United Way the Dayton Way

The last thing you do when you want to build trust is start meeting behind closed doors. At least that’s the way true leadership works in this information-driven economy. The Dayton United Way got in trouble by letting an incompetent executive pay himself way too much, for way too long, while not delivering enough of the money to the right places in an efficient way.

The new guy is fighting an uphill battle against the old guy’s legacy- but is still working within the old guy’s playbook. Do what the powers that be tell you to do. Not only that, we’re still caught up with the idea of “benchmarking” as the way out of a mess that can easily be cleaned up by doing the right thing and communicating that message clearly. Sure the economy has changed, but asking for help from the people who were supposedly watching the hen house while the last fox ate the chickens is tantamount to throwing in the towel.

Face it- if these 45 people wanted to prop up United Way and make it work, they could write the checks out of their personal accounts tomorrow. Pam Morris, CEO of CareSource- pays herself $3 million dollars a year to administer tax dollars that are supposed to be doing the same thing that the United Way does- fund the less fortunate. If we paid the head of United Way even 10% of what she made in a year, we’d be up in arms- because that’s 50% more than what we paid the “old guy” and 3x what we’re paying the “new guy.” It’s OK to grossly overpay a non-profit head that’s using tax dollars- but, it’s a no-no to do it to one who takes true charity and tries to distribute it fairly.

From the Dayton Daily News:

Forty-five business and community leaders from across the Dayton region gathered Thursday, April 22, to plot a new course for the United Way of Greater Dayton, an agency that’s seen its fundraising fall and mission challenged amid a troubled economy and rising need.

The invitation-only meeting, the first of three this spring, was mostly a brainstorming session, attendees said.

The meeting focused on, “What are the strategic challenges, No. 1, — what’s not right — and what are the opportunities?” said Ron Budzik, a member of the Dayton Business Committee and a former Mead Corp. executive. “We got all kinds of feedback.”

Budzik and others declined to provide specifics about what was said at the two-hour meeting held at the Entrepreneurs Center, 714 E. Monument. But they said attendees, who included chief executives Pamela Morris of CareSource and Roy Chew of Kettering Medical Center, gathered in five groups to discuss three topics: the United Way’s organizational structure, its fundraising model in the absence of NCR, General Motors and other big corporate donors of the past, and public perception.

“The perception (from the groups) is the United Way serves an important purpose but it needs to change because the economy has changed,” said Bill Burges, a consultant from Cleveland who’s worked on levy and public relations campaigns for Dayton Public Schools and Sinclair Community College. “We have to figure out ways to deal with a younger, smaller, more diverse workforce.”

The United Way ran deficits of more than $600,000 in 2006 and 2007 and ended fiscal year 2008 more than $1 million in the red. Fundraising has declined for years and fell $1 million short this year of its $9.5 million target.

A benchmarking study against seven similar United Ways, including agencies in Akron, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Anchorage, Alaska, showed Dayton is on the low side for staff size, donor participation and average gift size and its overhead is toward the median. But none of the other agencies was a model for Dayton to follow, said Jayne Klose, the agency’s vice president for marketing and resource development.

via Meeting plots new United Way course.

The Dayton Business Committee are the folks that brought you the Schuster Center. It was deemed important to prop up the property values of Virginia Kettering with the Kettering Tower, Tom Danis with the CitFed/5/3 tower (I don’t know what it’s name is this week) and the Mead Tower (now the Key Bank tower) at the corner of 2nd and Main. Other options like building it close to the Convention Center and the Oregon “Entertainment” district were never considered- even though there would have been synergy with the Convention Center, the Crown Plaza and the multiple dining options with an existing parking structure. They are also the people who have been quietly directing Dayton politicians for years. This group operates outside the public view- with its own agenda and zero oversight or accountability. If you are wondering who really runs Dayton- this would be the first place to look.

It’s also odd that a Cleveland PR/political consulting firm has its hooks into this process. Are no local PR executives competent? Burges & Burges worked on Mayor Rhine McLin’s re-election campaign if you need a “Benchmark” to measure them by, and they’ve also been receiving $6,000 a month for at least a year to work with the Dayton Public Schools on a no-bid contract that didn’t give any guidelines for actual deliverables. They did however find and deliver departing Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Stanic to the DPS board before they got the contract (for which they are to be commended- as he’s been the best person to occupy that position in several decades).

Once again, Dayton is stuck on the idea that everything has to be done:

  • In secret
  • By committee
  • With consensus
  • By the anointed ones

Strong independent voices are to be frowned upon.

But, that’s the Dayton Way.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!