CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As it kicks off its annual fund drive in the face of an ailing economy and a community bruised by its pay scandal, United Way of Central Carolinas faces the immediate task of raising money for critical health and human services and the larger challenge of rebuilding community trust.
Both jobs, says Jane McIntyre, its new executive director, will require reinventing the way United Way operates and changing its culture by making the organization more open, inclusive, accessible and focused on engaging community resources to address urgent community needs.
McIntyre, who was named executive director on August 7 and has been immersed in her new role virtually full-time ever since while also winding down her job as CEO at YWCA Central Carolinas, says her immediate task is to make sure United Way raises more money this year for its 91 partner agencies.
Last year’s drive, hurt by the onset of the recession and community outrage over disclosure of the $1.2 million compensation package for ousted CEO Gloria Pace King, raised $31 million, down $14 million from 2007.
Last year’s total included $21.7 million for United Way’s general “community care fund,” which provides direct support for the organization’s partner agencies, a total that was down $11 million from 2007.
The remaining funds included dollars that donors could designate to other agencies, including those in other communities and states.
For this year’s drive, which kicks off September 11, United Way has set a goal only for its community care fund, which aims to raise $22.7 million.
McIntrye says that goal is higher than the projected goal that had been set before she was hired.
“We have to figure out how to raise more, not less, for the community care fund of United Way,” she says.
Boosting the effort to raise those funds has been a challenge from Leon Levine Foundation, which will give $1 million if the drive meets its goal, bringing the total to $23.7 million.
United Way also has created a new effort to generate annual gifts of $10,000 to the Community Care Fund by asking donors to make commitments to increase their annual giving to that level over two to three years as members of its Alexis de Toqueville Society.
In last year’s drive, donors giving at that level contributed over $5.5 million, or nearly 18 percent of total dollars raised for the overall campaign, including the Community Care Fund.
This year’s drive is off to a slower start because only a handful of employers, far fewer than in past years, have held early “pacesetter” workplace campaigns, and because some of the 52 employers that did not hold campaigns last year because of the King controversy, and another 85 that did not hold campaigns because of the recession, still are deciding whether to hold campaigns this year, McIntyre says.
Ultimately, the success of the drive will depend on United Way’s ability to “touch as many people” as possible, persuade partner agencies “to support the new way of doing business,” and respond to individual donors who have questions about the scandal and the organization’s response to it, McIntyre says.
“Recognizing that some will never forgive,” she says, “the vast majority we hope will give us another chance to use their money wisely and apply it to helping others that have so much less.”
After the fund drive ends November 19, McIntyre says, United Way will launch twin efforts to pare its spending and reengineer its business model and organizational culture.
While United Way already has reduced its annual budget by $3.1 million from $10 million and its staff by 40 employees from 100, McIntyre says, “there are some other things we can do to bring costs down, there always are, without impacting quality but giving positive impact to the agencies.”
The job of reinventing United Way, she says, could take as long as 18 months and will be marked, not by a report, but by engaging the community and United Way’s board, volunteers, donors, partners agencies and staff in an ongoing process to create “a different kind of way we do business.”
That will include figuring out “how to make the organization leaner, more nimble, more responsive to donors, more responsive to agencies,” she says.
Helping to shape that process, she says, will be lessons she learned at the YWCA.
When she joined the YWCA in November 2000 after working for nine years in various executive jobs at Carolinas Healthcare System and its foundation, the organization faced a $1 million deficit, a building that was “crumbling,” and an organization that was “dysfunctional,” she says.
The YWCA eliminated its debt, narrowed its focus, reduced its budget to $3 million from over $4 million and raised $8.2 million through several capital and endowment campaigns.
And with the assistance of Charlotte consultant Karla Williams of The Williams Group, McIntyre says, the YWCA changed its organizational culture.
“It’s about relationships you build and the relationships you have and the relationships you nurture,” McIntyre says.
The turnaround strategy at the YWCA was to create a “culture of philanthropy,” she says.
“In organizations, everyone — from the board members to the people served by the organization to the staff – is a philanthropist in their own right, and everyone has the ability to give in different ways,” she says. “What people have to do is be empowered to understand how good they really are at helping other people give and being philanthropists and giving themselves. It’s not an action, a tactic. It’s a combination, more of an evolutionary process.”
McIntyre says the experience taught her to “listen more, to take input from people who think differently than I do.”
Also critical for reinventing an organization, she says, is “over-communication,” or sharing all but confidential personnel information with everyone, an approach she says eliminates the “destructive force” of gossip.
She also says it is important not to tolerate “attitudes” or “drama” in the workplace.
And problems in employee performance, she says, should be evaluated and acted on “sooner rather than later.”
Her experience at the YWCA was “the most educational, inspiring process I have ever been through,” she says. “It was about creating a philanthropic culture among all constituent groups.”
In taking on her new job at United Way, McIntyre says, she is counting on “how giving and caring this community is about people and children that have less than they do.”