One Departure, One Arrival At United Ways

As one of the nation’s largest United Way affiliates welcomed a new president and CEO, another announced the retirement of its chief executive.

United Way of Greater Houston announced on Thursday that Anna Babin will step down when her successor is hired, no later than the end of the fiscal year, March 31. She has led Greater Houston for the past 14 years, seeing it through the Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath construction of a 2-1-1 facility, and a merger with Montgomery County United Way.

Meanwhile, earlier last week, John Wilgers began his tenure as president and CEO of Greater Twin Cities United Way in Minneapolis, Minn., succeeding Sara Caruso, who announced a year ago that she would retire last summer as president and CEO after leading the affiliate for almost a decade.

The two affiliates have historically been among the largest in the nation when it comes to fundraising and support. Greater Houston reported total support of $122 million in the most recent campaign (2016-17), which included response to Hurricane Harvey, while Twin Cities ranked fourth, also behind Greater St. Louis and Greater Atlanta, reporting almost $74 million. In 2017, a spike in donor-restricted contributions for specific organizations created a $6-million shortfall in funding that led to about 5 percent cut in the 177 employees at Greater Twin Cities.

The moves continued a recent spate of CEO turnover and retirements at local United Way affiliates. The NonProfit Times in April estimated that as many as 120 local affiliate CEO posts have turned over since the start of 2018. About a third of those were the results of retirements.

Reporting to the Board of Directors of United Way, Wilgers will focus on advancing the organization’s mission to build pathways toward prosperity and equity for all by increasing access for all to stable housing, healthy food, a strong education, jobs and an opportunity to build prosperity and wealth. In his new role, Wilgers will oversee strategic innovation, community impact strategy, direct-service offerings, cross-sector partnerships, revenue diversification and fundraising initiatives.

Wilgers joins United Way after 35 years at Ernst & Young where he most recently held the position of managing partner of the Minneapolis. He has served in several United Way roles including board chair, member of the executive committee of the board, volunteer, fundraiser and donor.