Wisconsin United Ways Merge

December 4, 2014       Patrick Sullivan      

United Way of Greater Milwaukee (UWGM) and United Way in Waukesha County (UWWC), plan to merger to become United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County. While the official date of the merger is Feb. 1, “We are beginning integration immediately,” said Lori Holly, director of marketing and communications at UWGM.

Mary Lou Young, former president and CEO of the UWGM, will take the top spot at the new organization. Jayne Thoma, executive director in Waukesha County, will become vice president of the Center for Community Collaboration, the volunteer center the new organization will be building.

There will be no staffing redundancies among the approximately 60 UWGM employees or the 15 UWWC staffers. UWGM, at $50.6 million, is also larger in terms of total revenue. UWWC’s revenue is $4.7 million.

“All of (the employees) will find a home in the new organization,” said Holly. “Most of the C-level will remain the same in Milwaukee. Because (UWWC) is so much smaller, we’re not really comparing apples to apples. Titles might change, but job duties will remain the same.”

Holly said the merger was driven by requests from corporate partners, as well as the desire to improve operational efficiencies in the four counties the two organizations collectively serve.

“The changes have been encouraged by our corporate donors and endorsed by United Way Worldwide,” said Holly. “We have many companies with sites in our four county footprint that will have fewer obstacles. The merger allows us to achieve better coordination of services, and by becoming one organization we will offer them a seamless organization. The change also aligns with our region and the United Way consolidation movement nationally.”

The consolidation comes at an opportune time, said Holly, because UWGM has traditionally voted on new board members at its February annual meeting. This year, she said, “We’ll be adding five business professionals from Waukesha County to our board, but it’s not a full (board) merger. It’s not like we’re doubling in size as a result of the consolidation.” The new organization will operate both of the merging organizations’ offices, one in Milwaukee and one in Waukesha, Wisc.

One of the biggest changes to the new organization will be the new volunteer center, headed by Thoma. UWWC used a Points of Light volunteer center in-house, while UWGM obtained its volunteer services from The Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee. “What we’ll be doing is building a volunteer center and taking it to scale,” said Holly.

According to Holly, the deal had been in the works for 17 months before it was announced. She said the organizations’ corporate partners worked closely with Young, who had been a corporate professional prior to her nonprofit sector career. “The decision to merge was so encouraged and so driven by our corporate partners, so we relied on their business expertise,” said Holly.

“The conversation took a lot longer than we anticipated, but all of those involved want to do it right versus quickly,” said Young. “Ensuring the Waukesha team that they would have an ongoing voice and influence in their county was critical and will remain critical forever.”