United Way of Northeast Georgia

Athens, Georgia

May 2018 – February 2019

Services Provided:

Where They Were

In 2017, United Way of Northeast Georgia was in the midst of a significant transition from a Community Chest to a Community Impact model. This was a considerable culture shift, but one that was necessary and in alignment with the efforts of United Way Worldwide.

The ultimate goal was to move from an organization that provided ongoing annual support to traditional community programs to one that was identifying and supporting widespread community issues – funding programs and services targeting the most critical community needs.

Leadership Whiplash

  • The organization had experienced tremendous stability under the same leadership for three decades
  • After the long-time CEO retired, a new CEO was hired to help bring the Community Impact model to Northeast Georgia. After a short ~18 months, the new CEO resigned from the position to relocate and be closer to family in the Midwest.
  • In addition, the organization had two board presidents resign early – both relocated away from the community for career moves.

When I arrived, the staff and board had been through tremendous change and had been without true leadership for several months. The board decided it was time to pause, assess and take a measured and thoughtful approach to the next CEO hire.

Enter Good Works

Through a deliberate discovery and assessment process, I considered the organization in five primary areas: Mission, Leadership, Fundraising, Storytelling and Infrastructure. In partnership with the staff and the board, a thorough review of each area was conducted and, ultimately, graded (Scale: A+ – Failing).

This process included multiple confidential interviews with stakeholders, weekly strategy sessions with the board chair, weekly team meetings with staff, and the use of assessment tools – both from United Way Worldwide and Good Works, LLC.

Ultimately, this process led us to a deeper understanding of the style of leadership needed, along with a clear understanding of the organization’s bright spots and blind spots. Taking time to truly uncover the priorities allowed the search committee to recruit someone with the strengths and skillset needed to take the organization forward. This process also allowed us to be candid and clear with candidates about the organization – where it was thriving, and where it needed to correct course.

For example, because of the leadership changes, the shift from Community Chest to Community Impact was not well communicated and was causing a ripple of distrust and uncertainty through the traditionally funded agencies. Because of unfulfilled pledge payments to the organization, partner agencies were also receiving some unexpected funding cuts from UWNEGA – further adding to the distrust. As Interim, I held one-on-one meetings with all partner agencies, and we began hosting Q&A forums to help establish transparency and trust.

Additionally, the move to Community Impact had significant changes on the funding model – a model that had previously been built around corporate pledges (with inconsistent pledge payments complicated by outdated technology) would need transition to a more sophisticated and disciplined system – ensuring dollars were secured before being granted out.

At the time the search committee launched, the board knew the new CEO would need to be particularly strong in organizational management and relationship building. While many wonderful candidates were interviewed and considered, ultimately it was a candidate who had years of experience in business management that was selected. New CEO Kay Keller brought a keen eye and unique ability to streamline systems, policies, technology that has enhanced UWNEGA’s effectiveness and adaptability in an ever-changing world. She’s been able to build the organization back up from the inside out and was the perfect fit for what the organization’s needs.

Victoria stepped in as the interim CEO of United Way of Northeast Georgia (UWNEGA) for 10 months. She was quickly able to stabilize the staff and assess many uncovered prior issues. She also was intimately involved in assisting us with the selection of a new permanent CEO. She actively supported the entire 2018 campaign and helped the board through a very difficult time. She is extremely organized and driven to results. As the board chairman, I could not have kept the organization afloat without Victoria’s help and expertise.

Dr. Charles Peck
CEO, Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital, UWNEGA Board President

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