3M’s Penny Wise gets set for a Campaign that sticks

PENNY WISE President, 3M Canada United Way 2021 Campaign Chair

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I’m amazed by this community’s generosity toward helping friends, neighbours and colleagues. Whether that was donating money or delivering groceries, we came together to help each other. We can do it again this year.

President, 3M Canada
United Way 2021 Campaign Chair

In a world where even Post-it® notes have gone virtual, Penny Wise, President, 3M Canada & United Way 2021 Campaign Chair is ready for whatever our ‘new normal’ throws her way. Penny brings over 20 years of progressive leadership in business, commercialization and marketing to United Way’s top volunteer role and led the team that launched 3M’s catchy global tagline: 3M Science. Applied to Life™. Now, she’s up for a new challenge: Leading our region’s most important fundraising campaign, applied to a fair and equitable recovery.

Hope is on the horizon, but it’s looking like another tough year for our community. What encouragement do you have for people who aren’t sure they can give?  

I think everyone has a role to play to make sure no one gets left behind this year. Every donation, no matter the size, makes a difference. Every hour of volunteering, that makes a difference. Every act of kindness, that makes a difference too. It all adds up to help United Way support essential local programs and services across our region and advocate for a fair and equitable recovery.   

When I look back at how strongly we made it through our first pandemic United Way Campaign last year, I’m amazed by this community’s generosity toward helping friends, neighbours and colleagues. Whether that was donating money or delivering groceries for a friend, we came together to help each other. We can do it again. 

From post-it notes to PPE, 3M is known for constant innovation—the perfect mindset for a world where our ‘new normal’ continues to change daily. What are some new ideas you’ll bring to the United Way 2021 Campaign this fall? 

Going virtual gives us new ways to engage more peopleUnited Way’s 3M Harvest Lunch & Campaign Launch is a great example. I remember thinking last year, how on earth will we create a memorable, effective event during a pandemic? Because there’s no way 2,000 people are getting together for lunch in Budweiser Gardens! 

So we tried something new: every ticket sold bought lunch for a neighbour in need. It was a fantastic success and we delivered more than 3,500 meals through United Way partner agencies across our region. What a great way to gather virtually and do good! 

This year we have to be even more creative for a couple of reasons. We all have Zoom fatigue, so what can we do to re-energize and leverage the best of technology? And we need to think about moving forward. 

Right now we’re in the throes of this third wave but vaccines are catching up and we’re going to get in front of it. Does this mean we’ll be able to do some events or volunteer in-person this Campaign? I hope so. Our job is to create options and be really agile: this is the virtual version, this is the in-person version and this is the hybrid.

As President of 3M Canada, you lead more than 800 people here in London and diverse teams across the country—all during a pandemic when it’s difficult to connect. How will you lead a Campaign Cabinet of virtual volunteers? What’s your secret for motivating a team you can’t shake hands with?

I’ve worked for 3M 20-plus years—10 here in Canada and 10 most recently in our head office in St. Paul, Minnesota. I came back home in January 2020, just before the pandemic started.

My plans to get out across the country and engage with employees, re-connect with those I knew from before, and meet new employees who joined while I was gone—well those all went out the window in March.

There’s been a lot of work in 2020 about how to engage with employees when you can’t be together in person. The most important thing I’ll bring forward is recognizing that, whether it’s 3M-ers or the United Way Campaign Cabinet, these are incredibly talented, smart, inspirational and motivated people.

So, I don’t need to shake their hand. I view my role as Campaign Chair as someone who guides, someone to ask questions, someone to support and lift up those around me. My job is to figure out where can I help and where can I add value to an amazing team in order for them to be the most successful.

What’s motivating you personally to take on this huge volunteer role? Is anything keeping you up at night? 

Coming back to London after 10 years in the U.S. is a real honour. My kids grew up here, they went to school here, they participated in community activities and summer camps here. Now it’s my opportunity to give back to a community that gave so much to us.

Nothing is keeping me up at night that isn’t on the minds of most Canadians right now. It’s tough out there. I think about deepening poverty and people who have lost jobs. I think about mental health and the social isolation that’s affecting so many. We’re all anxious as we move through this third wave wondering if it’s the final onehow we’ll protect the most vulnerable, and how we make sure it’s a recovery for all.

As Co-Chair of the Council for Women’s Advocacy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, we’ve been very focused on making sure women don’t come out of this pandemic further behind. My 23 year-old daughter just graduated from university and my job is to ensure that in the business world, or wherever she chooses to work, women aren’t slipping back a couple of decades. She needs to be able to stand on our shoulders.

When the pandemic hit, 3M Canada stepped up to play a crucial role in our community’s response to COVID-19. It’s clear you’re as passionate about improving lives locally as we are. What else makes us such good partners?

I’m really proud that 3M Canada and United Way have a decades-long partnership locally. Last year we ran a $400,000 workplace campaign, embedded a 3M Gives volunteer, and made a corporate donation for COVID-19 relief.

We have strong synergy, right down to our core values. Our tagline ‘3M. Science Applied to Life.TM’ is all about improving lives through science and technology. United Way’s is ‘Improving lives locally.’ We come at it in different ways but we’re both dedicated to helping people live their best life.

STEM education, for example, is incredibly important for creating opportunities for the future, especially in underserved populations. It’s a critical part of 3Ms broader social responsibility platform.

While re-imagined events like 3M Harvest Lunch allow us to engage more people, I think they also highlight that many of us take it for granted that everybody has access to the Internet and a computer.

The pandemic has shown where we need to do more to make sure everyone has the tools, technology and supports to be able to engage with our new normal, because innovation and technology are guaranteed to be part of it.

Watch Penny at the United Way’s ChangeMakers Awards

Meet our 2021 Campaign Cabinet

Penny Wise
President, 3M Canada
United Way 2021 Campaign Chair

Trevor Squires
General Manager, McCormick Canada
Past Campaign Chair

Chad Callander
Executive Director, Meals on Wheels London
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Tanya Collison
Office Manager, StarTech.com
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Murray Doucette
CHRO, Vice President, People & Culture LHSC, Victoria Hospital
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Lisa Fewster
President, OPSEU Local 166
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Kelly Hancock
Director of Finance, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

James Heskin
Consultant, Group Benefit Services Canada, Gallagher
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Tara McCaulley
Manager, Business Development & Entrepreneurship, St.Thomas Economic Development Corporation
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Anita Miersma
Associate Specialist, Business Development Programs, Canada Life
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Kate Montgomery
Senior Regional Manager, Three Lakes Counties,
TD Wealth Financial Planning
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Stephane Ouellet
VP, Strategic Partnerships Middlesex, Hospital Alliance
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Alyson Paisley
Regional Vice President, Intact Insurance
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Lindsay Rice
Director of Services and Community Development,
YCWA St.Thomas-Elgin
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Josh Stewart
Business Representative, LiUNA Local 1059
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Megan Telfer
Investment Specialist, Scotiabank Group
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

Dan Towers
General Manager, Arcane
2021 Cabinet Ambassador

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