A year after being named president and CEO, Margaret “Mag” Baker is putting her mark on the Butler County United Way.

Baker, an Oxford native who spent 30 years in banking before being named head of the BCUW in late 2013, has initiated a new governance system for the board of directors, trimmed almost $80,000 in administrative expenses and is focusing on program impacts rather than individual agencies.

“I’ve always liked helping people when I was a lender,” says Baker, former senior vice president in commercial banking at First Financial Bank. “This work is rewarding, and I think my financial background is something most nonprofits need.”
One of her first tasks after joining the BCUW was to lead a change in the board’s governance approach from a policy model to an operational model.

Under the former approach, the board focuses on policy and its impact. “When you’re small, that’s more difficult to do,” she says. “I felt as though what was really needed was more accountability to the board which is what an operational board does. I come from banking where we’re held accountable.”

Baker says it is important that BCUW, which completed its 94th fundraising campaign in November, is accountable to donors. “We hold our agencies accountable for outcomes and we need to hold ourselves accountable as well,” she says.

BCUW, which serves all of Butler County except Oxford and Middletown, last year provided services to nearly 25,000 youth and adults across the county.

Another change under Baker’s watch was to align its goals with the global United Way goals of education, income and health. In the past, BCUW had defined its mission as focusing on youth and self-sufficiency.

“From a messaging and branding perspective, it didn’t make sense that we were kind of an outlier,” she says.

The cuts in overhead reduced the BCUW to four full-time employees, requiring it to rely more on volunteers.

“As our contributions have trended down, the expenses weren’t cut as quickly as they should have been,” she says. “We’ve fixed that.” Even though the 2013 campaign came up slightly below its goal, BCUW was able to increase its program funding.

This year, BCUW, sought to raise $1,905,000 in its annual giving campaign, which ended in November. To get more bang for its buck, BCUW is focusing on eliminating duplication in programming.

“When agencies apply for funding, if there’s duplication of effort, we try to bring them together so we’re not funding different groups doing the same thing.”

One example is the collaboration between the BCUW, City of Hamilton, the Hamilton Community Foundation and six other agencies for programming at the Booker T. Washington Community Center in Hamilton.

Looking ahead, Baker says, she’d like to set aside some funds from the annual campaign to provide funding so that worthwhile startup programs created during the year can have a source of funding.