Change underway at Greensboro United Way

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — As it begins its annual fundraising campaign, which aims to raise 3.5 percent more than it did last year, United Way of Greater Greensboro is undergoing changes in its strategy and top leadership.

In recent weeks, United Way has lost its vice president of donor relations, hired a new chief financial officer and brought in a former executive at American Express as a consultant on its new “community impact” strategy, says Sue Cole, chair of United Way’s board of directors.

Aiming to make an impact on some of the region’s toughest health and human services problems, United Way is shifting its focus to collaborative efforts to help boost academic performance and grade advancement for children, improve health literacy, and strengthen the financial stability for individuals and families.

“A lot of things have to be done differently” as a result of that new long-term strategy, says Cole, who is managing partner at Sage Leadership & Strategy.

Marci Peace, former vice president for finance at Greensboro College, has joined United Way as vice president for finance and administration.

And United Way’s board has hired Michelle Gethers-Clark, president at The Center for Service and Leadership and former senior vice president and general manager for card operations at American Express, as a consultant on an interim basic on the community impact strategy.

Cole says Gethers-Clark is “coaching and mentoring all of our employees about the processes and strategies related to the community impact model, as well as fundraising strategies.

“As we’re moving to this new model, we’re looking not only at how we impact the community, but also how we’re doing business inside the organization,” Cole says.

She says the campaign, which has a goal of $11 million and is chaired by Harold Martin, chancellor at N.C. A&T State University, is “going very well.”

An event earlier this month for women donors was attended by over 150 women and raised about $15,000, or triple what it raised at its inaugural event last year.

Keith Barsuhn, president and CEO of United Way, says Gethers-Clark is working to “help us align our internal processes and strategies and tactics” to the organization’s new strategic plan.

“That enables key people, including myself, to be laser-focused on the campaign,” he says.

The “transformational changes” at United Way, including the way it works externally with community partners and stakeholders, and internally among staff, have elicited a range of responses from employees, he says.

“For some people, it’s exciting,” he says. “For some people, change is concerning.”

In addition to the former chief financial officer, who left early last summer, Barsuhn says, United Way’s former marketing director left in the spring, and a development officer left at the same time for another job.

“I am excited about the success of our new direction,” he says. “I feel very confident about our ability to achieve the goal.”

United Way also has set a “stretch” goal of $11.25 million, representing an increase of 5.9 percent from the total raised last year.

That larger goal, Barsuhn says, is “in our sights, too.”

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