November 14, 2018; WCPO
The last few tumultuous weeks of the annual campaign of United Way of Greater Cincinnati have been marked with the resignation of the CEO and the subsequent departure under fire of the board chair. The leaving CEO, Michael Johnson, had been in place for only four months and was the organization’s first Black CEO. Both Johnson and other leaders in the Black Community charged the board—and the board chair in particular—with creating a hostile work environment for Johnson and a portion of the staff chimed in on the request for the chair to step down.
It is hard to guess whether and how much this chaos affected UWGC’s final tally of $50,315,000 in projected pledges, because the decline is not significantly larger than it has been in recent past years, as can be seen below.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Revenue
Even before the internal issues surfaced, Johnson had warned the United Way that a less robust presence of corporate partners was likely to bring the campaign in at around $52 million.
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The organization’s interim CEO, Ross Meyer, says that the past few weeks have been a “heartbreaking time” for the organization, and that he will work hard during his tenure to drive conversation on the issues of race-based inequities. As he writes in a letter to the community,
This has understandably brought to the forefront important issues in our community. Several leaders from the black community came to our offices on Tuesday to share a deep desire for change. I listened and promised to continue to listen and act on what we learn together. Let me be absolutely clear: There are indisputable racial inequities in our community. United Way commits to working with others in the community to address issues of equity and inclusion. We promise to look inward as well as outward. We’ll continue to have tough conversations—conversations I believe are extremely important steps for all of us.
The nonprofits waiting to receive grants for the upcoming year had already been warned they would be in line for a 20 percent cut, and staff reductions at the United Way are expected. Still, perhaps the organization and its community can figure out how to transform this moment into greater future value.—Ruth McCambridge