Attempt to merge all four United Way organizations in the Region and Hamilton fails.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

June 27th, 2016



It isn’t a done deal yet – and it might not make it over the 66% needed by each of the four United Way organizations in the Region and Hamilton – but it won’t be because they didn’t give it the old college try. The vote was 61%

The result of a recent ratification vote has delayed but not derailed plans to bring together the United Ways of Burlington & Greater Hamilton, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills into a single United Way serving all of Halton Region and Greater Hamilton.

The four United Ways have been working through an extensive process of research, evaluation, consultation and planning for over a year. In May, each organization’s board of directors approved the amalgamation plan, setting the stage for ratification votes at each organization’s annual general meeting in June.

On June 20, United Way Oakville unanimously approved the recommendation, setting the stage for United Way Burlington & Greater Hamilton’s AGM on June 22 and the AGMs of United Way Halton Hills and United Way Milton on June 28.

However, the Burlington & Greater Hamilton vote to approve amalgamation achieved a majority 61% when a two-thirds majority was required. The motion was therefore defeated.

“I personally am so excited about the benefits that will come from amalgamating these four organizations,” said Anne Bermingham, United Way Burlington & Greater Hamilton Board Chair. “With the majority of board votes in favour of this direction, we need to keep working on addressing concerns and finding a way to make this happen.”

jeff-vallentin United Way

Jeff Valentin, CEO of United Way Burlington & Greater Hamilton, said that the motivation for exploring amalgamation remains clear. “This is about enhancing community impact,” he said. “With the majority of our board members, so many of our

staff and so many of our donors and community partners supporting amalgamation, I feel like we have a responsibility to our community to follow through. The work of finding the right way to do that starts today.”

Across North America, United Ways have been coming together to build stronger organizations to serve their communities as part of their strategic direction. A recent example is the merger of United Way Toronto & York Region in 2015.

“United Way Centraide Canada endorses the proposed amalgamation and strongly encourages continued work towards a successful outcome,” said Jacline Nyman, President and CEO, United Way Centraide Canada. “The four United Ways have demonstrated leadership and commitment to building a new and stronger United Way with a greater capacity to lead and engage our donors and community partners in serving the Halton and Hamilton Region.”

“If we can make it work, the amalgamation of these four United Ways will produce a more efficient, more effective and more sustainable organization,” said United Way Oakville Board chair John Armstrong. “We were excited to support the amalgamation plan at our annual general meeting in Oakville and we continue to be committed to working with our partner United Ways for the good of the communities we serve.”

United Way - Change starts hereAs a result of the failure, and that is what it was, the United Ways of Halton Hills and Milton will no longer ask their general memberships to vote on amalgamation on June 28, though each organization plans to present and discuss the amalgamation plan for information.

Chris Cooke, Board chair of United Way Halton Hills, sees the amalgamation as a strong combination of local focus and a larger organization. “We understand how important local support and the ability to focus close to home is to our partners, donors and agencies,” he said. “Our plan will allow us to balance that need with the benefits of a larger organization. It would be a win-win.”

“There is real potential in our plan, which is why we all need to stick with it,” said James MacAskill, United Way Milton Board chair.

“The amalgamated United Way would be able to devote greater resources to providing evidence-based information to our supporters and ultimately deliver a greater impact for the communities of the region.  That’s the bottom line.”

Janet Foster, CEO of United Way Halton Hills, said, “These United Ways have a strong history of working together. It just makes sense to take our partnership to the next level.”

Brad Park, CEO of United Way Oakville, summarized the vision for the amalgamation process when he said, “The plan will give us a bigger, stronger and more versatile team that will allow us to make a real difference in terms of community outcomes. Together, we can accomplish so much more than we ever could separately.”

The bulk of the material in this article came from the United Way media staff.

The Gazette heard nothing about the meetings that led to the amalgamation attempt from any of the four media staff.

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