United Way Bay Area

Annual Koko Challenge

Each year, United Way Bay Area teams up with the Bay Area General Counsel Group and local law firms to raise money to combat poverty through our Koko Challenge.

The Challenge provides Bay Area lawyers – who are known to be highly competitive and generous – with a unique way to give back to the community, have fun and build morale. Over the last 30 years, more than 50 Bay Area law firms have contributed more than $34 million through the Koko Challenge.

2016 Koko Challenge Winners

Big Koko: Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

Little Koko: Jones Day LLP

Baby Koko: Bryan Cave LLP

Early Koko Beginnings

In 1987, United Way and volunteers initiated a strategy to deeply engage the Bay Area legal community in our mission. Ted Hall, Director at McKinsey & Company, Guy Rounsaville, General Counsel for Wells Fargo, and Kay Dryden, General Counsel at Charles Schwab formed the founding committee and recruited ten other General Counsel and Managing Partners.

As the committee began work, a picture emerged of a highly-motivated legal community whose generosity and caring nature was not always readily apparent to the general public. The committee identified an opportunity to link law firms more directly to philanthropy through an enhanced partnership with United Way and a philanthropic competition.

Koko: A Unique Competition is Born

The competition’s creators knew a whimsical theme would be an important element of the competition. The General Counsel from toy manufacturer Dakin & Company provided an inspiration in Koko the gorilla, a popular plush animal based on a real gorilla that learned sign language, and donated Koko gorillas for the Challenge. Top competitors were awarded stuffed gorillas: “Big Koko,” “Little Koko,” and “Baby Koko” based on the size of their firms. Additionally, the leading employee Campaign Coordinator was called the “Top Banana”.

Within a few years, participating law firms rose dramatically, and contributions grew from $200,000 to over one million dollars annually.

Where Koko Funds Go

Koko donations are used to support United Way programs that directly serve struggling Bay Area residents. United Way provides the resources and support people need to move out of poverty. A gift to United Way not only helps our community members, but it creates a stronger Bay Area for us all. Learn more about United Way’s poverty-cutting programs.

The Challenge Itself

Firms are evaluated by the Koko Cabinet, using the following quantitative and qualitative categories: per capita dollars raised, employee participation, employee giving levels, volunteerism, amount raised to support United Way programs via corporate gift, special events and fundraisers, creativity of special events and fundraisers, and partnerships, sponsorships and co-branding with United Way.

For more information on how you can involved in the Koko Challenge, send us an email to, or check out this one pager

For Koko Challenge Participants

The Koko Challenge runs all fall from September through December with firms choosing their own 2-6 weeks to run their employee campaigns. 

2017 Koko CABINET

Deborah Daniloff
Assistant General Counsel and Director
Bank of America, Global Transaction Services

David Kelly 
Vice President & General Counsel 
Golden State Warriors

Michael W. Kelly
Managing Partner, Northern California
Squire Patton Boggs LLP 

Matthew Silveira
Jones Day LLP

James Strother
EVP, General Counsel
Wells Fargo & Co