United Way Restructuring Its Worldwide Presence

December 3, 2012       Mark Hrywna      

Realignment at United Way Worldwide (UWW) will be announced this week, focusing more resources toward regional offices around the globe to strengthen its worldwide network.

Sixty positions were eliminated and 58 were added, for a net loss of two positions. Many of those 58 positions will be pushed out into the field globally, according to Bill Meierling, director of media and public relations at United Way Worldwide. For example, there was a regional director for Africa, but that was the only staff, he said. Now the staff will include someone for fundraising, training and more. Most offices will have approximately seven staff with the exception of Asia, which will have 11, because of the number of languages and cultures.

“What we did was flatten our overall infrastructure. We restructured to have fewer numbers of overall teams but the teams will be larger,” he said. “This is about the organization’s commitment to take our worldwide movement to scale. All our international network regions been growing and reached critical mass,” said Meierling.

Many of the people who held the 60 positions being eliminated have been offered positions in the new structure and have the opportunity to accept or decline the new position this week, said Meierling. The changes, effective immediately, were announced to staff in a series of meetings on this past Friday, followed by an announcement to the field this morning, and scheduled to public partners and media tomorrow, according to Meierling.

The Alexandria, Va. headquarters has 220 staff, with about 200 physically in the building, Meierling said. The realigned staff members are considered employees at headquarters even though they are based around the world. A majority of the 58 positions are in the field, he added.

Three years ago, United Way of America and United Way International were merged to create United Way Worldwide, with a focus on the U.S. and “some notion of a worldwide presence. Now we’ve realigned, to embody the work we’re supposed to be doing,” said Meierling.

The move wasn’t the result of a loss of revenue or a matter of finances, according to Meierling. It’s unlikely the move will generate savings but eventually it would allow United Way to raise more money, he said, positioning “us with our partners in where they’re growing, and we’re growing.”

Meierling likened the realignment to Wal-Mart. The big box retailer saturated exurban and rural markets for years before finding the only way to grow would be to focus on urban areas, so it realigned internally to gain entry into cities. There’s been an awareness and desire by the management and board for this type realignment, he said, with discussions throughout this year culminating on Thursday.

Meierling said it will take some time to identify people with the right language and skill set, and some might come from the region or on-the-ground nonprofits in those regions but the idea is to get those regional offices staffed as soon as possible. Some will require specific language and abilities. Those announcements will be made this week, he added.