United Way executive director leaving; transition underway

  • June 30 will be John Bidwell’s final day with United Way of the Franklin and Hampshire Region. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Geoff Naunheim now serves as the interim executive director of United Way of the Franklin and Hampshire Region. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • John Bidwell, at left, is leaving United Way of the Franklin and Hampshire Region on June 30, and Geoff Naunheim is serving as interim executive director. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 5/30/2022 10:17:10 AM

Leadership is in transition at United Way of the Franklin and Hampshire Region, with Geoff Naunheim serving as interim executive director.

John Bidwell has been at the helm since January 2018 and is now the leadership transition consultant while Naunheim learns the ropes. Bidwell’s final day will be June 30.

“I’ve loved the job. This is an amazing community, without a doubt. It’s a hugely caring community,” Bidwell said in the Greenfield office at 51 Davis St. “Franklin County, I have to say in particular, has an amazing reputation.”

Bidwell, 58, explained the executive director handles fundraising, grants and community support, operations, engagement and outreach. The nonprofit has six employees (including Bidwell), hundreds of volunteers and thousands of donors.

“That’s really what makes the organization run,” Bidwell said, adding that there are 27 board members and 48 partner agencies serving an estimated 5,000 people across Franklin and Hampshire counties. The two United Ways merged on July 1, 2021.

United Way raises money for dozens of partners in a local network of social service agencies. The agency also uses a community-driven process to identify the greatest needs in the region to decide which agencies are best positioned to address those needs, and then it allocates resources accordingly through grants.

Children, youth and their families, economic security, and health and safety are among areas it has focused on in grant cycles.

Bidwell came to United Way in 2007, when he was asked to join its board of directors. He had owned a marketing and branding firm for 12 years.

Naunheim, who lives in Hadley, joined United Way in October 2017. He was most recently the director of community investment. He had previously worked in the development office of a free public book bank in New Haven, Connecticut, and moved to western Massachusetts when his wife got a job at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“This was carefully selected as an area we really liked,” he said.

“Partner agencies love Geoff,” Bidwell said, prompting a humbled chuckle from his replacement. “No, I’m serious. He works with a lot of partner agencies and they know him, they trust him, they appreciate the work that he’s done, because he’s improved the processes so much.”

Naunheim, 35, said he has greatly enjoyed the job so far.

Bidwell, a Florence resident, said he is still figuring out his next chapter. He is in talks with some consulting firms, start-up businesses and nonprofits. Bidwell mentioned he grew up in New Hampshire and moved to western Massachusetts with his wife in 1998 to raise their children.

“It was a home run,” he reflected. “This is a great area to raise a family. It doesn’t get any better.”

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