We joined our colleagues from United Way of Greater Topeka to announce that we are in the final stages of authorizing a merger of our two organizations. Together, we will become United Way of Kaw Valley. We are excited for this next step in our work to create strong, healthy, and equitable communities.
Both board chairs affirmed that United Way’s work in Douglas County would continue to be funded with donations made in Douglas County and would continue to be defined by Douglas County volunteers. United Way of Greater Topeka’s work in Jackson County provides an existing model for merging with an eye to local control of funds. Donations given in one county stay with that county unless a donor specifies otherwise, and donors always have a choice.
The merger is subject to final approval votes from our donors later this month. While staff will begin collaborating immediately, each United Way will conduct its fall workplace campaign under its existing identity. A brand relaunch as United Way of Kaw Valley is planned for early in 2023.
Read the press release (PDF file)
Watch the Facebook live of the August 3 press conference with United Way of Douglas County Board Chair Kurt Schueler, United Way of Greater Topeka Board Chair Matt All, and CEO Jessica Lehnherr.
Normal Operations, Events Uninterrupted for Both Organizations
Both organizations have events on their fall schedules that will continue uninterrupted. United Way of Douglas County will host its Unite and Take Flight event at the Lawrence Regional Airport on August 27. United Way of Greater Topeka will hold its annual Nancy Perry Day of Caring on September 23. The organization also will continue to coordinate and support the Shawnee County Christmas Bureau.
United Way of Douglas County Board President Kurt Schueler said that the board and staff were excited to finally share the merger with the Douglas County community.
“We realized early on,” Schueler said, “that both organizations share stakeholders and an ultimate goal of positive impact to our communities. Throughout these discussions we have thought constantly about how we can do better for Douglas County. We are confident that joining forces with United Way of Greater Topeka makes sense on every front—for those we serve, for those who receive our grants, and for those who trust United Way to invest their donations.”
UWGT Board Chair Matt All was equally positive about the potential of the new organization. “United Way of Douglas County is part of the fabric of all the communities it serves,” he said. “We are excited to combine our talented staffs and share the best each organization has to offer and to be a leader among Kansas United Ways.”
Local Guidance and Investment Are Key
Both board chairs affirmed that United Way’s work in Douglas County would continue to be funded with donations made in Douglas County and would continue to be defined by Douglas County volunteers.
UWGT’s work in Jackson County provides a existing model for merging with an eye to local control of funds. Donations given in one county stay with that county unless a donor specifies otherwise, and donors always have a choice.
Maintaining local control of initiatives and impact choices also leaves that prioritizing and decision making in the hands of the volunteers who know their community best.
“It makes perfect sense,” All said, “for Douglas County to define what works best for Douglas County in the best interest of Lawrence, Baldwin City and Eudora. Jackson
County has used a similar model for more than a decade in partnership with Topeka. They have a local advisory committee, local grantmaking, while at the same time benefitting from the support, talent and resources of a larger staff.”
UWGT CEO Jessica Lehnherr said members of the communities would notice little immediate change because of the merger. “We have a lot of operational details to collaborate on as a unified staff,” Lehnherr said. “Even though we’ll be hitting our busiest time of the year, we’ll be learning how things work in all four counties and deciding together what United Way of Kaw Valley becomes in its first phase.”
While their names will change before current grants expire, neither organization will alter grant agreements that are currently active because of the merger. UWGT is in the final year of a pandemic-extended impact grant cycle and will announce new and re-focused opportunities this winter. Existing community grants and agreements with Americorps in Douglas County also will continue under the merged organization.
UWGT’s bylaws require that current donors be given the opportunity to vote on a merger, so notifications will go out this week to anyone qualified to vote. Anyone receiving the notification can attend the virtual approval vote via Zoom at the August UWGT board meeting.
Lehnherr said that UWGT would provide updates on the merger in each month’s UWGT digital newsletter. She invited anyone curious about the merger progress to subscribe to the newsletter using the button on the top of the UWGT web page at unitedwaytopeka.org.
ABOUT UNITED WAY OF GREATER TOPEKA
Until the Fight is Won.
Creating and cultivating an unbreakable network of support for a strong, healthy and equitable community.
United Way brings together people, companies and nonprofits in Shawnee, Jefferson and Jackson Counties to create positive sustainable change in education, financial stability and health. United Way remains dedicated to supporting Basic Needs, including food, rent and utilities, health and prescription access and safety from domestic violence.
ABOUT UNITED WAY OF DOUGLAS COUNTY
OUR MISSION: Fighting poverty and improving lives by Uniting Douglas County.
OUR VISION: A thriving, healthy and resilient Douglas County.
United Way of Douglas County is creating a more equitable community for us all. Through partnerships with nonprofits, local government, businesses, community advocates and volunteers, we are building a just and fair Douglas County with equitable inclusion in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. We invite you to join our fight. United, we can end poverty.