Since he was a kid, Malcolm Barnes, now Residential Markets Operations Leader for Duke Energy, had a giving spirit … whether he knew it or not. Malcolm and his sister would walk with his grandmother through his neighborhood picking up aluminum cans. They made a game of it, as children do. What they didn’t realize until later was why they were doing this. They weren’t just spending time with their grandmother, they were also giving back. The money collected from the cans was donated to the church. This memory has inspired Malcolm through the years to be giving of time, energy and treasure.
It all starts with my grandmother. She made a strong impression on me. It was very important to her to give back to the community in whatever way you can. She set that example for me as a kid. As I got older, I looked for ways to give back, both financially and through sweat equity. United Way was always there in our community. Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about all the work United Way does behind the scenes, which made it more of a focus for me. Now, I’m a board member and very involved in the Duke Energy campaign.
You were honored as the 2013-14 Phenomenal Executive Champion at last year’s Live United Victory Celebration. What is your philosophy when it comes to inspiring others?
To make it personal. First, you have to understand that philanthropy is a very personal choice. We aren’t there to tell people how much to give. We’re here to help them understand the level of need in our community. As leaders, we have an obligation to share that message and increase awareness.
The second piece is that you have to share personal stories. Everyone in our building either knows someone or has been helped by United Way themselves. Even our CEO shared a story of being helped by United Way, which was an eye-opener to many staff.
By sharing these stories, you wind up with testimonials from everyone – the CEO, all the way down – who have been impacted by United Way. It brings a different perspective of how far United Way reaches and allows people to make up their own minds about giving.
Which of United Way’s focus areas (Education, Income, Health or Basics Needs) hits closest to home for you?
Having a high school daughter, I think student homelessness is one of the biggest issues we face. It brought the issue much closer when my daughter told me she knows students in her class who are homeless. They’re hungry and don’t have the tools they need. High school is hard enough as it is for a young person, without having to deal with such adult issues. I think homelessness is a huge need in Central Florida, but especially among children.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest value United Way brings to our community?
United Way has the ability to get the most good out of the dollars it’s given. Instead of donors researching all the nonprofits they could potentially give to, United Way vets them for you. United Way is a giving outlet for all causes… education, financial stability, homelessness, you name it. You’re able to give to United Way and know that your dollar is going to be used by a reliable agency to impact many important causes in our community.
How do the issues United Way is addressing overlap with your perspective as a businessman?
The interconnectedness of all the causes. They have to be aligned. We call it a balance solution, but the principle goes back to the old “three legged stool” example. To be successful as a whole, we must have balance in the areas of education, income, health and basic needs. If you’re just satisfying one, the stool won’t stand. They all have to be supported.
What one word would you use to describe United Way?
“Opportunity.” United Way provides opportunities – not just for young people in schools, but all throughout our community.