of donors. Harnessing the resources of our community — individual and corporate — is integral to our work. Successfully generating that outpouring of care and capital annually is vital — and an awesome responsibility for a brigade of tireless volunteers. This year, Campaign Chair Dale Storey, ably supported by Major Individual Gift Campaign Chair Norrie Campbell, led a fantastic campaign, one that truly exemplified the engagement and generosity of all of you:

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First-time gifts from new corporate partners including Cognizant and Amazon.

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GetUP go-getters took up the virtual physical challenge, running, walking, cycling for 280 minutes or more and raising over $600,000 to fuel United Way’s work — with terrific support from KPMG.

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From 407 ETR, a $1.4-million gift to inspire new donors at the Leadership level (gifts of $1,200+).

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Major Individual Gift match of up to $1 million from Bob Dorrance and Gail Drummond.

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A $1-million commitment from the Goldberg Family Foundation that surpassed all expectations to inspire $1.7 million in online giving.

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With 90% of funds raised, unrestricted — and donors entrusting decision-making around priorities for their philanthropy to United Way and community — we met an important target on our journey to becoming a more equitable fundraiser.

“The pandemic has truly impacted our neighbours, colleagues and families like never before. We’re seeing so many people impacted by job loss, illness, mental health struggles. This is why we need to do more to ensure United Way’s network of agencies is there for everyone who needs help during this pandemic and beyond. The hard work of building our community’s collective recovery—belongs to each of us.”

Dale Storey,
2021 United Way Community Campaign Chair
“You can find charities that are working to solve a health issue or an education issue or an arts issue, but United Way is working on community issues with a strong strategic vision.”

Gail Drummond and Bob Dorrance,
United Way donors

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