Nonprofit Newswire | United Way Merger Goes Awry

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June 6, 2010; Source: Mohave Daily News | On the surface this story seems like a case study in what not to do in a merger process. Many federated networks have been pushing mergers of local offices in the past few years and many of these have already been implemented with some gains and losses but little open struggle. That makes this story from Arizona particularly notable. Apparently, this merger was more of a consolidation but no-one told the consolidated group. From the article,

“Explanations of the events are a little muddy. According to a release circulated Friday, the board of directors of the Lake Havasu City-based River Cities United Way considered the Bullhead/Laughlin-based United Way of the Colorado River Region to be “a satellite office” of the River Cities United Way. According to members of the Colorado River Region board, they believe the merger agreement the two agencies signed last year made them ‘equal partners.’ At least two United Way officials from the regional and national level met with both parties separately on Tuesday and scheduled a joint meeting with members of both boards Wednesday in Laughlin. While the Laughlin/Bullhead delegation attended the meeting, representatives of the Lake Havasu board shut down the Laughlin office and removed all staff, including Penny Renfro, who was executive director of the United Way of the Colorado River Region and senior vice president of the merged River Cities United Way.”

People from the Laughlin/Bullhead Colorado River Region, meanwhile, reported calling the office and getting a recording saying that staff were either out or with clients. Local donors are, of course, unhappy with the upheaval. Officials of the Colorado River region United Way are reported to be looking at all their options including the possibility of reorganizing outside of the national United Way Umbrella.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Tom King

    And United Ways are surprised when donors withdraw their support!

    The political climate at the United Way has grown ever more reminiscent of a small town city council meeting, replete with high drama, snarky behavior and the attendant back-stabbing.

    The United Way is a great idea, but, at least in some communities, it has aged poorly.

    Tom King