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Pacific alumna Kristen Birthwhistle

Alumna Kristen Birtwhistle, CEO of United Way of San Joaquin County, speaks during the kick-off luncheon held at University of the Pacific.

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Community Engagement

United Way campaign update: Q&A with Pacific alumna Kristen Birtwhistle, United Way SJC’s new CEO

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Oct 28, 2019

University of the Pacific’s United Way Campaign kicked off on Oct. 28 and will continue through the Open Enrollment period, which ends Nov. 24, 2019. Kristen Birtwhistle, ’81, ’87, is in her first year as chief executive officer for United Way of San Joaquin County. She recently talked with Community Relations Director Mike Klocke, Pacific’s United Way campaign chair, about goals, dreams, needs and changes in United Way moving forward.

United Way is an important part of our community outreach efforts for all three campuses. Please consider making a pledge for the campaign. All faculty and staff who pledge to the campaign are eligible for weekly prizes through drawings (see below for details).

Mike Klocke: While you are in your first year as United Way CEO, you have been active in campaigns while working at Kaiser Permanente for many years. Can you describe what United Way means to San Joaquin County?
Kristen Birtwhistle: Well, it is simple. United Way is an iconic organization that has been in our communities since 1926. It has significant brand and trust credibility and is an agency that exists to give back to our nonprofits. As a first-year CEO, I learn every day about the miracles that United Way of San Joaquin County (UWSJC) has created, both large and small. The employee-giving campaigns are our secret sauce. What that means to me is that our legacy of giving via great campaigns brings ongoing dollars to programs, services and to people in need. It means change, it means hope and it means creating better communities.

Q: You are a proud Pacific alumna and remain very active with the university. Why is Pacific such an important part of the overall United Way picture?
A: I was raised a TIGER! My father and my grandfather both went to Pacific and my playground during my younger years was the Pacific campus. Pacific is important due to those experiences, including being part of the UOP tennis program. Pacific is also one of our largest donor organizations. Each year, Pacific employees work together to draw donations out to the community but also back to campus. Several programs on campus have been benefactors of our dollars. Pacific has a heart for giving back!

Q: United Way locally has chosen to focus on education and homelessness this year. What went into that decision, and how do you think United Way can make an impact?
A: Before I began my tenure as CEO, I spent several months studying UWSJC and talking to well over 200 people. In most cases, people wanted UWSJC to make homelessness and education a pillar of its work. We see the challenges people face who experience homelessness and see the power of how an education can transform people from living lives on the streets. The two are intertwined. Our goal is to work with other agencies, to mobilize, to collectively work together to help in both areas of focus. These are our social impact areas and we want to see measurable outcomes as a result.

Q: United Way of San Joaquin County is using the acronym “BOLD” to describe its new approach. Tell us what it means.
A: Yes, BOLD is our new tag line! It symbolizes how we want to pursue our goals, work with our staff and community and how we plan to go … where no person has gone before (using the old Star Trek theme). B stands for Become, O stands for Optimize, L stands for Leadership and D stands for Deliver. We want to Become a stronger, data-driven agency. We want to Optimize our contact with donors. We want to Lead and convene others toward common goals. And we must Deliver our mission.

Q: United Way agencies nationwide traditionally set monetary goals for annual campaigns. This year, United Way of San Joaquin County has a “participant” goal. Explain the rationale behind that approach.
A: Typically, UWSJC has set a lofty dollar amount intended to get folks excited about hitting a multi-million-dollar mark. I like to think in different ways. Our goal is to inspire a much higher percentage of people to contribute, both small and large. We call it the multiplier effect. In most cases, setting a specific target can be deflating but if you simply inspire more people to give, then great things happen. It is the new math!

Q: Any final thoughts to share?
A: From my new vantage point, our goal to shift the way people think about United Way. We are working toward creating a fresh 21st century approach, to revitalize the agency and to win over future donors. We want to change the fabric of our communities for the better.

How Pacific employees can get involved in this year's campaign

Employees have the option to make a one-time donation or designate a payroll deduction through the open enrollment process (Pacific login required). Information on how to donate to United Way also is included in the open enrollment packets mailed Oct. 18 to faculty and staff home addresses.

All employees who pledge to the United Way campaign are eligible for weekly prizes through drawings. Those who give early in the drive will remain eligible for prizes each week, although donors may only win once. The drawing dates and prizes: 

November 4

  • Two sets of two Pacific men’s basketball season tickets
  • Two sets of two Pacific women’s basketball season tickets

November 11

  • Two sets of two Conservatory of Music season tickets

November 18

  • Two tickets for both sessions of the NCAA Men’s Water Polo Final Four – December 7-8 on campus
  • One gift package ($100 estimated) from the Sacramento campus book store

November 25

  • One “A” annual parking pass for the Stockton campus

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