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Duluth, Superior United Ways may merge

Leaders from the United Way organizations of Duluth and Superior are talking about uniting. The discussion began a few years ago but took on greater vigor in December, with the meeting of a joint merger task force composed of board members from b...

Leaders from the United Way organizations of Duluth and Superior are talking about uniting.
The discussion began a few years ago but took on greater vigor in December, with the meeting of a joint merger task force composed of board members from both organizations.
“The creation of a joint task force was a big deal. That showed a commitment to at least consider the idea on a serious basis,” said Matt Hunter, executive director of the United Way of Greater Duluth.
“We don’t know exactly what it would look like yet, and there are a lot of decisions yet to be made, but we are definitely in discussions about a merger,” he said, adding that a proposal could be ready for consideration within six to eight weeks.
Kathleen Madsen, executive director of the United Way of Superior-Douglas County, did not return calls to her office Friday.
The advantages of joining forces could be many, Hunter said. He pointed to opportunities for improved efficiency, decreased duplication, more effective fundraising, better coordinated services and clearer points of contact.
“Superior’s United Way doesn’t have a lot of resources behind it. They have a much smaller staff with basically one person. As a larger staffed organization, we’d be able to put more resources into their campaign and get more money into that community to get more resources and support of operations in Superior,” Hunter said.
The United Way of Greater Duluth currently has a staff of 15 people.
If the two organizations do, indeed, join forces, Hunter considers it imperative the United Way maintain offices in both communities.
He said the two United Ways already work together and there’s significant crossover, with residents and organizations from both communities often receiving cross-border help.
“The bridge is really kind of a false boundary,” Hunter said.
The joint task force members will continue to explore a possible merger in coming weeks, but Hunter said he’s optimistic they will conclude everyone can benefit from working together more closely.
“It’s a work in progress, but we just think there are so many benefits,” he said.
The United Way is one of the largest nonprofits in the Northland. The local chapters raise money that is distributed to a wide range of community organizations.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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