Outgoing United Way CEO Lyn Jones leaves behind an organization effective in raising funds and addressing community problems.
Not long ago, the United Way of Champaign County was in trouble. The organization was $1 million in debt and had accountability problems and trouble meeting its fundraising goals.
Today, as the organization begins a search for a new leader to replace Lyn Jones, it's a different story. Jones, president and CEO of United Way of Champaign County since 2007, has resigned to become a fundraising executive for the Carle Foundation.
The United Way is stable and has exceeded its fundraising goals for the last four years, a remarkable record given the tough economic times. Under Jones' leadership, United Way raised nearly $3.5 million for local agencies and programs relying on community funding in 2011. United Way also is an integral part of efforts to identify and address community problems.
Jones and her predecessor, Tammy Lemke, deserve a lot of the credit for the United Way's turnabout since the troubled times in the mid-1990s.
Jones and Lemke positioned the United Way differently than it had been in the past. The United Way goes beyond the traditional role of an organization that raises money, vets charitable agencies and distributes money. It also takes the lead in identifying community problems and puts together alliances of community partners to solve them. Examples are the expansion of the Frances Nelson Health Center and a community dental clinic later added there.
Now the United Way is working with other organizations in hopes of making shelter available to intact families in need and to provide access to health care for uninsured people.
The United Way will name an interim CEO as it prepares for its next annual campaign, which begins Aug. 29.
We wish the best to Jones in her new job as a Carle fundraiser and to the United Way as it looks for a new CEO. She leaves behind a solid organization with a record of achievement. Jones and her predecessor have set a high bar for the next leader in an important community role.