United Way CEO: ‘When we come together, we can do amazing things to improve our communities’
Brian A. Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide, discusses partnering with and mobilizing the caring power of communities and organizations like Wells Fargo to advance the common good.
Scanning the news every morning these days presents a grim reminder of the state of the world. Whether it’s bigotry, violence, or the challenges facing hardworking families in struggling neighborhoods, it can feel like today’s problems are too big to tackle.
And while it’s true that none of us can do it alone — no organization, sector, or individual can solve all the world’s problems — I’m more convinced today than ever before that partnership can fuel real, lasting change. When we come together, we can do amazing things to improve our communities.
United Way has amazing partners. Across the world, approximately 60,000 companies — including more than half of the Fortune 500 — work with us to improve the lives of 61 million people. All told, 2.9 million people volunteer through United Way to improve their communities, while 8.3 million more support solutions through charitable contributions.
One of our deepest relationships is with Wells Fargo because we both believe in “shared value,” and we work hard to back up those beliefs with collective action. The central premise of shared value is that a company’s competitiveness is directly linked to the health of its communities. That’s how United Way seeks to make the biggest impact, and it’s where Wells Fargo has invested deeply and thoughtfully as well.
Together, we are creating economic value — for the entire community — that also adds social value.
Making this kind of lasting change is no easy feat — and there is no single solution. Need looks different in every community: What it takes to help Flint, Michigan, tackle its problems is very different from what it takes in Jacksonville, Florida, or Des Moines, Iowa.
That’s why it’s important for people from all sectors and all walks of life to work together to understand local problems, then help shape and bring to life local solutions. In most cases, local problems cannot be solved from afar.
To that end, I’m encouraged that almost 100 Wells Fargo leaders currently serve on local United Way boards in 31 states, including on United Way Worldwide’s board. The bank has also invested $17 million to help United Way boost financial stability.
One result of this investment is the development of “one stop” financial capability centers that help people learn how to how to save, manage their assets and debt, build credit, and more. Volunteers and paid staff work one-on-one with folks as financial coaches, helping more than 42,000 low- and moderate-income families gain footing on more solid financial ground.
But it’s the individual stories of success that are the most important result of our partnership.
Take, for example, Maria, who reached out to United Way of the San Francisco Bay Area for help finding a job. She soon discovered she could also get assistance managing her finances. A financial counselor in a California “one stop” financial capability center helped Maria dig out from a crushing amount of debt.
“I used to have 10 credit cards,” she said. But after working with her financial counselor, Maria learned how to better manage money, create savings, and cut her debt by half in just one year. The experience created new economic opportunity for her. “It’s a relief because I know I can keep going,” she said.
All of us can make a difference in someone’s life through volunteering and giving. Person by person, neighborhood by neighborhood, we can tackle society’s toughest problems — if we do it in partnership.
I encourage you to reach out to your local United Way today — and get involved in making your community a better place.
In 2017, Wells Fargo and United Way helped:
- 102,047 children get quality early education
- 706,020 youth get academic enrichment outside school
- 291,326 people get job training
- 490,000 people learn about healthy food and nutrition or take part in physical activity programs