Local volunteer leader developed national youth strategy, published charity’s national history and oversaw first unified brand framework for United Ways and Centraides from coast to coast
Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ territories | June 18, 2021 (Victoria, BC): Ivan Watson has volunteered with United Way Southern Vancouver Island for the past 23 years—and has also left a lasting legacy in the national United Way Centraide movement. United Way Southern Vancouver Island (UWSVI) recognizes him as an Honourary Lifetime Member.
Examples of Watson’s invaluable contributions include demonstrating his ongoing commitment to building vibrant and inclusive communities by building a national model for youth engagement, helping to develop a unified brand framework for United Ways across the country, and writing and presenting the national history of the charity’s inspiring history for its centennial celebrations in 2019.
“Ivan’s passion for our community and for the United Way locally and nationally is so admirable. Assisting those who need it most comes naturally to Ivan and he always steps up and lends his support, setting an incredible example in the process. We thank him for his years of service,” said Mark Breslauer, CEO, UWSVI.
Watson has always been drawn to United Way’s spirit of collaboration and its powerful model as a catalyst for transformative change in communities across Canada. “I believe strongly in the essential values of unity and common cause which are reflected in the name United Way,” he explains. “This organization has played a leading role, year after year, decade after decade, in bringing people and partners together to address challenges common to us all; to build bridges to each other, and to provide a helping hand to the most vulnerable among us. That’s the magic of working in a “United Way”.
While volunteering locally with United Way Southern Vancouver Island, Watson co-founded a youth council that engaged young people and encouraged them to step up as community leaders and volunteers. The council created the first official youth board representative position among United Ways in Canada; launched the Youth Now conference, which ran for several years; and introduced the annual Youth Now Leadership Awards ceremony, among several other ‘for youth, by youth’ initiatives.
Soon, Watson’s work on youth engagement caught the attention of the organization’s national office. Watson was encouraged to develop a framework of best practices that would serve as a model for other United Ways across the country. Watson developed the national youth strategy while completing his master’s degree, where his thesis centred on youth engagement using United Way as a case study.
In 2019, United Way Centraide Canada celebrated its centennial. Deeply interested in the history of the organization, Watson spent months in local and national archives researching the history of the national movement and made presentations to local United Ways across the country. He was happy to discover Victoria’s original campaign brochure from 1937, tucked away in a dusty folder at the national archives in Ottawa, which proudly proclaimed United Way’s mission of extending a helping hand and working collaboratively to make a difference— the same values the organization holds today. He also learned about George Hart, a legendary charitable leader in Canada who served as United Way’s national president in the 1950s.
Watson met with George—who was 101 years old at the time—and interviewed him for an article that was published in the national e-newsletter. The piece created such a buzz that at their 2019 conference in Toronto, the national organization named their new top employee award after George Hart and Watson was there to present it to the inaugural recipient.
In addition to achieving these milestones, Watson was elected to United Way Centraide’s national board of directors (2009-15), where he chaired the National Strategic Marketing Committee which developed the first unified brand framework for United Way Centraide Canada, focusing on the three priority areas of children, community and poverty. Watson travelled across the country, holding meetings and focus groups with local United Ways and community partners, in order to develop the framework. He also chaired the UWSVI board of Directors for two years (2017-19).
Outside of volunteering with UWSVI, Watson works as a marketing and communications strategist at Camosun College. He is grateful that his employer has supported his United Way work and the time required to attend conferences, give presentations, meet with donors and community partners, organize events and chair board meetings. “I’m fortunate to work for an organization that recognizes the importance of voluntarism and giving back,” said Watson. Supporting and building a strong and inclusive community is a part of everything that Camosun does, and they’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with United Way since the beginning.”
Now an Honourary Lifetime Member of UWSVI, Watson has no plans to slow down his volunteer work. “United Way will always be close to my heart,” he said. “As one of the younger honourees, I hope to have a lifetime ahead of me to continue supporting and cheering on this wonderful organization.”
United Way Southern Vancouver Island
Director Marketing and Communications
About United Way of Southern Vancouver Island
United Way Southern Vancouver Island (formerly United Way Greater Victoria) is a trusted leader, influencer and catalyst for change. United, we accelerate change to improve the lives of our neighbours who need it most, making our local community stronger. We believe everyone in Greater Victoria, which includes 13 municipalities and 11 First Nations and the Southern Gulf Islands should have the opportunity to reach their potential. Our priorities are focused on assisting isolated seniors, families in need, diversity, equity and inclusion and individuals struggling with mental health challenges and/or addictions. Last fiscal year, United Way raised $6.2 million thanks to over 7,000 donors and 200 workplaces opening their offices to run employee giving programs. Through our community partnerships, over 125,000 people on Southern Vancouver Island received support. Show your local love today by making a gift to United Way at www.uwsvi.ca