TMMC Employees Dig Deep

Challenging themselves to raise more each year becomes “a bit of an obsession”

You know it’s a great relationship when your high-profile corporate partner makes it their business to lift your profile, raising as much money as they can for your worthy cause and then setting the bar higher every year. It’s how Toyota rolls. And that’s a very good thing indeed for the people of Waterloo Region.

Communications specialist Lynn Hall is United Way’s employee campaign manager at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC).

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Given that employees at Toyota’s Cambridge and Woodstock plants already dig deep for United Way — to the tune of more than $600,000 annually — it’s both an astonishing display of generosity and a testament to Toyota’s commitment to community that exceeding fundraising targets has become something of an obsession.

Lynn Hall, United Way’s employee campaign manager at TMMC, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Born and raised in Kitchener, Lynn has invested more than two decades of her professional life in Toyota. And as a communications specialist with a knack for rousing the troops, she’s proud to be a long-time champion for United Way.

“It’s something I’m absolutely passionate about and something I believe in,” Lynn says. “Over the years, I’ve become quite intimate with the details of how United Way runs and what its mandate is. When you believe in what you’re doing, it helps you do a better job. From year to year, it actually becomes a bit of an obsession on how to make it a better campaign than last year.”

On a personal level, Lynn considers herself lucky to have never needed United Way’s help. She certainly knows others who have, however — and the “lightbulb moment” that made her such a committed advocate was when she learned how United Way works to ensure there are no gaps or overlap in services.

“As a younger adult it never occurred to me there would be gaps, that there would be people who needed something and had no place to go,” she says. “As I got older and got more aware of the community, it was shocking to learn there might be people who had nowhere to go.”

These days, it’s part of Lynn’s job to manage the finances for Toyota’s entire philanthropy budget, so her role as a United Way advocate is one that comes naturally.

Like other large organizations, Toyota gets a consistent flood of requests for support from worthy causes all across Canada. Once a month, a committee reviews each request, and Toyota will typically make 40-50 donations to various community causes each month. On top of that, there are quarterly reviews for donations larger than $25,000.

Giving back to the community is more than just good corporate citizenship. It’s in Toyota’s DNA — and making sure local people benefit is a central focus of the company’s philanthropic strategy.

“Our entire philanthropy program is local,” Lynn says. “We choose to make our impact locally and I truly believe we are doing that. When you have a family, you want to make sure the community you live in is a safe and happy place for your family to grow. Giving locally is something I personally support; it’s also Toyota’s mandate.”

Engaging employees starts with an online pledge card on the internal website, which goes live during TMMC’s three-week fundraising campaign each fall.

Employees can opt in by signing on for payroll deduction for either a one-time gift or deduction per pay over the year. The amount is completely up to them, and there’s no pressure to contribute.

“We have a very, very charitable group of people working here and overall our Team Members are extremely generous,” Lynn says. “Some have a different passion, a different outlet for their charitable side, so our participation level is a little lower than I would like, but we’re still able to raise over $600,000 a year.”

Planning for the annual campaign typically starts in early spring with a meeting with the executive sponsors’ team, which is made up of the GM and VP of administration, among others. At that time, the vision for the campaign starts to crystalize. Lynn backs that up with a second committee made up of Team Members who are interested in being champions for United Way.

These champions typically have a personal interest in United Way and a desire to be involved in ways that involve the heart as much as the wallet.

It might mean being an ambassador out on the floor, answering questions about United Way and the programs it funds. It might mean holding an informal lunch-and-learn session, running a small fundraiser such as a bake sale, or getting involved in something bigger. In any given year, Team Members will take

part in up to 15 fundraisers of all sizes — some low-key and fun (raffles and the like) and others large and lucrative (a team-driven car show and golf tournaments).

“We’ve been doing this for a couple of years but we’re really starting to ramp up,” Lynn says. “Last year we had quite an engaged group and quite a few of them did fundraisers, with people going from break room to break room in their area and chatting about United Way. We’d get together every six weeks and talk about ideas. We’d think: ‘What prizes should we give away this year? What would engage people? What questions do people have out on the floor?’ Getting their input has been so helpful.

“When I have the chance to speak to people one on one, the conversations are just fabulous. It’s quite incredible to have them tell you their stories about how they have accessed a United Way-sponsored agency in some point in their life, hearing how they were able to beat the odds and move past those issues.

“Those conversations are what give me the energy to do this. We do a survey after the campaign is over and the positive comments really keep me motivated.”

What is an ECM (Employee Campaign Manager)?

As an Employee Campaign Manager (ECM), you are the critical link between United Way and the people you work with every day. In this volunteer position, you have the opportunity to make our community stronger by running a fundraising campaign and being the person to turn to for answering questions that others may have about United Way.

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