United Way needs supporters’ voicesWritten by Bill Kitson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I believe the United Way of Greater Toledo Board of Trustees made a great decision Aug. 6 by unanimously approving a building project that secures United Way’s financial health into the future. What most people seem to be missing in all the discussion swirling around about “demolition” is the tremendous amount of research and study that went into the board’s decision. This was not a rush to judgment; some could even argue we were too deliberative in the process.
When I arrived in Toledo just over three years ago, almost every conversation at one point would have a question about the future of the building. The organization began serious conversations about it in 2002. Throughout the next six years, three different volunteer committees spent countless hours looking over engineering reports, taking various professionals through the building and ultimately working every angle possible to make the best decision for an organization whose mission is to help people.
I feel compelled to publicly say “thank you” to them for their efforts. These conscientious volunteers and professionals are being discounted and disrespected in this process. They volunteered their time and expertise to advise our board on all the options they had available. The board similarly needs to be commended for making what it knew could be a controversial decision.
One of the more serious misconceptions I have heard is that United Way donor contributions are going to pay for the new building. This is simply not true. In fact, the opposite is the case. United Way donors are paying for our current building’s operating costs. As those costs climb, so does the drain on United Way’s budget. The new building will be paid for by our Board Designated Fund, which was a fund established in the mid-1970s to do this kind of work. It acts as our endowment.
At the end of the day, United Way’s mission is to change lives in the community, to advance the common good. Our mission is not to preserve buildings. Even with all the public conversation since our announcement, I have not been presented with one financially viable solution. There have been many “creative” ideas, but none has even come close to meeting our need to be Downtown in an open and accessible environment with free parking.
Thank you to those who have expressed your support of our difficult decision. We may need to call on you to say it out loud as we move through this process.
Bill Kitson is president and CEO of United Way of Greater Toledo.