By Chris Preston, Chief Development Officer, United Way of Metro Chicago
United Way is in my blood. For over 20 years, I’ve dedicated both my professional career and personal giving to United Way. It is not only my employer of choice, but it truly is my mission of choice. Why? Because I believe in the power of bringing people and institutions together to solve problems. Earlier this year, when I was offered the opportunity to lead resource development at United Way of Metro Chicago and be a part of a team driving transformational change in neighborhoods across the region, of course I said yes.
United Way’s legacy is rooted in employee giving. Our internal campaign is an opportunity for the United Way team to lead by example, to walk the talk that we ask of our corporate partners each year as they lead their own employee giving campaigns.
As we kicked off our internal campaign during the first week of November, we asked our team at United Way of Metro Chicago to trust me, as their new chief development officer. We asked them to trust each other and our team as we came together as colleagues to celebrate our work and partnerships in community.
We have made so much progress throughout the Chicago region: 10 years of our Neighborhood Network Initiative and place-based, community-led transformation. The launch of the United Neighborhoods Equity Fund, our philanthropic commitment to supporting small, local BIPOC-led nonprofits. The success of the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, investing more than $35 million in more than 400 agencies to increase access to emergency food and basic supplies. The launch of Chicago Connected, closing the digital divide by providing free high-speed internet to hundreds of thousands of students. And so much more.
As we reflect on this progress, we encouraged our team to keep the momentum going. To think big and drive change in every aspect of our work. Our 2022 internal campaign far exceeded our goal, but the amount raised is secondary to the fact that 100% of our colleagues participated—as they do every year.
As NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar said, “One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” Pooling our resources is what United Way is all about, and when we come together, we can help build stronger, more equitable communities and see real long-term change.
As we enter this season of giving and gratitude, I couldn’t feel more thankful for the direction my life has taken the past year. My love for the Chicago region grows each day. I feel so lucky and honored to do this work, to get to wake up each day and get after it to help mobilize the caring power of communities.
None of this would be possible without my United Way family—my colleagues in Chicago and across the across the country, plus our business, government, philanthropic, individual, and community leaders who are working together to see that every person’s basic needs are met, our neighborhoods can thrive, and our region prospers.
Thank you for being a part of this family. Thank you for giving your time and resources. Thank you for thinking big and driving change in your community. Together, united, we can accomplish so much. That’s the power of United Way.
I invite you to join me in making a gift and making a difference in lives of our neighbors across the region. Just as we showed with our internal campaign, when we all come together, our individual gifts, no matter the amount, can truly drive change.