Why we partner with corporations

We believe that corporate-charity partnerships can positively help influence both the for-profit and non-profit sectors to achieve greater social good and change the world. Through our corporate partnerships, we have been able to achieve a remarkable rate of financial efficiency and maximize the delivery of our social programs and initiatives through innovation and scaling to uplift lives at home and around the world. At the heart of our partnership philosophy is the UN Sustainable Development Goal #17: Multi-Stakeholder Partnership and the belief that businesses have an essential role in supporting social causes and solutions.

Engaging corporate partners to support programming, bring attention to causes, and mobilize the community is a backbone of the charitable sector, and our engagement of corporate partners is similar to that of other charitable organizations (e.g. CIBC Run for the Cure, Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, BMO’s Walk so Kids Can Talk etc.).

Corporate partners are important to furthering our mission, and we engage corporations in order to:

  1. Ensure financial efficiencies. Corporate partners assist with a diversity of resources, including a robust network of active volunteers for programs. This ensures our financial efficiencies, such as WE Charity achieving an administration rate of less than 10% – resulting in over 90% on average of every dollar donated allocate directly to youth-serving programs.
  2. Secure sustainable funding and deliver long-term system-change programs. WE Charity relies on a diversified funding base including corporations, foundation, government, and individuals. This allows us to plan for long-term sustainable development programs globally, with an average of 4 to 7 years of development programs per WE Village region to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Domestically, WE Charity is able to plan in 5+ funding year cycles with committed corporate partners to invest in educational program development that delivers high-value system-level programs, such as the development of Advanced Placement with WE Service – the ground-breaking program with the College Board celebrated for integrating service learning into college-recognized AP classes.
  3. Ensure accessibility to our programs. We are proud that our domestic programs are available free of charge to youth and families, thanks to sponsorship by corporate and foundation partners. In the US, an average of 63% of students engaged in WE Schools are from Title I eligible (free or reduced lunch) schools. We believe that world-class service learning and educational resources are not just a privilege of the few but should be available to all young people excited to make a difference.
  4. Engage companies in sustainable development. Through our partnerships we’re able to work in constructive dialogue with corporations to influence partners’ development of a ‘shared value’ framework. This includes encouraging companies to engage their employees, consumer base, and supply chain in pro-social actions, volunteerism and campaigns that better the world. Aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goal #17, it is critical that non-profits engage with corporations in partnership to leverage all leavers of social impact.

“We can’t just depend on governments or nonprofits to fix the world. Businesses can and should help too. Companies are made up of people just like you. And they want to make a positive difference in the world. If we all use the resources around us, we can make the world a better place.”
—Tom Wilson, Allstate CEO and 2017 Chairman, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Here’s a look at how and why we place an emphasis on corporate partnerships:

Leveraging the power of big companies to do good:

We strongly believe that companies can be one of the greatest forces for social impact because they have the resources to scale and cause change on a massive level. Their reach and power exceeds what charities could ever attain on their own. With their vast resources and networks, companies have an unparalleled ability to lead and deliver change. When combined with the grassroots development expertise of charities, such joint ventures can be one of the greatest forces in the modern economy to achieve significant social impacts.

Hosting WE Day in three continents:

Our generous partners cover the costs of WE Day, which includes production costs. General funds donated to WE Charity do not fund WE Day, which is only funded by specific corporate partners and patrons.

Corporate sponsors also help us expand WE Day and WE Schools into areas where we would not otherwise have the resources to deliver programs. We wouldn’t have WE Day Illinois, for instance, without Allstate footing the bill to bring schools, especially inner city schools, to the event.

Some 63% of the U.S. schools that run our programs are Title 1 eligible—meaning students receive free or reduced-cost lunch. Canada and the UK don’t have such a classification, but we believe demographics are similar. While we serve all schools, the vast majority are public schools, and many are in challenged regions. If WE Day wasn’t free, many students wouldn’t be able to participate. Service shouldn’t be a privilege of wealth.

Our corporate and foundation partners help us with volunteers—each WE Day requires as many as 1,000 volunteers, who generously give of their time to ensure the event runs smoothly and kids are always kept safe

“In order to do well in business, we must do good in the communities where we live, work and serve as citizens.”
—Darren Entwistle, President and CEO, TELUS

In-kind donations:

WE Charity receives approximately one eighth of our consolidated budget in the form of in-kind goods and supplies. The vast majority of the in-kind goods are for our domestic WE Day activities as well as health and school supplies for our international WE Villages development model. This generous in-kind support offsets our budget costs, ensuring every dollar donated can go further and have even more of an impact.

Examples of WE’s in-kind corporate partner contributions:

  • Microsoft provides us with free hardware and software
  • TELUS provides free phones and telecommunications services
  • International courier DHL Express offers free shipping for our Artisans products—from Africa and Ecuador
  • WestJet provides free flights for kids and staff to attend WE Day events
  • KPMG provides pro bono business advisory services and financial strategy
  • Freshii provides our staff free healthy meals at events and offsite gatherings
  • Goodlife provides our staff free gym memberships to keep people feeling and performing well

“We have made a longstanding commitment to invest in and support youth—not only for their own benefit, but for the collective benefit of our local communities and the world.”
—Dave McKay, President and CEO of RBC

Making companies more active corporate citizens:

In accordance with the UN SDG #17, WE Charity believes that corporations have a fundamental responsibility to create a more just, human, and equitable world. WE Charity has always followed a standard partnership assessment (“vetting process”) that was established by senior leadership in collaboration with WE Charity’s Board of Directors.

Our partnership assessment process has consistently weighed a variety of key factors including the mission/vision of the organization, alignment of values, corporate social responsibility efforts, brand reputation, relevance of causes supported by proposed partner with young people and previous charitable affiliations and sound practices (environmental, community relations and labour).

While we benefit from the knowledge of our partners’ business expertise and in-kind support, WE Charity’s financial operations and decisions are determined exclusively by the executive leadership in consultation with the Board of Directors.

Through our corporate partnerships, we achieve a remarkable rate of financial efficiency and maximize the delivery of our social programs and initiatives. We are grateful to our partners and proud of what we have achieved together.

“Oprah [Winfrey] first taught us the power of cross-sector partnerships. Using the best elements of purpose and profit from both camps, it’s a lesson we have since used to develop many successful inter-sector marriages, including with KPMG, Microsoft, Allstate, and Virgin Atlantic. Through these collaborations, we created massive impact on pressing social causes, while also helping our corporate partners achieve their business objectives.”
—Excerpt from WEcomony

“We want youth to understand their power to vote for the good companies with their spending habits. We imagine a future in which logos and marketing gimmicks lose status while a robust social mission becomes the new measure of brand credibility. Just like a company’s Super Bowl commercial becomes watercooler talk in the days after the game, we want people to be buzzing about companies that are authentically doing good. We want teens to consider the cause and product impact, rather than the traditional advertisement, when buying clothes or coffee or a tablet. With the scale of WE Day—the 2015 broadcasts attracted 8.9 million viewers—we are making great progress to that end.”
—Excerpt from WEcomony

“Charities can benefit from corporate partnerships that will help scale social change. But they need to carefully avoid companies that will negatively impact their mission. Each charity establishes its own protocol for vetting corporate– charity partnerships. As many will say, it’s neither an art, nor a science. For example, some companies have steady track records of socially responsible action, but almost every company could be doing more. How much is enough? Other companies have failed in the past on ethics, but subsequently improved their practices. How long do charities keep them on the blacklist? We certainly don’t have all the answers for a kaleidoscope of charities, each with its own unique causes and stakeholder groups. But in case our methods are helpful to some, here’s a look at the three lenses we applied to designing our partnership vetting system. Applying such lenses might help other charities develop their own criteria. Companies should also consider how their practices affect their chance at a beneficial purpose partnership. First, we looked at charities that work with similar stakeholders, youth and families, to determine how they vet and establish partnerships with companies. Craig is a former member of the Scouts Canada Board of Directors, and we borrowed heavily from their vetting guidelines. For example, there’s zero chance you’ll see a tobacco sponsor anywhere near our WE Day stage. Second, we looked to the best practices of socially responsible businesses. ME to WE, our social enterprise, went in the running to become a B Corp, a designation granted by the third-party certification system B Lab, which puts companies through rigorous testing on environmental impact, worker well-being, and ethical sourcing. ME to WE excelled in these standards and is now a certified B Corp. The insider insight and learnings gained through the certification process informed our own analysis of potential corporate partners. Finally, we relied heavily on our WE Charity Board of Directors for their expertise. In fact, we still bring them case questions. Our Board has extensive experience in nonprofit governance, ethics, education, child and youth protection, and other related fields.
Depending on your cause, you may want to seek specific topic experts. Our research systems and Board assist in weeding out inauthentic companies. We have declined many corporate offers in the past, and we know other charities have, too. We believe in challenging the corporate sector to be better. In our early days we held our share of protest signs and wrote petitions and campaign letters, lobbying for higher standards in business. We strongly believe that there is still a role for this type of pressure. Likewise, we should also reward companies and social enterprises seeking to do good: the ones that actively create well-paying jobs, promote social progress, and give back to communities. We believe that the best corporate–charity partnerships will help influence both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors to achieve greater social good.”

—Excerpt from WEcomony