Bob Haight was born in Painesville, Ohio. A graduate of Ashland College in 1980 with a degree in business administration he received his master of science in social administration in 1989 from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. Bob and his wife Sue have two daughters, Sara and Kristen. Sue, an Ashland College graduate, is an elementary school teacher.
Bob has sixteen years of United Way experience. He started with the United Way immediately after his graduation from Ashland College. Bob was interviewing with a Painesville bank officer who happened to be the volunteer president of the United Way of Lake County. He was offered a starting position as associate director of allocations and planning, working with 36 member agencies and an annual campaign raising $1.5 million.
During his career, Bob has served several communities – Adrian, Michigan; Kent, Ohio; Alton, Illinois – and came to Peoria three years ago.
In his present position with the Heart of Illinois United Way, he serves as executive director. The Heart of Illinois United Way has 40 member agencies and 75 funded programs (agencies that are listed in the sidebar).
He serves on the United Way of Illinois Board of Directors and Executive Committee; CILCO Customer Advisory Council; First of America Bank – First Grant Program; Race Relations Committee; Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce – Government Committee; National Society of Fundraising Executives, Central Illinois Chapter’s Board of Directors, and is involved with youth soccer in Peoria and East Peoria. In 1995, he was recognized as a member of 40 Leaders Under Forty.
How did United Way get started?
The United Way system was designed in local communities long before there was a national organization. The United Way was founded in Denver, Colorado, in 1887, when a Denver priest, two ministers and a rabbi put their heads together and planned the first united campaign for ten health and welfare agencies. Over the years, the United Way has been known by many different names: Community Chest, War Chest, United Appeal, United Givers Fund, United Fund, and in 1972 the United Way logo and common name were introduced. One hundred and ten years later, United Way in 2,200 communities raised more than $3 billion to support 37,000 agencies and over 35 million families.
Our history is important because the United Way system of caring was designed at the local level and remains committed to the process of local decision making. United Way of America provides local United Ways with training, government relations, pledge processing for national companies with multiple locations, National Corporate Leaders program, and national advertising such as the 25 years of National Football League public services announcements.
What is the main difference in the way the Heart of Illinois United Way runs its business and the national organizations?
The Heart of Illinois United Way (HOIUW) is an organization committed to serving the needs of our local donors, member agencies, volunteers and our community. United Way of America is a membership organization that provides services to its member United Ways similar to those provided by a trade association. Many other national organizations are designed and managed from a centralized organization with local chapters.
A few years ago the United Way of America was involved in a scandal through its national president. What effect did that have on local giving and has trust been rebuilt between the agency and donors?
The events associated with the former president, William Aramony, was a national tragedy. United Way of America’s Board of Governors and the State of Virginia prosecuted the individuals involved and they are currently serving sentences for theft.
HOIUW volunteers Bruce Snyder and Joan Krupa were active in reforming the operations at the national level. Today the national Board of Governors has elected representation for local United Ways, which is intended to maintain our local mission with a national presence. Management systems in any organization are only as effective and honest as the people involved, and we have removed those individuals from the organization.
Now that I have given you that background, I can answer your original question. I’m sure the scandal influenced some donors or at least raised questions regarding distribution of funds. In fact, when donors ask the question, they are surprised to learn that over 99 percent of what is raised stays in the local community and that all of our decisions are made my our local board of directors. We are committed to solving problems at the local level with local resources.
From a business standpoint, the basic appeal of giving through United Way is the reduction of individual requests for donations. It appears that the human service agencies and other non-profit organizations are always conducting fund-raisers. What is HOIUW doing to get is member agencies to adhere to the original intent of a community appeal?
Businesses are being asked by many worthwhile organizations for financial support. This trend was influenced by the decentralization or government to the local level. During the 1980s, the federal government began to move health and human services to the local level. As this trend developed, the number of not-for-profits doubled to over 600,000. They are all worthwhile causes, but all needing additional volunteer and financial resources. This trend created a charitable marketplace with increased offerings for donors and competition for financial resources.
The HOIUW met with donors and agencies’ representatives in 1994 to evaluate our fundraising policies. The Agency Fundraising Committee, chaired by Carol Thorstenson, evaluated donor needs and the demands placed on our agencies. Some businesses asked United Way to develop fundraising restrictions, others asked for restrictions but wanted to exempt their favorite organization. Agencies were concerned about the fundraising “blackout period” United Way maintained.
As a result of our evaluation, the board of directors adopted a policy of encouraging agencies to support the annual community campaign with their volunteer and staff resources, and respecting the needs of the donor. The traditional agency fundraising blackout period was eliminated allowing the donor community to decide which organizations they will support over and above the United Way’s Community Fund concept. Agencies were required to provide United Way with an annual fundraising plan in order to reduce conflicting activities and dates.
United Way agencies are still required to seek United Way approval at least 120 days prior to the start of a capital campaign. The Agency Fundraising Committee evaluates the agency’s need for a capital campaign and its ability to raise the resources needed, reviews the demand the expansion will place on the operating budget, and other factors. The Agency Fundraising Committee is comprised of donors, volunteers, an agency representative and fundraising professionals. The committee is designed to assist agencies before launching a major campaign effort.
Why does it seem like there are so many capital campaigns now?
The need for capital campaigns has increased during the 1990s because the capital needs of agencies were not addressed in the 1970s and 1980s. The most recent United Way agency to launch a capital campaign is George Washington Carver Center.
What are the major challenges facing HOIUW?
The major challenges facing the HOIUW are the same challenges facing our community. Beginning in 1995, the HOIUW launched a strategic plan – Vision 2010 – that is addressing the challenges of what lies ahead. This plan is different from long-range planning. Traditionally, long-range plans attempt to predict the future and react. Our Vision 2010 identifies a mission statement with three goals with action plans. The mission statement calls for the organization to become actively involved in solutions to complex health and human service issues and become more sensitive to the wants and needs of donors.
As a member of CILCO’s Customer Advisory Council, I have been given the opportunity to listen to CILCO’s vision for its industry and the manner in which it is managing change. Jim Vergon, president and chief operating officer, was a member of our Strategic Planning Committee and a mentor of mine as we addressed the issues facing our organization.
I see several direct parallels with CILCO’s vision and the manner in which the United Way will operate in the future. HOIUW was a mature organization that peaked in the early 1990s and was headed towards a business cycle trough. In order to reverse this trend, and similar to other businesses, the organization needed to introduce new products, a strategic vision, and outcome measurements consistent with the values of our individual donors, corporate donors and foundation supporters. Thus, the organization will become increasingly more responsive to the needs of our customers (donors, volunteers, community leaders and agencies). Two years ago business leaders states that the United Way needed to be a community problem-solver, an efficient and effective fund-raiser, provide services to its members and collaborate with other community organizations.
Didn’t this lead to the United Way directly taking on specific community problems?
Yes, the HOIUW is now active with the Neighborhood Development Project and Empowerment Zone – a community collaborative. United Way is working with the Local Area Network’s Family Preservation Program, administrated by the Children’s Home, and with the City of Peoria’s Empowerment Zone. Ninety other organizations are participating in some portion of the Neighborhood Development Program. The Neighborhood Development Program is designed to link institutions and their resources with neighborhood associations and their leaders. Each neighborhood has assets and talents that can be utilized in addressing difficult community problems. Too often society seems to focus on the deficiencies of people and their neighborhoods and not their collective strength.
The Neighborhood Development Program is chaired by Sally Snyder and has a matrix of funding: The City of Peoria Empowerment Zone, Local Area Network, United Way, Caterpillar Inc., The Augusta Fund and a recent multi-year commitment by the Blackie Foundation based on performance indicators. This funding collaboration is providing the community with a model for reversing alarming trends by creating a partnership between organizations with resources and the individual. When we as a community unlock the collective assets which have been hidden, we will make a significant impact on social problems that seem to be insurmountable.
What are examples of some of these social problems?
The Heart of Illinois United Way is providing the lead agency role for five Teen Pregnancy Task Force subcommittees: Strengthening Families, Building Self-Esteem, Creating Economic Hope, Enhancing Health Care Access and Education, and Constructive Use of Leisure Time. The network of agencies, churches and volunteers working together gives us an opportunity to reduce our high teen pregnancy rates. High teen pregnancy rates are linked to poverty, abuse, neglect and other obstacles to self-sufficiency. The cost of teen pregnancies to the tri-county area is over $30 million through programs such as Aid to Dependent Children, Medicaid and food stamps.
Donors are asking the United Way to be more than a system of collecting money and distributing funds to agencies. They are asking the United Way to provide additional value to their gift. Programs such as United Way’s Information and Referral that links an individual to services, our priority system and community collaborations, are all activities donors are requesting from their local United Way.
The goals you mentioned as part of the Teen Pregnancy Task Force sound similar to the Presidents’ Summit in April.
Yes, the goals are very similar. The HOIUW is one of three local co-conveners of the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Youth that is chaired by General Colin Powell. Peoria is one of a hundred communities selected to participate in the summit. The Presidents’ Summit is a cooperative venture between the Points of Light Foundation, founded by President Bush; the National Corporation for Community Service – Americorps, founded by President Clinton; and the United Way of America.
The HOIUW has been working with the ten-member delegation who will attend the summit. They will evaluate our local assets and enhance current programs as part of the national Mobilization for America’s Youth. The delegation will be working towards five fundamental resources that can help young people lead healthy, fulfilling and productive lives:
- An ongoing relationship with a caring adult – mentor, tutor, coach;
- Safe places and structured activities for youth during non-school hours;
- A healthy start;
- A marketable skill through effective education
- An opportunity to give back through community service
What are giving trends in central Illinois?
The HOIUW and our member agencies have benefited from a 12 percent increase in giving during the last two years. Our average gift is approximately $140 from 38,000 donors contributing $5.3 million. Corporate giving represents approximately 25 percent of our support and 75 percent comes from individuals giving at the workplace or retiree gifts. Central Illinois residents have the highest per capita in the state of Illinois for United Way campaigns. Our current campaign co-chairs Henry and Sharon Holling asked me to calculate our cumulative gifts as part of our year-long 75th anniversary. Since the first campaign in 1922, our community has given $132 million to the United Way and its predecessor organizations. These figures do not include the thousands of dollars of donated in-kind services and equipment and the thousands of volunteer hours given to the United Way and our member agencies.
You mentioned the diamond jubilee year (75th anniversary). Are there special initiatives the agency will be doing this year?
First and foremost we will continue to meet the collective needs of our member agencies and our donors. Our Board of Directors President Michael McLinden has been working with volunteers and staff to continue the implementation of our strategic plan. As mentioned previously, Henry and Sharon Holling will be co-chairing the annual campaign. They are the first husband-and-wife team to chair the campaign in our 75-year history. Henry will be working with a campaign cabinet of volunteers. They will be working with our agencies developing the case for giving and designing the fund-raising efforts. Sharon will serve as a member of the campaign cabinet and is chairing the 75th anniversary activities. She has recruited Sue Yoder, Mead Babcock and Jeff Hawkinson as anniversary committee chairs. They will be working with volunteers in designing special fund-raising activities, special events and a communication plan.
The 75th Anniversary Committee has designed one or two activities every month. In January ,the mayor and city council signed a proclamation recognizing our accomplishments, and the United Way had a booth at the Women’s Lifestyle Show. In February, the organization benefited from a $10,000 gift from Creve Coeur Club’s Washington Day Banquet. United Way honored Bradley University during Bradley’s centennial celebration for their contribution to our success, and JC Penney offered customers a 25 percent discount for a $5 donation as part of their “Have a Heart” promotion. Many other activities are planned such as an Agency Fair at Northwoods Mall (April 26), a family picnic for agencies, volunteers and staff (June 7), the CILCO Summer Serenade (June 13), some type of activity on the riverfront in honor of the organization, and an inaugural golf event at Weaver Ridge on June 30.
What do you see for the organization in the future?
The Heart of Illinois United Way’s future is bright. People are once again seeing the organization as a leader in which they want to take an active role. We are transforming the concept of charitable giving to a concept of investing in the health of our community. As the community participates in our transformation they will invest human resources and financial resources, and utilize the organizations’ assets to solve global society problems at the local level.
The United Way’s future is radiant with opportunity because of the dedicated volunteers and professional staff members who serve our community. They work long hours, provide victims with a smile during misfortune, shape the character of the next generation, and will guide our community into the next century.
It is important that we improve our community and human service organizations for the next generation of leaders. Each generation has an obligation to leave things better for our children and grandchildren. IBI