By Ray Buehler, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania Board Chair
In all of the roles I’ve held and with all of the people I’ve worked with, there’s a common denominator – I call it The Care Factor – that sets someone apart from the pack. From an entry-level staffer to a board member, if you have an appreciation for what you’re trying to do and have it in your heart to care about the greater community… that’s a very unique thing.
I “grew up” in my career at Schneider Downs, a Pittsburgh public accounting firm where the mission has always been to work together every day to help our clients, our employees and our communities be better. I became a shareholder in 1981 and President/CEO four years later. As I served in that leadership role over the next 35 years, I maintained a strong belief that if we were successful in our business (and we were), we had a social responsibility to give back.
A Schneider Downs shareholder who had long served on United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors, was retiring, and I recalled how positively she’d spoken about the organization. I joined the board knowing it was the right thing to do but never imagined the impact it would have on the rest of my life.
While I understood United Way’s function as a community convener and fundraiser, the enormity of their work and ability to define our region’s most complex challenges completely changed the way I looked at the organization. I saw first-hand how they identify gaps in basic needs, immediately know which qualified local agencies will do the most effective job to address that need, fund that agency and get the work done. To me, that is the magic of United Way.
I wish each member of the community knew how many lives United Way impacts with every dollar donated. It’s in the quality. It’s in the care. United Way does the hard, intentional work of analyzing agencies and supporting the ones who are truly making a difference. And they’re transparent with the results; that’s why the organization’s financials and annual report are always publicly available. And it’s why Charity Navigator has honored United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania with 12 consecutive top-tier ratings for its commitment to good governance transparency, efficiency and financial management.
In 2014, I became chairman of Schneider Downs, and my involvement with United Way continued to evolve. In my years of service on United Way’s board, I was proud to serve as the Campaign Chair, co-chair of the Tocqueville Society and Chair of a successful annual workplace campaign. In addition, I was called to help select the search firm that was used to find United Way’s new CEO in 2019. My work with United Way has been – and continues to be – a great honor and responsibility in my life, throughout various stages of my career.
Take it from me as someone who has been there, United Way offers opportunities for everyone to get involved. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the beginning of your career, a CEO or a retiree. If you can make a monetary donation, do it. If you can volunteer your time, sign up. If you want to attend an event, there’s always something on the calendar. You won’t regret it.
Stepping into the role of board chair with Stacy Juchno as vice-chair (stay tuned for next month’s Voices United to hear from her!) is a meaningful opportunity to continue standing arm-in-arm with one of the most dynamic teams working on behalf of our community. Will you join us? Learn more at UWSWPA.org.