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The Persistent Demands of Trust

The United Way of Central Carolinas last week named a new CEO, Jane McIntyre, to restore the organization to its former prominence in the Charlotte nonprofit community. The UWCC was rocked by outrage over the extravagant compensation paid to the former CEO, her subsequent firing, and the perceived lack of transparency and accountability exercised by the board. In these difficult economic times, the organization faces an uphill battle now as it tries to reclaim its reputation. Ms. McIntyre told the Charlotte Observer that she believes it will take “a good five-plus years” for the organization to recover from the year of controversy that has kept the UWCC in the news (and yes, the blogs).

Revenue at the UWCC nearly tripled in fifteen years under the former CEO, but in 2009, donations are running about 35 percent behind the previous year. How much of that is due to the economy and how much is due to the problems the UWCC has experienced is unknowable, but there is no question that the breach of trust has contributed. You cannot find an interview with anyone currently associated with the organization (or any its critics) where the word “trust” does not come up. The classified ad announcing the search for a new CEO asked for a “…trust builder who leads by example…”

Ms. McIntyre is a well-liked and well-respected member of the Charlotte nonprofit community, and I wish her well with her challenges. It certainly sounds like she knows the ultimate truth about trust, that it is fragile. It doesn’t matter how long you spend building trust or how long you retain it, it can disappear in an instant. Trust demands your persistent attention.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice