Giving Something Back to the Communities You Serve

Western Union provides a good model for any company that aims to provide services to newcomers. You must win over your customers. And since Western Union provides money transfers and other financial services to so many countries around the world, the company knows that the best way to sell their services is to make friends, by getting involved in Canada’s many and varied ethnic communities, usually by sponsoring music, cultural and sporting events.

They have participated in everything from the summer-long Vancouver ChinaTown Nightmarket, to the Philippines Celebrity Roadshow in Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg, to the Pakistan Independence Day Parade in Toronto. In the past year alone, Western Union has sponsored over 50 festivals, celebrations and sporting events in the South Asian and Middle Eastern communities and more than 30 events supporting African communities throughout Canada within the Kenyan, Ghanaian, Congolese, Zambian, Ethiopian, Moroccan and Nigerian communities. Western Union supported the Caribbean community by co-hosting more than 55 events in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa. Over 350,000 people participated in these community events, not including Caribana. The company also sponsored over 42 Latino events in Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, London, and Montreal which were attended by over 800,000 people.

Brian Fox, the Director of Marketing and Planning for Western Union Canada says, “I have been personally told that many of these events would not happen without our support. It’s one of things I like most about my job.”

While smaller companies may limit their sponsorships and participation to the Canadian ethnic communities, Western Union’s philosophy of involvement and participation spans the globe. They were very involved in the recent tsunami and earthquake relief efforts in South Asia. But they don’t wait for disasters before stepping in and helping out, as proven by their sponsorship of the I PLEDGE programme in Jamaica.

I PLEDGE is an acronym for I Promise to Lend Encouragement to Develop Growth in Education. The Purpose of the I PLEDGE programme is to provide solid support to the notion that education is the bedrock of a successful future for Jamaica. Through this programme, GraceKennedy Ltd. and the First Data Western Union Foundation in collaboration with the Jamaican Ministry of Education, English textbooks are provided to over 300,000 grades 4–6 students in Jamaican primary schools for the 2005–2006 school year. In 2004 I PLEDGE contributed over $200,000, funding math texts for grades 1–5 students, island wide.

If you’re starting a business that serves the ethnic marketplace in Canada, you can learn from companies like Western Union. As Brian Fox says, “It pays to give something back to your customers and one of the very best ways to do that is to be a part of the many wonderful events in the communities you serve. It’s not only gratifying, it can be a whole lot of fun!”

CNM