6 area United Way organizations merge

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Like the private sector, charitable organizations are restructuring to meet the needs of the post-pandemic world.

United Way of Greater Rochester is among them, announcing Monday a merger that unifies operations across six counties: Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Wayne and Wyoming.

“I am thrilled to announce the official merger of six United Ways coming together to become United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes,” said United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes president and CEO Jaime Saunders.

The leader of the philanthropic organization said this decision was 40 years in the making and for the past 18 months, leaders at United Way were evaluating the merger.

“What we’re bringing to the table now is effectiveness, so all staff continue to remain. We are a small and mighty team and now we have the power of the region while staying very hyper-focused locally in each of the communities as we continue at scale to meet the needs,” Saunders said.

The merger of half a dozen United Ways means that six counties will get more resources and help when it comes to some of the biggest human services challenges.

“Our compassion isn’t limited by those arbitrary boundaries. We care about our colleagues, our families and our friends who live all across this region,” said Lauren Dixon, a United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes board member.

“Our innovations will be shared faster, and we can really build on the bench. Now we have a bench of 100 and we can learn from each other so there are bright spots throughout the region. We can learn about a great after-school program in Geneva, we can learn about anti-poverty here in Rochester and we can learn about what’s happening in Batavia to address food insecurity,” Saunders said.

With pre-pandemic funding levels at nearly $13 million, the allocation of money to six regions will help the boots on the ground. According to the organization’s press release, 190 programs region-wide will benefit from the merger.

“With smaller counties like Livingston County, it’s hard to have all the expertise to raise money whether it’s social media expertise, finance expertise, campaign expertise… all the different parts you need to do. It’s hard to ask one person to be able to be everything to everybody. Now we have the scale of the whole United Way organization,” said Matthew Cole, a Livingston County resident and board member of the United Way of Greater Rochester and Finger Lakes.

When it comes to donations, United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes says donor dollars will go directly where the donors choose.

Over the coming months, the leadership of the new conglomerate will begin a listening tour and meet with local businesses, residents and partner agencies.

To learn more about the new organization, visit its just-launched website.