United Way of Manatee County and United Way Suncoast merge

Sarasota Herald Tribune

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The move will allow United Way Suncoast to serve people in DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

In a move intended to maximize United Way’s presence in the Tampa Bay region, the United Way of Manatee County has completed its merger into the larger group of United Way Suncoast.

Although the merger became effective July 1, at the start of the fiscal year, Wednesday morning marked a celebratory press conference for the two organizations that have now become one. Both groups had been in talks to combine forces since last fall and the plans were announced in February. United Way of Manatee County’s chief operating officer, Bronwyn Beightol, will become the nonprofit’s Manatee Area president. The move will allow United Way Suncoast to serve people in DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

United Way Suncoast president and CEO Suzanne McCormick praised the work the United Way of Manatee County within the community, particularly through early literacy programs.

“This partnership is going to be transformative for the region and each of the communities in the five counties we serve,” McCormick said at the new conference. “We’re bringing together talent to better leverage that knowledge and expertise.”

Since the February announcement, both organizations worked with their legal teams in a due diligence process to ensure that they could each “fully understand the health of the organization,” McCormick said. Of the six or seven employees at United Way of Manatee County, only one position, chief financial officer, has been consolidated, she added. United Way Suncoast opted to centralize financial operations in the Tampa office.

“While you might notice that some things may be different, there are many things that will stay the same,” Beightol said. “And that will be our focus on impact in Manatee County.”

A similar move occurred five years ago when the United Way of Sarasota County merged with the United Way of Tampa Bay to form the new, expanded United Way Suncoast. At the time, the nonprofit’s staff said they felt the merger would help attract corporate donors looking for more regional organizations and give them more resources.

“Our main reason to do this is to grow our ability to help people in our communities,” said Katie Knight, then-acting president and CEO of United Way of Sarasota, in a June 2012 interview with the Herald-Tribune.

In 2012, the United Way of Manatee County’s board voted against joining the larger umbrella organization. Then-president Philip A. Brown told the Herald-Tribune in June 2012 that the “no” vote did not prevent the nonprofit from joining at a later date.

“It’s not that we would never merge,” Brown said. “It doesn’t rule it out in the future. They want to see how this works out down the road.”

McCormick said that this move is a step in the right direction for a community that is increasingly merging itself.

“We don’t think of ourselves as a town or a city,” McCormick said. “It’s a region.”

Following the Great Recession, other nonprofits have also consolidated in the region.

The SKY Family YMCA grew from serving Venice and Englewood to assume responsibilities for YMCA programs in Bonita Springs and Fort Myers, as part of a regional model. Earlier this month, it took over operations of the former Charlotte County Family YMCA in North Port, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, after managing operations during a transitional period.

The United Way of South Sarasota County, based at 157 N. Havana Road, just east of Venice, serves the communities of Osprey, Laurel, Nokomis, Venice, Englewood and North Port.