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Community Builder Award: Karen Williams

By United Way East Ontario on July 13, 2022

On June 22, in collaboration with Apt613, we recognized an outgoing Board Member and long-time community volunteer: Karen Williams.

Michael Allen, President and CEO of United Way East Ontario, presented this special award during our Annual General Meeting in front of fellow board members, family and friends.

Community Builders are people who have worked tirelessly to make our communities safer, healthier, and more resilient when circumstances are still difficult and strained for many of us. This community builder’s leadership played a pivotal role during United Way’s transition from a federated fundraiser to an impact organization.

Award recipients have demonstrated a strong ability to mobilize their communities, going above and beyond their regular volunteerism. They also represent the kind of quiet determination and heroism that inspires others to act—leading by example.

We thank everyone who takes the time to nominate everyday heroes, and we thank you, community builders, for your exceptional contributions.


Karen Williams

Photo provided.

Karen Williams is an outgoing board member and past board chair with United Way East Ontario. In Karen’s time with United Way, she has taken her volunteer and supporter role seriously. She is someone who gives her time, talent, and treasure to the cause. Since joining United Way in 2010 as a volunteer, Karen has held various senior volunteer positions, including board chair, head of the governance committee, member of the community services cabinet, executive committee, and more. She joined at a time when United Way was transitioning from its long history as a federated fundraiser to an impact organization, and her leadership in this space was a pivotal moment in United Way’s history.

During her time as board chair, fellow volunteers and staff always appreciated her disciplined approach to decision-making. As chair, she helped manage the work and journey to impact with a fair and balanced approach. From the joining of four United Ways across the region to form United Way East Ontario to, more recently, her work on the organization’s governance committee, Karen has helped transition the board and further accelerated United Way as an impact organization.

Karen does this community-building work in her spare time. By day, she is a savvy business leader who has held senior-level positions at very well-known companies, including Cognos, IBM, Halogen, Saba, and her most recent role at Cornerstone OnDemand, where she is the Senior Vice President of Global Customer Service. In both business and community, she is described as an energetic, ambitious, data-driven leader who lives into the mission of the organizations she works with and for.

In 2011, while working for IBM Canada, Karen approached United Way staff and said they needed to apply for the company’s prestigious Centennial Grants. Given her interest in data, she saw United Way and its work with the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study (ONS) as the right fit for the application. The ONS is one of the world’s most comprehensive databases, providing a wide range of detailed maps on the health and well-being of Ottawa residents and the neighbourhoods in which they live. Under her leadership, United Way and the ONS were the only Canadian project awarded the grant, enabling IT systems upgrades but also allowing critical neighbourhood profiles to receive enhancements.

To say Karen is a busy person is an understatement—at the same time, however, community is always top of mind. On one occasion, Karen was in California, but needed to get back to attend a Board meeting for United Way. Well, never get in the way of Karen’s support of the community. She was there, without question and on time. This goes to show her dedication to ensuring the communities she serves are always taken care of.


Do you know a volunteer who went above and beyond to support their community? Our Community Builder Awards program accepts nominations year-round! Nominate a community builder today.