Three ways United Way strengthens the social sector - United Way Alberta Capital Region

Three ways United Way strengthens the social sector

January 6, 2023


The affordability crisis is putting pressure on non-profits too.
United Way is collaborating with frontline agencies, all levels of government, and passionate changemakers
to build a stronger social sector.


When we talk about how times are tough, our mind often goes to individuals who are making hard decisions, every day, to make ends meet.

The last few years have shown how just one bump in the road – job loss, illness, learning disruptions – can cause an individual or family to fall on tough times. And we’ve seen just how tough it can be to break out of poverty when faced with systemic barriers.

In the face of these challenges, non-profits and social sector staff are there for people when they need it the most. They consistently roll up their sleeves to make this region a better place. They innovate to engage with our communities, deliver programs and services in new ways, and support program participants so they can continue to be successful.

But non-profits are also affected by inflation, the affordability crisis, and the ongoing pressures of the pandemic. Staff are feeling the pressure of higher food, gas, insurance, and utility prices in the delivery of their community services.
As first responders who are on the front lines, social sector staff have been experiencing a tremendous amount of stress, trauma, and burnout — which is now leading to turnover and capacity issues as a result.

United Way works with our sector partners to address their needs and to ease that burden.

United Way provides smaller front-line charities critical funding and backbone supports, which enables them to focus on delivering much needed programs in the region.

And by bringing agencies and organizations together, we can share and learn from one another to improve practice and better support our communities.

Here are just three of the many ways we’ll be collaborating with community members, local agency partners, and all levels of government to strengthen the social sector as we head into 2023.


1.  The Community Services Recovery Fund

How it helps:

Supports non-profits in the social, arts, culture, sports, and other sectors adapt their services based on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funded by the Government of Canada, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region is proud to be taking part in the rollout of the new Community Services Recovery Fund. This collaboration between United Way Centraide Canada, Canadian Red Cross, and Community Foundations of Canada provides funding to Community Service Organizations, including non-profit organizations, Indigenous Governing Bodies, and Registered Charities located across Canada.

The Community Services Recovery Fund responds to what charities and non-profits need right now and supports organizations as they adapt to the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region will be administering the Investing in Program and Service Innovation and Redesign stream of the fund to community service organizations – including those in the social, arts, culture, sports, and other sectors – in the Capital Region and Northern Alberta.

Funding will support one-time projects primarily focused on program and service innovation and redesign using information gained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Government investments in 211 Alberta

How it helps: An investment in critical social infrastructure, funding will increase 211’s capacity to connect Albertans to mental health and addictions resources and gender-based violence support.

Navigating the vast system of social supports can be overwhelming at the best of times, but it’s even harder to know which support is the right one in a moment of crisis.

211 Alberta is an initiative of United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, in partnership with Canadian Mental Health Association-Edmonton and Distress Centre Calgary, that helps Albertans find the right resource or service for whatever issue they need help with, at any time.

United Way recently received funding from the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada to improve service co-ordination with the wrap-around supports that gender-based violence survivors need, such as counselling, health care, and legal services, among many others.

211 Alberta will work with sector leaders to identify gaps and explore opportunities to improve the support navigation process. Together, we can make asking for help easier for those experiencing gender-based violence.

The Government of Alberta also recently invested in 211 Alberta’s capacity when it comes to helping people find resources on addictions and mental health support.

211 Alberta is a critical service that helps all Albertans access social sector supports they need, when and where they need it. This United Way initiative has never been more essential than right now, and this increased funding will help us show more Albertans where they can turn for help. 211 is an easy, barrier-free, three-digit entry point to get help and support, available 24/7, across Alberta.

3. Common Outcomes Initiative

How it helps: Better information supports agencies to make a bigger impact.

United Way of the Alberta Capital Region and Edmonton Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), along with the agencies they fund, collaborated to develop the Common Outcomes Initiative (COI).

Program evaluation is an important part of service delivery. By examining and understanding a program’s impact and participants’ experiences, the program can continually be adjusted and improved to better meet community members’ needs, in turn having a stronger impact in the community.

The initiative provides learning opportunities for community agencies in data collection and evaluation, as well as facilitates networking and collaboration to support agencies to learn from each others’ experiences and build on each others’ work.

The initiative also provides an annual snapshot of the work happening in the social services sector and of the pressing needs in the community. The reporting that results from this collaborative effort offers a birds-eye view of the work happening in the sector, the difference it makes in people’s lives, and where the greatest pressures or gaps are.

The most recent COI report indicates that community needs are escalating, and that the complexity of need is also increasing. Overall, programs identified access to computers/technology, mental health and addictions, transportation, and housing supports as the top barriers participants faced in 2021 — emphasizing that barriers are not experienced in isolation but are often intertwined.

As we move forward and continue to learn from both our successes and our failures, this data and information will be key in identifying and reducing gaps and challenges to achieve the impact needed as a community.


At the core of United Way’s work in the community is our role as a connector and collaborator, bringing together agencies, governments, and passionate changemakers so we can make a bigger impact. By coming together, we can make lasting change, and build a better Alberta Capital Region where everyone can thrive.