Area United Ways Announce Merger; Combined Strength to Deliver More Impact Locally, Regionally

United Way Will Maintain Local Presence, Team, Investments

DETROIT/ANN ARBOR, Mich., June 28, 2023—The merger of two United Ways based in southeastern Michigan will bring exciting new opportunities to the region while strengthening local impact and maintaining their local presence.

At meetings in May and June, the boards of directors for United Way of Washtenaw County (UWWC) and United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) voted unanimously to merge their organizations. Under the name United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the merged nonprofit will build upon legacies of local impact in Ann Arbor, Detroit and communities throughout Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

UWWC President and CEO Pam Smith said the merger combines unique strengths, a collaborative spirit and a firm commitment to meeting local needs.

“Our two United Ways tackle tough social needs that don’t stop at city or county borders,” Smith said. “With a rich history of partnership, both within our communities and with each other, we expect this merger to accelerate our impact work regionwide.”

Dr. Darienne Hudson, president and CEO of UWSEM, will remain in that role, reporting to a combined board that will include representatives from both boards. Hudson said she looks forward to getting to work to leverage best practices for the entire four county region.

“Mobilizing the caring power of our communities requires partners with compassion, insight and a desire to create meaningful change,” said Hudson. “We share that mindset with our colleagues in Washtenaw County. I’m confident this merger will grow our impact in measurable ways for everyone we serve.”

Local Presence & Impact Will Remain

In supporting the merger, both United Way boards recognize that this merger will allow dollars to go further, expanding resources, and over time increasing United Way investments to key partners. The combined organization will continue to invest in Southeastern Michigan, ensuring donor dollars stay right in our neighborhoods in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties.”

Brandon Lee, Executive VP, Strategy & Operations for United Way for Southeastern Michigan, who helped shepherd the process between the two organizations, also sees a strong value for the community in the merger.

“In addition to the benefit of shared insight, expertise and efficiency, the merger will help us tap new sources of funding, create new partnerships, advocate for racial and economic equity more effectively, and improve the lives of more children and families,” Lee stated.

Dr. Hudson pointed to the recently released ALICE Report, which details the financial hardship faced by nearly 40% of Michigan households, as another reason to combine our resources. (ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.)

“We have seen sharp increases in the number of ALICE households in some communities, including Washtenaw County” she added. “Combining our operations means we can bring more resources, capacity and expertise to help more people here across our region.”

Dr. Hudson pointed out several ways that UWWC and UWSEM already operating from a shared community, including collaborating on the 21-Day Equity Challenge and other equity work; advocating on key issues; shared fundraising and donor support, since many donors live and work across communities; and partnering on call center operations for 2-1-1 and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Also, the two United Ways have been operating under a shared services model, where UWSEM serves as UWWC’s employer of record to provide Washtenaw employees with a robust health care plan and benefits package, along with Human Resources assistance.

“Our shared values, our community-centered approach and work driven by the ALICE report make this a natural fit that will serve the community well — from donors to our partners to our team members to members of the community who count on United Way to be there in times of need.”

The Road to Merger & Beyond

Smith said the two United Ways began discussing a potential merger last year. Board members and other stakeholders were actively involved in the discussion.

“We’ve talked with key donors, agency partners, corporations, organized labor, former board members and others, explaining how a merger would allow us to do more for those we serve. There have been many questions and concerns raised, but once we explain the benefits of the merger, people give the idea their strong support,” said Smith.

Key to that support were assurances that impact would not just continue but grow in the future. Existing partnerships, investments and goals will stay in place in the near term as the merged United Way begins to realize its potential. In Washtenaw County, a local leadership committee will report to the combined UWSEM board and make recommendations on investments, ensuring that the community’s voice remains.

“People trust their local United Way to use their donated dollars to change lives locally. We’re committed to keeping that in place,” Smith said.

With the merger approved, the two United Ways will begin the legal and operational steps of merging their organizations. The legal process will take several months; integration of staff and operations will take place over the next year.

Hudson said she is ready to get started.

“Our communities are unique, yet many of the challenges we tackle every day—racial and economic inequities, families struggling financially, children needing a solid start in education—these needs are interconnected. I’m excited to think about the ways we can address these issues better together.”

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About United Way for Southeastern Michigan
United Way for Southeastern Michigan, a member of the United Way Worldwide network and an independently governed 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, works to help households become stable and ensure children have the support they need to thrive. For more than 100 years, United Way has been a leader in creating positive, measurable, and sustainable change in communities throughout southeast Michigan, serving Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Macomb counties. United Way works in partnership with donors, agencies, corporate and municipal partners to help families meet their basic needs of housing, food, health care and family finances, and ensure children start school ready to learn and graduate ready for life. To give, advocate, volunteer or learn more, visit

About United Way of Washtenaw County
As part of our 100-plus-year history, United Way of Washtenaw County brings people, organizations and resources together to create a thriving community for everyone. Our focus areas of Health, Education and Financial Stability are the building blocks for a strong community and create opportunities for individuals and families. Our Volunteer Center provides an easy, online way for people to connect with nonprofits in the community and our 2-1-1 helpline refers more than 8,000 people annually to critically needed services. To learn more, donate, or volunteer, visit