United Way takes on change

Todd Cohen

Jane McIntyre
Jane McIntyre

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When she started her new job last August as executive director of United Way of Central Carolinas, Jane McIntyre moved quickly to open doors, literally and figuratively.

Entry to the office she inherited from Gloria Pace King, who had been fired as CEO by United Way’s board after a wrenching community explosion over a compensation package the board had approved, included not only an office door but two sets of glass outer doors.

“We just opened all those doors and leave them open,” McIntyre says. “We just made it more accessible.”

Charged with fixing an organization stunned by the one-two punch of the scandal and the recession, McIntyre aims to transform United Way.

That will include communicating better with donors, breaking down walls within the organization and focusing on urgent community needs.

Above all, she says, United Way must change its corporate culture.

“Silos” and layers of bureaucracy have isolated United Way staff from one another and from the funders it counts on to support its 91 partner agencies, McIntyre says.

“We know we don’t communicate and work with our donors like we need to be doing,” she says. “We just have to really change the business model.”

After United Way fell $2.6 million short of the $22.7 million goal for last fall’s annual fund drive, McIntrye has reduced overhead by $863,000 and expects to cut nearly $140,000 more by June 30.

“That’s an effort to drive more dollars to the agencies,” she says.

United Way has reduced its annual budget to $6.4 million from $11.6 million two years ago, and its staff to 54 employees from 97.

Last week, United Way announced a $500,000 gift from Bank of America that helped its annual drive exceed the $22.7 million goal for its Community Care Fund, in turn earning a $1 million challenge grant from The Leon Levine Foundation.

McIntyre’s top priorities are communicating year-round with individual givers and corporate funders, and focusing that communication on the donors themselves.

Working with Charlotte consultant Karla Williams of The Williams Group, who is talking with staff, board, volunteers and community partners, United Way is studying every aspect of its organization.

And while sweeping change will take time, McIntyre says, she will make changes where and when she can.

She has trimmed the employee handbook to 35 pages from 55, for example; reduced some employee benefits based a national survey; frozen salaries for the second straight year; and asked for a simpler contract for the e-pledge system now used by only 26 of the roughly 1,000 companies United Way works with.

And McIntyre personally reviews all checks United Way issues, plus the documentation for them.

“It teaches you where the money’s spent, creates opportunities for savings, and tells you a lot about the organization,” she says.

“We’re trying to take a very old organization and reinvent it to really support the health and human service needs in this region,” McIntyre says. “And in doing that we need to learn from our history and at the same time we need to look toward the future and how we can continue to support these organizations and do it in the most efficient and effective way.”

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