Making an impact

February 3, 2017
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When I look back on 2016, I’m really proud of all the great things that First West and our employees have done in our communities.

Last year was a big one. We took major strides in reducing hunger particularly among vulnerable children and families. A notable milestone was the launch of The Full Cupboard, our signature cause, to communities in Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands. First West Credit Union indirectly helps all of B.C.’s 99 food banks through our ongoing partnership with Food Banks B.C., but launching the Full Cupboard in our Island Savings region sees us now directly partnering with one third of B.C.’s food banks.

Equally significant for me this year was our April celebration of Feed the Valley, our complementary signature cause program in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson Valleys. Feed the Valley eclipsed the milestone of $1 million raised to fight hunger since first launching in 2010, well ahead of everyone’s expectations. Across all of First West’s regions, we raised an impressive $268,484 for food banks last year, which equates to 805,452 meals served. It was no small feat, made possible through dedicated efforts from our employees, members and community partners.

The changing face of corporate charitable giving

There were some interesting trends I saw beginning to emerge in 2016, which will undoubtedly impact the future of community investment strategies for all types of organizations. As a whole, we’re beginning to see a narrowing in focus; impact areas and social causes are becoming more intricately linked to exclusive funding for specific purposes, and funders are seeking higher engagement opportunities that directly link to business strategies. At First West, the relationships we build with our community partners deepen our understanding of their needs and allow us to co-create programming that benefits both the community and our business. Strong relationships take time to develop and nurture, but when they’re done right, we create great things together.

Looking forward to 2017: #SimpleGenerosity, Lead Well, Volinspire and more

With our eyes on the year ahead, we’re eagerly anticipating a number of activities. The first is our #SimpleGenerosity program, a major year-long campaign to support Canada’s 150th anniversary and deserving charitable organizations across our province. This innovative program celebrates local leaders—individuals like Kristy Martin Hale and Randy Hunt or groups of people like the Re/Max 2000 Realty crew who give their time, talent and hard-earned money to non-profit organizations doing good in the community—and empowers them to make a $1,500 donation, courtesy of First West, to the non-profit organization of their choice.

Simple Generosity is inspired by First West’s social vision, Lead Well. Launched in January 2016, Lead Well is our commitment to fostering employee engagement and capacity building in the social sector through knowledge and skills-based volunteerism.

But that’s not all! Soon we’ll be launching a new eight-part eLearning program on board readiness for First West employees. We’ll be expanding on the financial literacy program, CANsave, geared towards elementary school-aged children. We’re continuing our sponsorship of 14 school districts across the province through our PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs program. And we’re kicking everything off with the third cohort of training for local community leaders through the Envision Financial Community Leaders Igniting Change (CLIC) program, a partnership with Simon Fraser University.

Underpinning all our leadership programming is Volinspire—a new social technology platform that connects communities, volunteers and businesses through skills-based volunteerism. First West is proud to be the first community partner to join Volinspire in delivering cutting-edge technology with a purpose to drive social change. Now that's exciting.

With so much “good” happening here, you can see why I’m filled with pride.

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