United Way CEO: evolve or perish

Orvin Kimbrough, President and CEO, United Way of Greater St. Louis, delivered a powerful message to the Century Club Feb. 18, about the need for established charity organizations to adopt a new business model for the 21st century. Just like large corporations and small businesses facing change, Kimbrough told the audience in Emerson Auditorium that non-profits must evolve or they will perish.

Kimbrough who took the helm of the United Way of Greater St. Louis three years ago, said he realized the organization was at a defining moment in its nearly century-old mission of community service. He and other United Way executives had to face the fact that raising money via workplace campaigns could no longer sustain the funding needs of United Way.

Online fundraising and the creation of philanthropies that directly link donors to recipients like Kiva or Charity:Water have disrupted the fundraising industry, said Kimbrough. Younger generations want an experience or personal connection to accompany a donation instead of a financial transaction.

Kimbrough is instituting strategic shifts at United Way to adapt fundraising practices, donor involvement, and strengthen alignment with all stakeholders in the digital age. As a child who grew up in the foster care system in St. Louis and benefited from United Way agencies, Kimbrough is dedicated to helping United Way evolve so that it continues its vital mission to help people live better lives.


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