“These aren’t minor tweaks to the way United Way functions, this is a whole new approach to transforming communities,” said Board Chairman Mike St. Charles. Under the leadership of Mr. St. Charles and United Way CEO, Lesley Scearce, the United Way spent nearly a year engaged in a strategic planning process that included 151 staff and volunteers, hundreds of interviews, and more than 3,000 man hours. “This organization doesn’t belong to any one person, it belongs to the community,’ said Ms. Scearce. “We spent a significant amount of time listening to our neighbors, friends, and coworkers because we wanted any new direction to reflect the values and wants of the people we are here to serve.”
According to United Way representatives, the first step in this new direction was the realignment of senior leadership. “We knew this plan needed to help us grow the number of partners we work with, accelerate the rate of our impact work, and help us achieve greater operational efficiencies where possible,” said Caroline Bentley, Finance Committee chair. "Having the right team in the right positions is a critical first step.”
“At United Way, the ‘right team’ means that staff values a healthy culture, lead with humility and execute with excellence. Each member of this team embodies those values, which is why they were chosen to lead this organization,” said Ms. Scearce.
Significant changes include the creation of several new senior management positions as well as the consolidation of other departments. “We know that nonprofits alone cannot transform communities,” said Tom Greenholtz, chair of the Community Investment Committee. “We must engage with government and the for profit sector to create systems-level change. For that reason we created the role of vice president of Impact Policy & Advocacy, which is dedicated to crafting and advancing United Way’s public policy agenda.” This position is now occupied by United Way’s former Vice President of Community Impact, Jamie Bergmann.
Ms. Bergmann’s former role is being filled by Lakweshia Ewing, who will serve as a coach and lead vice president for United Way’s Impact team. “I’ve learned that the only way for any organization to truly impact a community is by being able to build an amazing team,” said Ms. Ewing,” I believe United Way is that organization. With my passion for this community, I am honored to be able to contribute to this awesome body of work."
Another addition to the management team is Vice President of Community Affairs, Jeana Lee, “I am thrilled to join an organization where I can incorporate my commitment to the community and my expertise of corporate social responsibility," said Ms. Lee. "This is a unique opportunity to deliver transformative change for the lives of thousands in our community.”
“In the past 24 months we have built out a nearly completely new management team and I could not be more thrilled with the talent and passion of this group,” said Ms. Scearce.
Recently the organization hired Suzy Anthony, CPA as the vice president of Finance and Operations, which consolidated the management of the day-to-day operations and financial oversight of United Way into one department.
“Another significant change was aligning our marketing, development, and volunteer engagement work into one department that we’ve called Community Engagement,” said Ms. Scearce. “It allows us to really connect and communicate with our donors in ways that are meaningful to them.” That department will be led by Patrick Long, vice president of Strategy and Development following the retirement of Mike Slocumb who served as vice president of Development for three years.
“We are so grateful for all Mike invested in our community," said Mr. Long. "Under his leadership we reached our goal, ensuring we could invest millions of dollars in our network of 90 programs and impact the lives of nearly 140,000 people. He certainly leaves some big shoes to fill but between our great fundraising team and dedicated volunteers I’m confident 2018 will be another great year.”
Venture Forward, formerly the Center for Nonprofits, will chart its new path under the leadership of Executive Director, Laura McCann. “The trainings and classes, individual workshops we do with nonprofits are important and we will continue to offer those," said Ms. McCann. “We are adding new programs and offerings that will help us think creatively about how we solve big problems with our members and partners. Chattanooga is a hub of innovation and Venture Forward exists to inspire our community to be bold and think differently."
“This is just the first in a series of significant shifts we are making to accelerate our impact work and serve donors more effectively,” said Mr. St. Charles. “In the coming months we look forward to announcing major changes to our Community Investment Grant-making process and laying out the specifics of our strategy to fundamentally transform the communities we work in.”
“At United Way of Greater Chattanooga we are more than fundraisers," said Ms. Scearce. "We are mobilizers, working to spark people to take action to help solve our community’s most significant problems. Impact is our priority, and we have an incredible opportunity to increase the effectiveness and take programs to scale in Chattanooga. In order to support the efforts and strategies our internal structure must better align and support their work."
To find out more about United Way of Greater Chattanooga or how to join the fight, please visit www.unitedwaycha.org or contact United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s Director of Impact Engagement, Donna L. Harrison at 752-0300.