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Rochester area United Ways to merge

Rochester area United Ways to merge

Six United Ways in the region have merged to become United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes. Alignment across Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Wayne and Wyoming counties positions United Way to create greater impact throughout the region, officials said on Monday.

Jaime Saunders, who has led the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. for several years, will continue in her role as president and CEO.

Jaime Saunders
Jaime Saunders

“People and businesses function across local geographic boundaries,” Saunders said. “Working together more cohesively across the region will make it easier for our business partners and donors to share resources, and our nonprofit partners to get elevated support so they can remain focused on providing services.”

All current team members across the six counties will remain with the organization, bringing a breadth of hands-on experience, in-depth understanding and increased people-power to the expanded footprint, officials said.

Cicely Strickland-Ruiz will serve as chief operating officer of the merged organization; Jennifer Cathy as chief impact officer; Barbara Pierce as chief development officer; and Laurie Ganon as chief financial officer. Former regional directors will continue to serve in leadership roles: Kari Buch as associate director of community impact and Tammy Hathaway and Carol Pettis as senior regional development managers.

The six United Ways have worked together for decades, with Monroe County providing back-office services including financial, IT, marketing and human resources functions for all of the facilities. The new structure streamlines the organization’s front-end processes.

“The real power of United Way comes from the community,” said Lauren Dixon, board chairman of United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes, and an Ontario County resident and Monroe County business owner. “As neighbors come together in support of neighbors, United Way becomes a conduit for connecting those resources to the most pressing needs of each community. This merged organization will combine the power of the entire region with an intensely localized focus.”

Officials noted that funds raised in an area will stay committed to that area. Donors also will retain the ability to direct their contributions to the causes they feel strongest about. United Way will remain committed to its three core impact areas; providing meaningful Community Impact Fund Impact Grants to its nonprofit partners supporting health, education and economic mobility; and short-term Community Impact Fund Innovation Grants for crisis response, synergy and equity.

“We will maintain the consistency of funding as we coordinate processes and procedures on our end,” Cathy said. “We will take the next few years to synchronize six distinct grant cycles and application timelines into one, all with an eye to improving the experience for — and supporting the outcomes of — our partner agencies.”

The combined United Way has created a new Regional Advisory Council and Regional Cabinets to advise and inform strategies and ensure local communities from across the region are represented in the new organization. In addition, its board of directors has added members from the previous United Ways’ leadership, who will work alongside those who already live and work across county boundaries.

In Monday’s announcement, United Way officials confirmed that the organization will recover to pre-pandemic levels of Community Impact Fund support totaling $12.9 million to 190 programs region-wide, while also announcing $125,000 in new, multi-county allocations to nonprofits in Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Wayne and Wyoming Counties. The funding, $25,000 in each county through the organization’s Project Uplift initiative, has been committed to existing nonprofit partners to support and administer direct, discretionary interventions for community members experiencing barriers to well-being and economic stability. It is the first of many multi-county funding initiatives United Way anticipates rolling out across the region in the coming years, officials said.

During the coming months, United Way’s Community Impact team will conduct a listening tour with human service agencies across the six counties. The effort will be focused on aligning approaches and systems to maximize outcomes without creating additional burdens for service providers.

Workplaces and donors will notice simplification of some processes immediately, but otherwise, United Way’s Annual Campaign will remain unchanged. It will kick off its region-wide campaign in January, and year-round efforts will continue to help the organization raise needed funds to respond to community needs.

“We remain focused on providing local workplaces, donors and volunteers with easy and meaningful ways to make a big difference across our region,” Pierce said. “In addition to maintaining our current channels for giving, we will also continue to innovate and create new funds like our recently introduced Equity Fund, so donors can support the causes that are most important to them.”

United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes has launched its new website in conjunction with the announcement, and more information can be found at

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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