Motorist Steve Cousins drops off a donation to United Way Drive-Thru Breakfast volunteers Randi Lund (left) and Paula Harned at the 17th annual fundraiser earlier this month at the Prestige Vernon Lodge parking lot in support of the North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap United Way. (Roger Knox/Morning Star)

Okanagan United Ways to join forces in 2019

North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap to merge with Central and South Okanagan United Way

The United Way agencies across the Okanagan will be merged under one administrative banner beginning in April 2019.

The United Way Central and South Okanagan Similkameen will join forces with the North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap entity.

The merger is to find efficiencies in centralizing independent United Way offices across a given region, from human resources to financial and website management systems, to reduce expenses on unnecessary duplication of those services, said Helen Jackman, executive director of the United Way Central and South Okanagan Similkameen.

She said the merger will result in one board of directors with more regional representation across the valley, and the process started to hire a community engagement manager for the North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap region based out of Vernon.

The hope is this process will lead to a similar position eventually being created for the South Okanagan based out of Penticton.

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“United Way is all about local giving and local impact. That won’t change under this new regional model,” said Sinead Scanlon, board chair for the United Way CSO, in a news release.

“Our boards remain absolutely committed to the principle that funds raised locally, stay local. Local decision-making will continue to guide local community investments focused on local priorities. What we gain is efficiency and the regional capacity to share what works.”

Jackman said what the North Okanagan United Way might lose in independence under the merger, it will gain in providing more emphasis of staff resources on building fundraising relationships in the community to benefit local United Way supported services.

Jackman said in recent years, 32 United Ways across Canada have combined their resources to create 12 new integrated regional organizations.

“There are lots of different components to this that have to be worked out but we have past experience and models established by our organization across Canada to draw on,” she said.

RELATED: Breakfast bags and big bucks for North Okanagan United Way

While the merger has been talked about for some time, the catalyst that propelled it forward now was the pending retirement of long-time executive director Linda Yule in March 2019, said UWNOCS board president Debbie Bagnall in a news release.

“On several occasions we have explored the idea that we should come together, but only now have we decided that the time is right,” said Bagnall, referring to Yule’s retirement.

“Our community will of course miss Linda enormously, but we are excited about the future stewarded by Helen Jackman, executive director of the United Way CSO.”

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