Alumnus Recognized for a Career Serving Others
With over 30 years of experience in the public and non-profit sectors, St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) alumnus Daniele Zanotti ’87 has been a beacon of hope and a catalyst for positive community change.
Now, the CEO and President of the United Way Greater Toronto is the proud recipient of the Canadian Italian Business Professional Association’s (CIBPA) President’s Award.
“The CIBPA President’s Award belongs to my ma and pa, my wife and kids, every friend, teacher, boss, and co-worker I have had along the way, and every person I have been privileged to work with over the years. Because, as Michael Ondaatje says, ‘We are all the people we have ever known. We carry them for the rest of our lives, across every border we cross,’” says Zanotti.
“Any and all recognition is a reminder that we stand on the shoulders of so many family, friends, and institutions who anchored, shaped, and gave us a chance. Any and all recognition is about ‘we’.”
Zanotti was honoured during the CIBPA’s 70th Anniversary President’s Ball held in October 2022 at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto.
“As part of CIBPA’s 70th Anniversary, we were delighted to recognize Daniele Zanotti for his outstanding contribution to our community. Daniele’s efforts with the United Way are exceptional and as Italian-Canadians we should be proud,” says John Lettieri, President of CIBPA.
From 2007 to 2015, Zanotti served as CEO of the United Way York Region where he orchestrated a merger with the United Way Toronto, establishing a new regional organization to tackle issues in both regions. He also led the inaugural United Way Toronto and York Region fundraising campaign, raising a historic $100 million for programming and initiatives.
In June 2016, Zanotti became President and CEO of United Way. During his time, he has led an evolution to transform the charity from traditional fundraiser role to a convener focus, mission-driven to connect businesses, government, community organizations, and residents to meet complex needs and build solutions to fight poverty.
Under his leadership, a second merger in the spring of 2018 brought together United Ways of Toronto and York Region and Peel Region to create United Way Greater Toronto. The newly formed non-profit is the largest United Way in the world and second only to the government as a funder of social services. At its core, the merger allowed for a larger scale approach to fighting local poverty, effectively addressing and advocating for social issues, and realizing greater growth potential amongst its donors and volunteers.
However, Zanotti’s vocation to serving those in need extends well beyond the United Way umbrella. The first half of his career in community service included community development management roles with Rexdale Community Health Centre and the Regional Municipality of York, CEO of Family Day Care Services, and President and CEO of Villa Charities Foundation and Safe Communities Canada.
Outside of his professional life, Zanotti is very active in the community, volunteering his time as a member of CivicAction’s Board of Directors and as a Trustee on the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Board.
For Zanotti, his lifelong commitment to serve and care for others is both humbling and inspiring.
“Every day, I am inspired by the strength and resilience of people living in poverty, determined to make ends meet and contribute positively to this place we love. I am humbled by the generosity of people to give any and all of their treasures and to do so not as an act of charity but an act of solidarity — to walk and work together. Our work must begin with social justice and a belief that everyone deserves a chance at a better life,” he says.
He lives in Vaughan with his wife, Lily, and two children Bianca and Noah ’18, the latter of who decided on his own to follow in his father’s footsteps by attending SMCS.
“Noah fell in love with SMCS when he was eight, when I brought him for a visit. I remember him mesmerized by the arena, the yellow halls, the walls rich with pictures,” recalls Zanotti. “I think he decided then and there he was coming. For me, it was important that he make the choice — as I did decades before. We all need to find our community. And just in case, to help him along, I admit I threw in the occasional story of the foundation, friends, and faith that SMCS gifted me.”
His connection to SMCS is a proud one, an impactful time that greatly contributed to his foundation as a person and his future vocation.
“So often in life, it is a series of experiences, decisions and steps that lead us — not one specific thing. As a child of Italian immigrants, I grew up wrapped in the care of family and friends, a care that anchored who I am. My years at SMCS deepened that belief and taught me how to live it every day, beginning with our motto — Doce me bonitatem et disciplinam et scientiam,” says Zanotti, who was honoured with the Order of Vaughan in 2016, the highest honour the City of Vaughan can present to an individual who has made a significant and enduring contribution to the city. “To get through university, I got a part-time job at Progress Place, a clubhouse for people living with mental health issues. One night, as I was staffing the line, a suicide call came in. I hear and feel it like it was yesterday. That moment, that night, I knew ‘care’ was my work. That moment, and every moment since, I am reminded that caring for each other is our most important work.”