Will Darley works in International Sales with W.S. Darley and Co., a 108-year-old family run manufacturer and distributor of firefighting, tactical and lifesaving equipment. He is the Chair of United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s Young Leaders Society. We asked Will a few questions about his support for United Way and getting more young people engaged in our work to strengthen families and communities.
Q. What have you learned about United Way and its impact in the community during your time leading YLS?I always knew United Way was a leader in the philanthropic community, but I never understood how far its reach truly was. Here in the Chicago area alone, United Way funds close to 200 agencies which enables those agencies to keep many of their programs open. Our Young Leaders Society committee has been lucky enough to volunteer with many of these agencies and has been given the opportunity to hear their stories firsthand. While each organization’s work is important, you don’t get broad and lasting impact without United Way at the center.
Q. As a champion for United Way, did you a find a common thread in what was compelling to others about United Way’s work? Or do you find a different part of our portfolio speaks to different people? As a United Way champion I have noticed that the thing that most people find compelling is the vast portfolio United Way impacts. There are so many different causes and efforts to support through United Way’s network. And it is all tied together by one common thread: providing individuals with the important tools to improve their lives.
Q. If you could pick three words to use in describing United Way’s impact, what might those be? Dynamic, Resourceful, Extensive
Q. How does contributing to United Way fit in with your overall approach or thoughts on philanthropy? My approach to philanthropy is directly aligned with United Way’s mission. I believe all people deserve to have a good quality of life, and United Way is committed to changing the story for those in need. I found a natural fit with the Young Leaders Society, as our committee continues to grow our outreach to new heights through volunteering, advocating, and fundraising.
Q. United Way focuses on coordinating resources in communities of need. What elements of community have been or continue to be important for you personally? When many people think of specific communities, I think one of the first things that comes to mind are the school systems within that community. Education can be a life-changing element for young individuals and it is extremely important to keep our students on the right track. High school graduation rates are shockingly low, and I believe it is important for United Way to continue their already existing efforts in supporting educational initiatives. But again, so many things go into helping a young person succeed–which is why United Way’s focus on health and financial stability work in tandem with their work in education.
Q. Could you finish the sentence “Greater Chicago needs United Way because …of its extensive reach in Chicago communities where it continues working tirelessly to provide our people with life’s basic needs and resources to build a better life, which is even more critical at this particular juncture with no state budget in place.”Learn more about United Way’s Young Leaders Society.