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Local United Way CEO Announces His Retirement

By Cece Nunn, posted Dec 8, 2016
The CEO of United Way of the Cape Fear Area plans to retire by June 30.

Chris Nelson, who joined the local United Way in 2009, said Thursday that he had informed the UWCFA board about his decision, choosing the June 30 date to give the board enough time to come up with a new CEO profile and complete a national search process.

“People say you know when it’s time to retire, and I think I felt that,” Nelson said. “That was the biggest reason. [My] health is still good so my wife and I get to do some special things we’ve wanted to do.”

He said another important reason for the change is a personal philosophy.

“I think in an organization like this, someone can be there too long, and I didn’t want to do that,” Nelson said.

His retirement provides an opportunity for local United Way officials to evaluate the organization’s direction before deciding what they want in the next leader, said Nelson.

Nelson has been a United Way professional for 42 years and makes $100,000 at UWCFA.

Shortly before Nelson took the helm, UWCFA had adopted a community impact model, opening the grant process up to the entire community and allowing donors to see direct effects of giving. The organization invests in programs through an extensive vetting process, and three-year commitments allow those programs to generate other resources and improve their outcomes, Nelson said.

“I think that we’ve positioned United Way in the community to be a go-to organization, where issues are identified sometimes with or without solutions for those issues, and United way is a neutral party. They can pull together the key stakeholders in coming up with solutions,” said Nelson, citing Phoenix Hometown Hires, the Blue Ribbon Commission and a 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness as a few examples.

Implementing the community impact model and building collaboration “have been the biggest successes here in the last 8 years. We’re very proud of them,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he and his wife, Nancy, plan to stay in Wilmington.

“I’m going to stay active in the nonprofit world and help where I can here with United Way and other passions that I have or will find,” he said.

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