Michigan United Ways to merge

Three Michigan United Ways have voted to merge their formerly separate entities into a single organization.

United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region (UWBCKR), Capital Area United Way (CAUW) and United Way of Jackson County (UWJC) announced plans last week to form a combined nonprofit to provide new opportunities for the region while maintaining a local presence.

United Ways of South Central Michigan (UWSCM) will retain its formerly separate staff, offices, partnerships and investments serving Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Jackson counties.

The UWSCM will be governed by a newly formed Board of Directors with equal representation from each of the three sites. The new board hopes to launch the new organization within the next six months. Local Steering Committees will report to the new UWSCM Board and advise each local site.

“People trust their local United Way to use the dollars they donate to change lives locally. We are committed to keeping this in place,” said Ken Toll, President and CEO of UWJC.

The once separate United Ways have worked together on common needs for more than a decade, and the “merger of equals” seeks to bring together unique strengths, shared authority and a continued focus on local needs.

“Each of our communities is unique, with needs that our individual United Ways address every day. At the same time, many of these needs are interconnected. We believe we can better address these issues together, both locally and regionally,” said CAUT President and CEO Teresa Kmetz.

Toll said the financial instability among Michigan’s ALICE (limited assets, limited income, and employed) population is an example of the common issues the merger will be better able to address. According to United Way, 40% of Michigan households are ALICE households.

“The ALICE report shows how the challenges faced by people living in poverty or just above poverty are similar across communities – depressed wages, access to key services like childcare, inequalities systemic, economic effects of the pandemic and much more,” Toll said. “The combination of our expertise means we can bring more resources, capabilities and ideas that will benefit all of our communities.

UWBCKR President and CEO Chris Sargent said people who rely on United Way can count on local systems to be maintained. Donations made locally will be invested locally and not sent elsewhere. Local United Way names will remain the same for fundraisers and other community purposes.

“The strength and benefits of a merger like this is in its scale,” Sargent said. “The combined organization will be able to tap into new sources of funding, create new partnerships, more effectively advocate for racial and economic equity, and play a greater role in impacting vulnerable families than ours. Individual Centraide cannot do it alone. ”

Kmetz said discussions about the potential merger began in 2020 with board members and stakeholders from each of the three organizations involved in the conversation.

“We spoke with key donors, partner agencies, businesses, unions, former board members and others, discussing how a merger would allow us to do more for those we serve,” said said Kmetz. “Everyone who watched this merger up close, everyone who helped us study it from all angles, was very supportive of the idea.”

More information at unitedforscmi.org.

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