It's time to revive talks about merging United Ways in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.
The two counties have been growing together for decades, especially in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors that try to tackle common issues with fewer resources. Here are a few examples:
The American Red Cross in 2010 merged chapters in Trumbull and Mahoning counties forming the Red Cross of the Mahoning Valley in an effort to save money. ''I think that finances are probably always the driving force,'' Executive Director Karen Conklin said. ''We have to be as efficient as we can.''
The Ohio and Pennsylvania divisions of the American Cancer Society merged in September of 2010 to form the East Central Division. The agency said the merger ''will allow the two divisions to blend the best of both former entities to create a stronger, more efficient division with greater resources to fight cancer.''
Five Girl Scout councils united in 2007 to form Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio. ''We got caught in the midst of the recession,'' CEO Daisy Alford-Smith said.
In 1993, the Boy Scouts of America organizations in the two counties merged.
Also in 1993, the Warren, Youngstown and Niles chambers of commerce merged into the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber.
The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley and the United Way of Trumbull County have failed to complete many attempts at merging.
In 2010, the Cheshire Consulting Group of Maryland was hired to explore a partnership. While officials in Mahoning County embraced the results, Trumbull's United Way board members rejected the idea.
In 1999, the two agencies spent $30,000 to hire the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Case Western Reserve University to study a merger. Mahoning's United Way board voted to merge with Trumbull, whose board rejected the plan.
In 1994 and 1987, after falling short of their fundraising goals, the agencies explored a merger to no avail.
Mahoning United Way President Bob Hannon said, ''It will maximize funding, minimize cost and be a better organization as one rather than two.''
Hannon has made the United Way exciting in Mahoning County. Thursday's Champions Among Us banquet at Mr. Anthony's, for example, drew more than a thousand people to list to former Ohio State Coach Jim Tressell and Penn State star Michael Zordich.
The United Ways in both counties once raised more than $3 million each. Mahoning still raises about $2.5 million annually but Trumbull struggles to hit $1 million. In fact, Trumbull no longer sets a goal.
The cost - staff, buildings, vehicles and more - to raise a million dollars is disproportionate. Trumbull needs a better effort to create a buzz, set a goal and more aggressively campaign. We'd like to see the Trumbull United Way remain autonomous, but if it doesn't make the necessary changes the board that runs it shouldn't have any qualms about a merger.
Many of the agencies that the United Ways support - such as Catholic Charities - operate in both counties. And many large benefactors - General Motors, Humility of Mary Health Partners, ValleyCare, PNC Bank and First Place Bank, for example - donate to both. Some of them even requested that the agencies merge.