United Way announces 2019 campaign chair

Holiday lights are installed several years ago on the top of the Central Block Building, which houses United Way of Greater Chattanooga, which administers the Chattanooga Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund.
photo Judy & Mike St. Charles

The United Way of Greater Chattanooga has announced that Mike St. Charles of Chambliss Law will be the nonprofit's 2019 campaign chair.

St. Charles has served as the board chair for United Way the past three years, and he will now lead a volunteer campaign cabinet and United Way staff in working with thousands of corporate and community partners in Chattanooga to raise dollars for the nonprofit.

The longstanding support of United Way by the Chambliss firm and St. Charles' "dedicated service" made him an ideal candidate, said Lesley Scearce, president and CEO of the local United Way, in a statement.

"We are excited to have Mike work with us in this new, yet familiar, capacity," Scearce said. "He truly believes in our shared vision of a community where everyone thrives. We are ready to work alongside him and see what we can accomplish together in 2019."

Last year, United Way officials said workplace giving was down, but they still exceeded their campaign goal of $11.5 million - a total that 2018 campaign chair Michael Mathis, president at Regions Bank, said was the highest amount raised in the agency's 96-year history.

In previous United Way campaigns, larger fundraising numbers were announced that included one-time gifts and earnings from the agency's endowment fund as well as other funds that weren't solely raised by United Way, officials have said. The agency also used to count "pass through" money, or grant money that it helped facilitate but wasn't administering, in total revenue figures, but those dollars stopped being counted in 2015 when Scearce came on as president and CEO.

Contributions, gifts and grants were just $5,751,350 in 2015, but in 2016 local gifts spiked more than 50 percent to $8,948,829.

The local United Way announced a dramatic change to how it allocates dollars to its nonprofit partners 2018. In the past, the same nonprofits received the same amount of money year in and out, but that allocation model is being replaced with a more competitive, flexible and streamlined process.

The new "Community Impact" approach took effect at the beginning of this year, and it will support its strategic investments with three funds - an innovation fund that will provide small, one-time grants to help nonprofits take risks, scale up or invest in their own capacity; an impact fund that will provide multi-year grants focused on education, economic mobility and health and well-being; and a United Neighborhoods fund, which will roll out at a later date and will make five- to 10-year investments in efforts helping neighborhoods thrive.

St. Charles, who is the president and managing shareholder at Chambliss Law, said he hopes to continue United Way's exceptional work this year. A campaign goal for 2019 will be announced later this year.

"United Way's mission of promoting the education, stability, health and wellbeing of our citizenry is of paramount importance to our community, and I'm honored to serve as the 2019 Campaign Chair," St. Charles said. "The organization is a leader in promoting innovative and collaborative approaches to addressing community challenges.

Contact staff writer Allison Shirk Collins at ashirk@timesfreepress.com, @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.