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United Way leader stepping down and hints at changes in giving

Lauren Segal, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Twin Cities United Way, will step down at the end of the year after 15 years with the organization, according to a Thursday media release.Earlier that morning, Segal spoke at the Min

Lauren Segal, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Twin Cities United Way, will step down at the end of the year after 15 years with the organization, according to a Thursday media release.

Earlier that morning, Segal spoke at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofit’s (MCN) Philanthropy Leaders breakfast series. She gave no indication of her departure. Instead, she discussed how the United Way and area nonprofits could respond to the challenging economy.

Here are a few takeaways from her talk:

First, United Way is evaluating whether to put more money into basic needs — hunger, homelessness and financial stability. (That could mean cuts in other parts of the United Way’s 10-point Agenda for Lasting Change,  such as money for quality out-of-school activities.)

Promised involvement
Segal tried to calm any jangled nerves in the audience. “For those organizations that we partner with, please don’t panic when I say this,” she said. “It is just an idea. You will be involved.”

Still, she said if revenues drop significantly, the United Way would think about dropping one of its 10 goals in the short term. “It would be a lot easier to cut everything across the board,” she said. “But it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the community.”

Second, since 2002, the United Way has had a fund to help member agencies restructure, efforts that led to 25 mergers. The United Way plans to increase funding in that area, believing the need will increase. Segal said it might expand eligibility, and help fund mergers of human services organizations that are not United Way agencies.

Third — on the bright side for nonprofits — the United Way and foundations are looking for ways to reduce paperwork burdens, because nonprofits will have fewer staff to deal with them. Possibilities include streamlining reporting requirements and grant applications.

Segal became leader of the St. Paul United Way in 1994 and was named president and CEO of the Greater Twin Cities United Way in 2004, according to the media release announcing her end-of-year departure. “She believes that this is an optimal time to begin exploring a new opportunity to use her extensive talents and experience.”

MCN moves breakfast, protests Country Club membership policy

The last time I attended MCN’s Philanthropy Leaders breakfast, it was at St. Paul’s Town & Country Club. I liked that arrangement because I live just across the river. The Feb. 12 event was in Golden Valley’s Metropolitan Ballroom.

I hadn’t given the venue change any thought until MCN executive director Jon Pratt explained the move during his wrap-up. Some MCN members brought it to leadership’s attention that Town & County does not allow gay and lesbian couples to be treated as a family when buying country-club memberships.

MCN met with Town & Country’s general manager and board chair to ask if and when the policy could be changed, Pratt said. They didn’t get a satisfactory answer. “There are a lot of other membership organizations in the Twin Cities — the Minneapolis Club, the University Club, the YMCA and YWCA — that have family memberships that are inclusive,” he said. “We won’t be back [to Town & Country] until they let everyone join as a family.”

MCN held its breakfast series at Town & Country for about five years, he said.

Vincent Tracy, Town & Country’s general manager and chief operating officer, said the country club doesn’t have separate membership categories for single persons and married couples. It offers full memberships and social memberships. If you’re legally married, you can buy one membership to cover the family.

The county club does not discriminate, Tracy said. Unmarried individuals, whether in gay couples or heterosexual couples, have to buy their own memberships. “It is pretty fair across the board,” he said. “There is no favoritism anywhere.” (I asked whether it made a difference that gay couples didn’t have the option to marry. “That’s true,” he said. “That is not Town & Country Club’s fault.”)

The club has discussed changing the policy before, and almost approved changes, Tracy said. It would reexamine the policy this year.

Freeport West faces cuts and overhaul
I periodically scan the MCN job website for trends and story ideas. When I looked Wednesday I saw that Freeport West was advertising for a youth services case manager, a community housing supervisor, a housing case manager … and the list went on. Freeport West was advertising for 26 positions.

It didn’t look right.

Dorothy Abellard, communications coordinator, said Freeport West had lost funding and was eliminating six of 42 positions, about 14 percent. It was streamlining and reorganizing programs and changing jobs. It decided the fairest thing to do was repost positions and let affected staff reapply.

In 2007, Freeport West had a budget of approximately $2.5 million, according to the Minnesota Attorney General’s website. Details on the organization’s funding losses were not immediately available, though Abellard said Hennepin County had cut funding. Among the changes, Freeport West would eliminate its FamilyWorks program, which worked to prevent child abuse and neglect. It provided in-home parenting classes, went to court with parents and did advocacy.

Freeport West has focused on homeless youth and families in crisis, Abellard said.

“Now we will be strictly a youth-focused agency. We had to cut out that adult component.”