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[Innovation Series] An Interview with Jane McIntyre (United Way of Central Carolinas)

In each month of our Innovation Series, PMA is focusing on a different topic around nonprofit innovation.

JM photoIn service to a five-county region, United Way of Central Carolinas (UWCC) focuses on contributed fund development and allocation to 84 agencies , addressing one or more of the following needs: education, financial stability, housing and health. UWCC recently underwent a “Reinvention” process with the goal of achieving a “renewed effort and strategic focus,” related but not limited to the Board of Directors. Jane McIntyre was named Executive Director of the United Way of Central Carolinas in August of 2009, bringing nearly two decades of career experience in health and human services leadership and diverse community expertise, including most recently a nine-year tenure as CEO of YWCA Central Carolinas and, prior to that, nine-years at Carolinas HealthCare System and its Foundation.

 “We will no longer work to convert board members… we will seek only individuals that already believe in the mission.” – Jane McIntyre

 PMA: Jane, the board shrank in size from 67 in 2008 to just 24 members in 2013 – was this intentional?

 JM: “Yes, it was very intentional. Coming out of a period of great change and challenges, marked by bureaucracy at times and at other times total disengagement, UWCC needed a new way of doing business. It was demanded from the community. Specifically, we needed a board that was accountable and fully engaged. Thus, a committee handpicked the new board from over 110 applicants and utilized a consultant to lead the process, ensuring that we remained focused on organizational priorities and avoided controversy and conflict of interest at all costs.

“Some candidates self-nominated, some were strategically pursued, and others were referred, but the connective tissue was their connection to our mission. Our first preference was individuals with a proven history of giving to and/or volunteering with our organization, but we also considered individuals with legitimate exposure and/or knowledge of the health & human services sector. Simply put, we will no longer work to convert board members…we will seek only individuals that already believe in the mission.”

PMA: This sounds like a shift in your thinking about the ideal profile of the board. Do fundraising strategies still inform the composition of your board? 

JM: “We have definitely changed our thinking around the ideal profile of our board. In the first year of the reinvention, we were recruiting a governance board first and a fundraising board second, one that could work alongside executive staff in ensuring quality control. We needed folks who embodied key qualities – ethics, integrity, subject expertise, and commitment to mission. Ultimately, we recruited a board that was far less iconic and familiar with one another, but very equipped to do the job.”

PMA: But clearly fundraising remains just as important to UWCC. How has this renewed focus on governance and the composition of the board informed fundraising strategies?

JM: “As we get more comfortable with the status of our governance, we feel more comfortable about pursuing fundraising expertise for the board; the strategic plan, which was the result of our reinvention, certainly speaks to that. While corporate relations and workplace campaigns remain critical to our operation, we’re focusing more and more on individual relations. We want to be the type of organization that has meaningful and sustainable relationships with its constituents. Relations are the foundation for all we do, including fundraising.

“The board is small but they all participate in the development cycle. They are fully engaged and represent a strong cross-section of individual and corporate leadership. They’re willing to roll up their sleeves and accept fundraising as a reality. We’re seeing more at-home thank you events, more community outreach and volunteerism, and tremendous professionalism from this board.”

PMA: Was there an “a-ha” moment during the rebuilding of the UWCC board? A point where you saw the pathway forward and how it would all work out?

JM: “Twenty-two months into the reinvention, everything started to feel and look different. The board was drastically reduced and more effective than ever, our operating budget had gone from almost $11 million to just under $6 million and more donor dollars were going out into the community than in 2008-2009. Also, our staff was reduced from ninety-seven to forty-eight and each department had been reorganized. The board supported me and the leadership through some difficult changes.”

PMA: Based on this experience, how are you approaching board development differently in the future?

JM: “We’ve learned that new board members need to do a deep dive into all the workings of United Way. That means longer, more in-depth orientation, more board meetings, committee meetings and a retreat. Setting expectations upfront and developing the agenda with the chair provides stronger governance and results in a more effective board.

“I should note that this increased level of engagement of the board does not translate to micromanagement but instead a genuine and healthy desire on their part to understand and participate. This board does not spend time micromanaging the staff, which is vital. They do monitor and require accountability of themselves. This is why careful recruitment and training remain so important.”

PMA would like to thank Jane McIntyre for taking the time to sit down with us. For more information on governance, follow the PMA blog each week.