By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Keith Barsuhn has resigned as president and CEO of United Way of Greater Greensboro, effective Jan. 31, and Michelle Gethers-Clark, a former American Express executive who the United Way board of directors hired in October as a consultant on an interim basis, has been named interim CEO and president.
Barsuhn, who has served as CEO since July 1, 2008, “told us he wants to pursue other things,” says Sue Cole, chair of United Way’s board and managing partner at Sage Leadership & Strategy.
Barsuhn says he “came here to rebuild this United Way and give it a new direction, and I’ve done that.”
He says he has “some really good opportunities I’m pursuing that I’m expecting to be imminent.”
John Cross, a former chair of United Way’s board and a lawyer at Brooks Pierce, will chair the search for a new CEO.
“We will take our time to find the right person,” Cole says.
Gethers-Clark, who is president of The Center for Service and Leadership and former senior vice president and general manager of card operations at American Express, has agreed to serve as interim president and CEO until a successor is found, Cole says.
Cole said at the time Gethers-Clark was hired as a consultant that changes needed to be made in the organization as a result of a new long-term strategy that involved shifting United Way’s focus to collaborative efforts to help boost academic performance and grade advancement for children, improve health literacy, and strengthen financial stability for individuals and families.
Since then, Cole says, Gethers-Clark has focused on processes inside United Way, while Barsuhn has focused on United Way’s fundraising.
“The best way to accomplish things is to divide and conquer,” Cole says. “We asked Michelle to focus on the people within the organization and the processes within the organization, and making sure we were being efficient and effective with everything we do.”
United Way’s annual fundraising campaign, which raised $10.3 million a year ago and set a goal of $11 million for the campaign that began last fall, is “tracking” last year’s effort, Cole says.
“I’m very optimistic we will meet it,” she says.
The position of vice president for resource development, formerly vice president for donor relations, has been open since last fall, she says.
Emphasizing she believes in “continuous improvement,” Cole says the biggest challenges facing United Way are to carry out its its collaborative community impact strategy, particularly by matching mentors with people they mentor, and training organizations that provide the mentoring; taking care of its volunteers, including leaders and board members; and develop[ing staff and making sure “they have the resources they need to do the jobs that need to be done in the community.”
Gethers-Clark’s focus has been on “processes,” Cole says.
That has included reviewing the process for hiring people and getting them in their jobs; for receiving contributions; for making board meetings and planning more efficient; and for the way staff members work.
Event planning, for example, has been assigned to a single staff member, who is planning events on March 22 and May 14, respectively, for its leadership groups for African-Americans and for women.