UFB interview

Supporting the most vulnerable during COVID-19

Interview with Catherine Tricot, Executive Director, United Fund for Belgium

Catherine, tell us more about United Fund for Belgium.

As you may know, United Fund for Belgium (UFB) is a Belgian non-profit organization. Its mission is to help people in need by financing projects of charity associations in Belgium. United Fund for Belgium collects donations from businesses, organizations and individuals. 100% of the funds raised are FULLY REDISTRIBUTED to local charitable organizations, active throughout Belgium, in order to support concrete projects. The aim of UFB is to improve SOCIAL INTEGRATION by investing in projects that have a direct impact on the beneficiaries in three areas: child welfare, reduction of poverty and disabled persons. Since its foundation, United Fund for Belgium has been a totally independent organization which does not receive subsidies from any official Belgian or foreign body. Its assets are professionally managed by Lombard Odier under the supervision of our Finance Committee.

Why do you think it is important for UFB to be part of the AmCham Belgium community?

This is based on our history and part of our DNA. Back in the 1970s, the first American multinationals started to set up shop in Belgium. They brought with them a pronounced philanthropic spirit, typical of the US business culture. From the outset, they were keen to contribute to the development of the local communities in which they were based. Soon, several "pioneer" companies (with the help of the US Ambassador at the time and Count Boël) set up a fund to collect donations and select charitable projects. When you are an American executive expatriated to Belgium, the institutional and linguistic complexity of our country is enough to discourage the best of intentions. It's not easy to choose from projects from all over the country. This is how United Fund for Belgium came into being in 1972.

The formula has proven successful and enduring. Since its creation, United Fund for Belgium has allocated more than €26 million to almost 2,800 charitable projects in Belgium. Today, in 2020, we have a renewed team, with diversified and reinforced skills and more motivated than ever, that is ready to face the new challenges of the charity market in our post-COVID-19 society. Being part of AmCham Belgium is essential to us because this enables us to get easier access to those key corporations that are your members and play a major role in our organization to support those most in need.

Philanthropy, CSR, volunteering – companies are increasingly working towards developing programs that benefit society, while boosting their brands and employee engagement. How can UFB help companies that wish to have a societal impact in Belgium?

Great that you ask this! In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we noted that CSR has become more mainstream as more and more companies embed sustainability into the core of their strategy to create shared value for business and society. In addition, as consumers' awareness about global social issues continues to grow, so does the importance these customers place on CSR when choosing where to shop. Therefore, we see an increase in the number of companies approaching United Fund for Belgium for this exact reason, to develop common programs and to give back to society. Given our mission to connect companies with social projects in Belgium, to provide concrete and lasting impact, UFB is the partner of choice for many corporate donors operating in Belgium. We help these generous organizations to get in touch with one or more carefully selected local projects to contribute to better social integration in Belgium. Our outreach covers all of Belgium, as we are present in all regions. We enable donors together with their stakeholders to have a concrete, lasting social impact and to create a sense of community locally by giving back through volunteering days and focused donations.

How do you manage an organization like UFB, adapt to this current reality and make the most out of it?

Crucial organizations face collapse and, like us, many are unable to raise the funds they need among the renewed lockdown period. Events are a key revenue stream for us and we have seen almost of all our events cancelled in 2020. The one and only opportunity we’ve had was to hold our annual UFB Charity Golf Tournament in a restricted format that limited also our fundraising capacity. Our donors are more and more solicited to give back to those most impacted by COVID-19, and our beneficiaries, the most vulnerable, whether children, disabled or the poorest of us, have increasing needs too. As a connector, enabler and stimulator of social integration, we therefore need to adapt quickly to the new normal in this fast-paced environment. To survive we need to quickly pivot to new priorities and adapt to changing demands and expectations. Our organization needs to be leaner, more strategic and more resilient than before the pandemic. We are therefore, using our creativity and launching new initiatives.

  • On November 25, we’re hosting an event on Zoom with a keynote speech (with limited seats) from Thierry Geerts, Country Director Google Belgium, on the “Impact of the digital revolution on society, business & non-profits” with an introduction by Prime Minister De Croo.
  • We also have just partnered with Brussels chef Isabelle Arpin to launch our first UFB virtual Gala Dinner on December 10.
  • Our traditional St. Nicholas and Christmas speculoos and chocolates sales continue this year too. Organizations can choose to treat their employees or donate to help social workers, medical staff or the most vulnerable amongst our population. UFB will manage the donations on their behalf to ensure safe delivery to our associations.

One last word, Catherine?

Together we can help those most in need. We therefore count on your solidarity and generosity!

Want to know more about the United Fund for Belgium or attend one of their upcoming initiatives?

About Catherine Tricot

Catherine is Executive Director at United Fund for Belgium since January 2020. She brings a wealth of experience with her from across sectors – private and non-profit – having held roles at media sales houses and agencies and being at the heart of the “Sprout to be Brussels” initiative. This citizen movement, supported by big companies, was designed to promote the Belgian capital following the March 2016 terrorist attacks. She is the proud mother of two daughters and one granddaughter.