Barsuhn quits as CEO of Greensboro United Way

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.

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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.”

Greensboro United Way aims to be change agent

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Ninety-two percent of boys in grades three through five at Wiley Elementary School in Greensboro who received mentoring last school year through a pilot program launched in December by United Way of Greater Greensboro in partnership with Communities in Schools of Greater Greensboro passed their end-of-grade math test at the end of the school year.

That compares with 38 percent of all students in the school who took the test two years ago and passed that test.

The mentoring partnership is part of a larger effort by United Way to make an impact on some of the region’s most urgent health and human services needs.

As it kicks off its annual fundraising drive, United Way is focusing on partnership initiatives to help increase academic performance and grade advancement for children, improve health literacy, and boost the financial stability for individuals and families.

The emerging strategy aims to “develop a collaborative vision for the long-term economic success of our residents,” says Keith Barsuhn, president and CEO at United Way. “Our primary focus is collaborative efforts for community change.”

Chaired by Harold Martin, chancellor at N.C. A&T State University, the campaign aims to raise $11 million, up 3.5 percent from nearly $10.7 million it raised last year.

Raising money, Barsuhn says, is a strategy to support the larger effort to improve lives for vulnerable people.

Collaborative initiatives in that effort, known as the Blueprint for Lasting Change, will have specific community goals, with performance tied to specific metrics, such as the percentage of students passing the end-of-grade test.

All those initiatives will be rooted in building the capacity of partner agencies that provide volunteers to work with clients.

United Way, for example, aims to invest $1.3 million for a community-wide mentoring program, known as Mentoring Matters, that is based on the pilot last year at Wiley Elementary, which also included boys in second grade.

A second initiative will focus on Thriving at Three, a program launched in 2006 that works to ensure that children from birth to age 3 receive the care, parenting and support they need.

That community-based program works with families in the Claremont Courts neighborhood, and in the Latino community, in partnership with the Greensboro Housing Authority and Greensboro Public Library, including an early-literacy project launched in July, known as Raising a Reader.

For the pilot project at Wiley Elementary, which also included boys in grade 2, Communities in Schools matched nearly 50 mentors with young boys.

United Way is developing a new health literacy initiative in partnership with the Cone Health Foundation.

And it is developing the new economic success effort in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro to help families develop more financial stability.

That effort will be part of Greensboro Works, a larger partnership the two agencies are leading to connect people who need better jobs skills with opportunities for training and jobs.

“The¬† resources you need for this work, whether they be dollars, volunteers or advocacy work, are the strategies to achieve those community-change goals,” Barsuhn says.

“We want to have a fierce focus on setting community-level change goals,” he says. “That’s the measure that we think is important if we’re having an impact in this community. It’s not just about achieving fundraising goals.”