From The Executive Director's Desk: April 2023
I am a big believer in reflection. A leadership coach I follow from my days working at JMU has a simple mantra: “Pause. Breathe. Reflect.” And for the last 11 months and 29 days, that’s been written above my desk. As I reflect on one year as Executive Director of our United Way, I am reminded of how far we have come over the last 12 months as an organization and the unique challenges we have faced together.
One of my initial goals in taking on this new role was to build a solid team within our staff. Non-profits have not been immune to the staffing shortages facing our country, but we have successfully recruited and retained some of the best talent around and I can confidently say that the team is solid. If you’ve had the opportunity to meet any member of our team, you know that they not only bring a high level of skill to their positions and to the organization, but they’re also incredibly passionate about the work we do at United Way. I can and will take every opportunity I can to brag about them and to affirm that the work of this organization is in proficient hands.
Another key goal of this past year was to bring the work of United Way into focus. Last fall, we embarked upon a strategic planning process that has provided the clarity we have needed in order to become the United Way our community needs us to be. Our Board and Staff have worked hard to ensure the work of this organization is reflective of who we are as an organization and where there is need across the community.
It may come as a surprise to some that United Way is evolving. Our United Way has been around for 65 years and while change can be scary, it’s also a necessary and important part of serving the community that has built this organization over the last six and a half decades. We have gone about this process thoughtfully, conducting community conversations, digging through the local data, and asking questions to key stakeholders about the future. What we have uncovered is the intersection of our local community needs and what we are uniquely positioned to do as an organization. We look forward to sharing that with you all over the next few weeks.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I want to take a moment to reflect on the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with you — partners, donors, volunteers, board members, community members … the list goes on and on. I have spent hours talking with and listening to the perspectives of people who engage with this work in one way or another and I can say with confidence that the people in this community genuinely want to help make it a better, stronger community that supports the people who live here. In a time when it seems as though conflict across political lines is at an all-time high, I would argue that there is actually more that unites us than there is that divides us. That gives me so much hope for the future.
Whether we are reflecting on one year or 65 years, one thing remains true: United Way is vital piece of our community and will continue to work tirelessly to improve lives by connecting and mobilizing community resources. I am thankful for this work, for your support, for all of the people that make this organization possible, and I look forward to reflecting back again next year.