Oct 04, 2011 • By

The impact of United Way

General Mills employees work hand-in-hand in the communities where we live and work, with organizations and agencies that have a relationship with United Way.

We’ve been a longtime partner with United Way. So our teamwork is as much a part of our history as it is theirs.

Right now, at our locations in Minnesota, we’re in the midst of our annual giving campaign to help Greater Twin Cities United Way meet its annual fundraising goal. And, we plan to maintain our leadership role as the largest contributor to our local United Way for the 13th consecutive year. Employees at our other locations across the U.S. and Canada also are holding campaigns this fall.

Departments and divisions across the company are holding special events as part of our annual General Mills United Way campaign. From a challenge to fill large jars with pocket change to ice cream socials, employees are having fun in the name of the company’s commitment to Nourishing Lives through United Way. Employees also are trying to take the campaign viral by posting stories on social networks about how they are impacting change through volunteerism and other community engagement.

The main message: donations made by employees – either as deductions from our paychecks or as one-time gifts – can go a long way, because they are matched dollar-for-dollar by the General Mills Foundation.

A week ago, I had a chance to ridealong on a tour organized for new employees, to show them an agency that benefits from United Way.

I was part of a group that toured the new location for Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners (ICOP) in Plymouth, Minn., which provides a number of services to families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet. Among other things, we saw its food shelf and a community store.

Learning about what ICOP does every day really made me appreciate United Way’s reach and impact.

I talked about that afterward with Sarah Caruso, president and CEO of Greater Twin Cities United Way.

What does United Way focus on?

Caruso: We focus on helping those with the greatest need in the community. We’re really helping people living at or near poverty, so we’re very much part of the safety net in our community. In addition to being the safety net, we’re also trying to build pathways out of poverty particularly through job training and education.

How important are the workplace campaigns to the effectiveness of United Way, like what’s under way at General Mills?

Caruso: The workplace campaign is the heart of United Way. Every year, almost 90 percent of our money is from the workplace campaign. We are very fortunate in the Twin Cities to have so many companies and so many employees who are willing to be donors to United Way. We have 135,000 donor companies in the Twin Cities community.

The year-over-year loyalty and commitment from employees gives us the ability to make large three-year grants to high-quality organizations. And in almost every case, our grants are the largest and most stable source of funding for the agencies that we pick.

So the strength of the workplace campaign enables us to make this significant investment in agencies and programs that are the best quality in the Twin Cities.

While Caruso now leads Greater Twin Cities United Way, she has a unique perspective on General Mills and United Way. She worked at General Mills for 12 years, in a variety of product development roles within the company.

Are you involved in a workplace campaign to help United Way in your community?

Tell us about it by posting a comment below.