“We knew things were going to be different this year,” said Ben Wagemakers, PCL 2020 Edmonton-area United Way campaign chair. “Our campaigns have traditionally been an opportunity to get everyone together and celebrate what we can do to help out in the community. With all the COVID-19 protocols in place, we had to get creative and come up with a campaign that brought us together while keeping us physically apart.”

Ben was optimistic that he and his committee (made up of volunteer representatives from all of PCL’s Edmonton-area companies) could revamp the campaign so it would be effective online. “We decided on a couple of things early on: we wanted to host everything virtually; we needed a “social media” type space for employees to share information, photos and thoughts about the campaign, and we wanted to keep the celebratory feeling that we typically achieve,” adds Ben. “I think what most of our employees look forward to is the opportunity to connect with other people and know that we are making a difference in the community.” 

Keeping to a similar schedule from past years, the committee hosted a virtual campaign kickoff and invited United Way impact speakers to remote-in to share their stories. Even though we couldn’t meet the United Way speakers in-person, their stories were equally impactful.

The committee also provided all employees with a campaign-branded COVID kit to kick off the campaign — hand sanitizer, a face buff and a non-contact door opener keychain tool — and ensured that all events where employees were asked to purchase tickets to participate (like Be Seen in Jeans Week, 50/50 draws and an online auction) offered cashless, online payment platforms where employees received an email notification and proof of purchase.

Throughout the campaign, employees posted videos and used #WhyIGive to share their reasons for supporting the United Way in an internal chat group. Event info, winners and photos of employees taking part were also shared in this space. “Employees from across our Edmonton-area companies used this page to talk about the campaign,” said Ben. “They shot videos on their cellphones showing PCL’s donation boxes for United Way’s Tools for School program and gave kudos to their co-workers using #ActsofKindness. It was great to see everyone getting involved.”

To wrap up the campaign, the committee got creative again. “Typically, we’d invite everyone to the assembly hall for snacks, entertainment and speakers,” said Ben. “This year, we live-streamed it. We had a very small production crew, masked and socially distanced in our assembly hall, and worked different parts of the event in the four corners of the room. We delivered individually wrapped snacks to employees, streamed a local stand-up comedian and a musician, and announced our campaign success with a few socially distanced speakers.” 

The Edmonton-area campaign raised $1.85 million for the Alberta Capital Region United Way and was the first office to kick off PCL’s campaign season; 28 offices across the company host annual campaigns for their local United Way chapter. Last year PCL collectively raised $6.7 million for United Way.

“It’s amazing what we were able to accomplish in Edmonton, let alone what we will have done by the end of the campaign season,” adds Ben. “We made history this year and helped push PCL over the $50 million milestone of giving to United Way Centraide Canada over our 52 years of giving to the organization. It’s testimony to what we can accomplish together, even during these challenging times.”