Letter from the CEO, Kristen Birtwhistle


Setting Sail


There is a change in the winds in our cities in San Joaquin County that is palpable. Strong, driving swirls of philanthropic change that is demonstrable leading to small gifts of change for individuals, groups and in the end entire communities. As the new CEO/President of United Way of San Joaquin County I now have the privilege of living in that beautiful swirl every day, and each morning I wake I cannot wait to be gently blown away by its daily impact.


After 30 wonderful years in the life changing field of healthcare with one of the nation’s best organizations, Kaiser Permanente I shifted my own personal winds. Being part of the transformative nonprofit world had always beckoned me, and now it seemed that my weathervane was pointing me to set sail with the nation’s best nonprofits-United Way.


I have always known that United Way of San Joaquin County (UWSJC) had a legacy of giving, but until you are deep into its rich archives you never really know just how deep those roots are. Since 1926, it has been a catalyst for innovative giving, fund development each leading to sustainability of ALL nonprofits in our county. It’s history, as I peeled through the yellowed pages of its memory books are filled with mission centered support of charities, causes, heroic deeds, community engagement and little pearls of individual advancement-and so it shall continue into this generation and beyond.


I start my new year as a partner with 1800 local United Ways in 40+ countries where over $4.6 billion was raised in total revenue, with 8.3 million donors, 2.9 million volunteers and 61 million people served worldwide-a tour de force, but in our own unique corner of the world, deep in the heart of our diversity rich and agriculturally blessed communities we will build on the rich tradition of giving, but allow and embrace the power of digital technology where even Pope Benedict stated “we must not fear setting sail on the digital sea,” coupled with strong donor acculturation and fiscal transparency.


From the local donor who has contributed $2 to $2,000 to the employee who gives through the workplace campaigns we will endeavor to use each precious dollar wisely for the greater good of measured and impactful social change to help all nonprofits. Most importantly, keeping the winds blowing and directing our sails to address such initiatives as homelessness, to education, to health and economic mobility for all will be tantamount. Our UWSJC staff, board and agency will continue to be the rudder (Or in the case of United Way-a Keel) that keeps us all moving for the benefit of our communities.