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Corporate sponsors are looking to their younger members to continue to support those affected by blood cancers in their communities

Most partnerships tend to get a little tired by their fourth decade — the partners fall into old routines, rest on their laurels or get a bit too comfortable.

In the case of Canada’s United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), and its 34-year philanthropic partnership with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC), that might be understandable – especially since the partnership has already raised nearly $44-million to help fund new blood cancer treatments and improve patient outcomes.

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The LLSC is an organization committed to curing blood cancers, improving the lives of those affected by them and raising public awareness of their prevalence. (Despite the fact that blood cancers are the fourth most-common cancer, public awareness tends to be lower than for other than for other types of cancers.)

According to Paul Meinema, the UFCWʼs national president, the union is hoping its younger members will continue to support those affected by a blood cancer in their community. “We have a lot of people under 30,” Meinema says. “And there’s a lot of pride in knowing that what we do supports this cause, but we can’t just rely on our past success to build that next generation’s support.”

Fortunately, both organizations have a long track record of anticipating new challenges in their philanthropic efforts, and devising new and creative solutions.

One of their biggest innovations came 14 years ago, when Ontario’s Beer Store — and its 7,000 UFCW members — joined the fight against blood cancers, launching what would become its annual Returns for Leukemia Bottle Drive. From raising $250,000 in 2006 to nearly $2-million last year, the event has grown into the company’s flagship fundraising event.

It became more than just a bottle drive,” Beer Store president Ted Moroz says. “It became the thing, the cause that we all rally around as an organization.”

As proud as he and Meinema are of that event, Moroz believes that the future of philanthropy isn’t all about marquee events managed from head office. “Our corporate office is 150 people,” Moroz says. “We can’t know everything that’s happening everywhere.”

It became more than just a bottle drive. It became the thing, the cause that we all rally around as an organization.

— Ted Moroz, President of the Beer Store

Instead, he says, the company is taking greater advantage of the grassroots knowledge and passion of its employees across the province, in the Beer Store’s 450 stores and distribution centres.

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With their ears to the ground in their respective communities, employees are often the best-positioned to launch efforts that will resonate in their own hometowns. To that end, the Beer Store provides resources to employees to lead local efforts, ranging from curling tournaments to golf events to battles of the bands.

According to Meinema, those efforts are replicated across the country by its 250,000-strong membership. Many of those workers are in their 20s and 30s, and their hands-on participation is driven by the growing importance younger employees place on good corporate citizenship. A study conducted in 2015 by British public relations consultancy Global Tolerance found that nearly two-thirds of workers born between 1981 and 1996 prefer working for a company thatʼs making a positive impact on society, and 53 per cent would work harder to make a difference in their communities.

“Having this core value is important from the perspective of helping people in need,” Moroz says. “But it’s also important because people like to work for companies that demonstrate that they care about something beyond the bottom line.”

Both Moroz and Meinema see plenty of new challenges and opportunities facing their future philanthropic endeavours— everything from data-driven analytics (to better understand the real-world impact of specific investments, dollar-for-dollar) to the effect of artificial intelligence and automation on the workplace. “Automation could affect the number of employees in a workplace and what kind of reach they have into their communities,” Meinema says. “These are all concerns we have to stay on top of.”

But both leaders are just as optimistic that the engaged and motivated employees spearheading new efforts aren’t going away any time soon. And part of their own jobs will be to get out of the way, and let the next generation get to work.

Find out how you can support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada by visiting llscanada.org/other-ways-to-help.

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Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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