Signal Theory shows community commitment through its creativity
The Waymaker Awards, United Way's Annual Impact Celebration Presented by Hallmark on a deeply-colored marbeled background

“This is the first company I’ve been a part of that really places a value on community engagement and has an emphasis on servant leadership,” said Associate Project Manager Chrissy Nguyen, describing how she feels about Signal Theory’s commitment to giving back to its community. 

United Way of Greater Kansas City logoChrissy’s observation is felt even more as Signal Theory is honored to be recognized by the United Way of Greater Kansas City as a finalist for its Corporate Champion Award. The award recognizes the outstanding contribution of one organization each year for its efforts. Also nominated this year are John Deere, Burns & McDonnell and Johnson County Government.

“At Signal Theory, we believe that supporting our communities is a powerful way to create meaning and positively impact the world around us,” said Ali Mahaffy, Signal Theory Co-CEO. 

“Our partnership with United Way of Greater Kansas City exemplifies our commitment to living out our mission of connecting people and brands to joy, comfort and meaning every day.  We’re honored to be recognized as a Corporate Champion finalist for our efforts. And we’re humbled and thrilled to be among clients like John Deere and former client Burns & McDonnell.”

For over a decade, Signal Theory has embraced the tradition of hosting a United Way Week, featuring a silent auction as a centerpiece of the event. Mary Corcoran Crawford, Senior Art Director, has played a key role in spearheading and coordinating this initiative, finding the community-building experience both personally and professionally rewarding.

“To be a finalist for this award is really validating to all of us who work hard to make United Way Week at Signal Theory one of the most popular events that everyone looks forward to. We’re constantly working to improve the experience and raise more and more funds each year, so to be recognized in this way just makes it all the more worth it and helps us be able to keep the tradition thriving,” said Corcoran Crawford.

A grid of many different silent auction items – both things (some handmade) and services – with opening bid and who donated

The signature event for United Way Week at Signal Theory is a silent auction of wildly inspiring and creative items that employees enter into the auction.

As part of the annual tradition, a volunteer committee organizes a week’s worth of engaging and creative activities to bring the agency together, deepening connections and inspiring United Way giving.

Employees use their own time and talents to create many of these items. A sampling of the most popular bid items in the past: Ann’s Dumpling Making Class; Custom Tufted Rug; Vacation Furbaby Sitting; and a highly competitive Custom Pet Portrait. 

A newer Signal Theory holiday tradition involves donating hundreds of pairs of socks for the United Way of Greater Kansas City to distribute through its Impact 100 initiative.

When the core team looked back over the last 10 years, they found that Signal Theory and its employees have donated more than a quarter million dollars in undesignated funds for the United Way of Greater Kansas City to distribute within the community. These gifts have funded initiatives that could have provided the equivalent of:

  • A year’s worth of diapers for 419 families, or
  • Two months’ worth of contacts with United Way’s 211 referral resource hotline (a combined 50,270 phone calls and website contacts supported)

Targeted Support for Local Organizations

Signal Theory’s contributions go beyond general support for United Way of Greater Kansas City. Gifts designated to specific United Way organizations and an application-based pro bono client program add to the mix.

Designated gifts have gone largely to two organizations: the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City ($14,500) and MOCSA, Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault ($12,140). 

Boys & Girls Club of American - Kansas City Logo To estimate the impact of the donation to Boys & Girls Club, it equates to providing:

  • 7,250 meals to kids or 
  • 2,900 books

MOCSA – Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault – LogoAdditionally, the donors who gave to
MOCSA supplied the equivalent of:

  • 48 hours of therapy services or
  • 96 nights of hotel stays for assault survivors or
  • Personal/Feminine hygiene products to 48 women for an entire year

Both organizations were also enrolled in Signal Theory’s pro bono client program where the company offers creative services to boost the awareness of each group’s priority needs. 

“I’m proud of working somewhere that puts an emphasis on philanthropy but allows us to infuse our personalities into the efforts so that it becomes a part of the culture.”

“Signal Theory truly cares about the community, and we show that time and time again in the big things like our United Way week or work for our pro bono clients. But we also show it in small ways by giving back a few hours to a nonprofit using paid volunteer leave,” said Nguyen.

Another long-time volunteer and Signal Theory employee Lexi Glassman, Associate Account Director, said, “I’m proud of working somewhere that puts an emphasis on philanthropy but allows us to infuse our personalities into the efforts so that it becomes a part of the culture. It, in turn, reminds me in my personal life that prioritizing giving back to the community is important.”

The firm will be recognized on July 11, 2024, as a finalist at the United Way Waymaker Awards Show with the winner announced the same night.


A large group portrait of the full Signal Theory staff all arranged in a tiered semi-circle in the Kansas City office atrium.

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