Exclusive: United Way Losing U.S. President To YMCA

Suzanne McCormick, president of United Way Worldwide/US, is leaving the organization to head YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) in Chicago. She replaces the retiring Kevin Washington, who rose to the top job in February 2015, having spent his entire career within the Y system, starting in September 1978.

The resignation leaves the United Way Worldwide (UWW) board now needing to fill the organization’s top three executive positions.

Four senior-level sources confirmed to The NonProfit Times that McCormick is leaving. Messages to executives at both UWW and YUSA were not initially returned. Several hours after this story originally posted, Y-USA sent a release announcing the appointment. 

McCormick’s resignation comes as the UWW board is working to replace former President & CEO Brain Gallagher and UWW International President José Pedro Ferrão, who previously announced his retirement, planned for the end of the year. 

Former UWW board chair Neeraj Mehta is the interim president and chief executive officer of UWW. Three of the sources told The NonProfit Times that Mehta agreed to the interim role with the understanding he did not want to be considered for the permanent position. McCormick was widely expected to be at least a finalist for the position.

In some cases, the senior positions the next level down at UWW are not filled or are being handled by interim executives or those hired just before COVID-19 took its toll on staffing.

The challenge for UWW is that the U.S. operation generates roughly 80% of revenue for the worldwide network, the sources told The NonProfit Times. The people left behind don’t yet have the deep contacts within the network, according to the sources.

“You can’t blame her for leaving. You can’t pass up an opportunity like the Y,” a source told The NonProfit Times for background. UWW and the Y system are alike in that they are federated networks, with local chapters as members but mostly independent of the national office.

Internal staff at UWW were to be told of the departure today during a 1 p.m. announcement. It was not immediately clear when YUSA will announce the transition.

The most recent salary information is a few years old due to COVID-19 and extensions to filing federal Form 990s. The UWW/US president prior to McCormick earned at least $438,000 for Fiscal Year 2018. The most recent numbers for Washington are for 2019 showing total compensation of $786,000.

McCormick is the first female to lead Y-USA in its 170-year history. She became president of UWW/US in July 2019. She joined the United Way system in 2010 as president and chief executive of the United Way of Greater Portland in Maine. She was president and chief executive officer of United Way Suncoast in Tampa, Fla., when tapped for UWW/US presidency.

The Y-USA press release included a comment from McCormick. “Stepping into this role at this critical time in our history allows me to leverage every aspect of my experience and my expertise,” she said via the release. “This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity perfectly aligns with my personal mission, my values, my passions and my commitment to equity. I’m excited to support and advocate for YMCAs across the country as they continue to improve the lives of millions of people every day and build more inclusive, resilient communities where everyone can thrive.”

A graduate of Duke University, McCormick taught English in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer. Earlier this month she was selected for the first time as an honoree in the 2021 The NonProfit Times Power & Influence Top 50. Washington had been included five times (2016-2020) in The NPT Power & Influence Top 50.

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This report was updated to include the press information provided by Y-USA after initial posting.