By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, myWestman
NEEPAWA, Man. — Changes to Manitoba Hydro’s charitable giving policy are making it a little harder for employees to support charitable organizations close to home. Previously, employees could donate to charities directly through automatic payroll deductions, as well as to one of 14 local allocation funds, which was matched by the corporation and distributed by the local fund committee. Under the old giving program, smaller, Neepawa-based charities, such as the Neepawa United Way, Neepawa and Area Palliative Care and the Beautiful Plains Community Foundation received numerous donations from Hydro staff.
Last year, as employees looked of the list of eligible charities for 2017 payroll deductions, no Neepawa-based organizations were on the list. Additionally, the policy around the corporate match has been changed, cutting local charities out of this funding pool too.
Scott Powell, Manitoba Hydro’s manager of Public Affairs explained the changes, saying, “Earlier this year, we canvassed all of our employees and invited them to submit their choices as to where they’d like to direct the donations they pledge via payroll deduction.” He added, “While this is a change to what we did previously, the new program does reflect the comments we heard from our staff as well as our research of ‘best practices’ as it relates to corporate citizenship.”
The changes added some new charities and Powell explained that these organizations, which include the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, CancerCare Manitoba and the Canadian Mental Health Association, offer programming, support or treatment to all Manitobans.
As for the corporate match, Powell explained, “In order to reflect the provincial scope of our operations and provide our employees with an option as to where they’d like to direct Hydro’s corporate match, Manitoba Hydro identified six regional charities. These include: the United Way of Brandon; the Selkirk Community Foundation; the Dauphin Community Foundation; the Lac du Bonnet & District Charitable Foundation; The Thompson Community Foundation and the United Way of Winnipeg.”
For rural Hydro employees looking to support charities in their own communities, the problem is that none of these organizations provide direct programming or services to the Neepawa area. United Way Brandon CEO Cynamon Mychasiw confirmed that despite the closure of the Neepawa United Way earlier this year, they don’t have the resources to expand into the rural areas, including Neepawa.
While the Neepawa United Way folded in 2016, both Neepawa and Area Palliative Care and the Beautiful Plains Community Foundation (BPCF) both say they will notice the change. Through payroll deductions and corporate matching dollars, Manitoba Hydro employees have been very generous to local charities. They have been supporting Neepawa and Area Palliative Care since 2008 and have given $4,280 to the charity in the last five years.
Neepawa Palliative Care is entirely funded by local donations, receiving no money from provincial charities such as CancerCare Manitoba. Co-ordinator Mary Ellen Clarke said that for them, these donations represent “huge money.” She added that the loss will affect their program’s finances.
Since 2000, Hydro employees have also been very generous toward the BPCF, donating over $30,000 under the old program.
While local charities will no longer receive donations via payroll deductions, Powell said that there will be two new ways for Hydro staff to support charities of their choice. “The first, our Volunteer Grant Program, will see the Manitoba Hydro make a $200 donation on behalf of an employee that donates 50 hours of volunteer time to a registered Canadian charity,” he explained, adding, “The second, our Employee Champion Program, will see the Hydro provide fundraising assistance, promotional support and recognition to employees that individually choose to, or mobilize a corporate team to support a registered Canadian charity.” These two new programs are expected to be up and running in the first quarter of 2017.
About the changes, Powell said, “While we recognize that not every single employee may be fully supportive of these changes, we believe that they will bring a greater focus to our province-wide community giving activities and promote a greater spirit of volunteerism among our 6,400 employees.”
The 27 charities eligible for Manitoba Hydro’s payroll deduction donation program (selected through employee polling):
- Alzheimer Society of Manitoba Inc.
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Society of Canada (MB)
- Brandon Regional Health Centre Foundation Inc.
- Canadian Diabetes Association (MB)
- Canadian Mental Health Association, Manitoba and Winnipeg
- Canadian Red Cross (MB)
- Cancer Care MB Foundation
- Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba Inc.
- Crohn’s & Colitis Canada (MB)
- Firefighter’s Burn Fund Inc. (MB)
- Heart & Stroke Foundation (MB)
- Kidney Foundation of Canada (MB)
- Manitoba Lung Association
- Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
- Parkinson Canada Inc.
- Portage Plains United Way Inc.
- Ronald McDonald House Charities
- Samaritan House Ministries Inc.
- Siloam Mission Inc.
- Society for Manitobans with Disabilities Inc.
- The Salvation Army Prairie Division
- United Way of Winnipeg*
- United Way of Brandon & District Inc.
- United Way of Morden and District Inc.
- Winkler and District United Way Inc.
- Winnipeg Harvest Inc.
- Winnipeg Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals