The Business Approach to Giving

Wendy MeDermott2

Introducing Wendy McDermott and The United Way of Greater Saint John


We all know that there are tremendous social challenges in our communities no matter where you come from. For those of us who seek to be change-makers, it is often be difficult to sift through all of our giving opportunities to see where our greatest impact would be. This challenge can be even more difficult if you are a non-profit organization who funds other non-profits.

Wendy McDermott is the executive director of the United Way in Greater Saint John. When she took her post a few years ago, the United Way was going through some changes to make their charity more impactful. Wendy was instrumental in shaking up the United Way so that it was more results driven and donation friendly. She did this by making organizations seeking United Way funding to take a business approach. Each organization would have to write a “business plan” outlining their challenge, the solution, its value proposition, and the risks associated. Those chosen for funding would then need to have deliverable results within 12 months to show exactly how the funding helped the greater community. The United way outlined a few key challenge targets they wished to tackle including (but not limited to) literacy, and independence for women affected by domestic violence. The results have been astounding both from an impact standpoint, and from increased contributions.

Hear about how a business approach to giving can help your community in this 100th episode of the Boiling Point.


In this episode

  • We hear how Wendy was chosen to lead the Greater Saint John United Way.
  • Wendy discusses how everyone knows about the United Way, but very few know what it does and how she went about changing that.
  • She discusses how a business approach to giving has helped the United Way and its community.
  • We discuss how there is no “silver bullet” in fighting poverty.
  • Wendy tells us about specific results with women who left domestic violence to seek independence.
  • We discuss the “wealth advisor” model in relation to non-profit giving.
  • Wendy tells us how the new model can be a double-edged sword, as results don’t necessarily covey the emotional side of giving.
  • Greg shares a story he came across when filming vignettes for the United Way.
  • Greg, Dave, and Wendy believe you should give as much thought and attention to your charitable giving as you would your stock portfolio.