October 22, 2018
Hampshire County United Way Head Moves to Pioneer Valley

James Ayres
May 19, 2017 — United Way of Hampshire County, based in Northampton, recently announced that James Ayres, its executive director for the last six years, will move over to United Way of Pioneer Valley in Springfield next month to assume the role of president and chief executive officer.

Ayers will take over from Dora Robinson, who is retiring following a career of more than 40 years of nonprofit leadership in the greater Springfield area, the last seven of which she led the United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV).

“After a comprehensive search, the board is thrilled to have found a strong leader with a proven track record to lead this organization that is such an integral part of the Pioneer Valley,” said Ben Markens, UWPV board chair told Business West. “The board of directors was impressed with Jim’s extensive nonprofit experience, leadership skills, and collaborative approach to problem solving. As we approach our 95th anniversary, it’s only fitting that we’ve found a leader with both enthusiasm for the United Way mission and the skills to position us to provide essential services to the community for many years to come.”

During his tenure at United Way of Hampshire County (UWHC), Ayres expanded the donor base and increased funding diversity and overall revenue at a time when many United Ways nationally experienced shrinkage.

"Since 2011, Jim has played a critical role in the development and success of the organization, and while we will miss Jim and his leadership, we wish him the best of luck in his new endeavor," said UWHC board chair Julie Cowan. "We want to thank Jim for his six years of dedicated service, which involved many significant accomplishments for UWHC."

UWHC said it will name an interim director while the organization conducts a search for a new executive director.

Robinson announced her decision to retire last December. Under her leadership, UWPV launched several new strategies to diversify revenues contributing to education, homelessness, basic needs and financial security programs, among others. She co-founded the UWPV Women’s Leadership Council to engage local women leaders in supporting financial literacy and health initiatives for women and girls. She also led the effort to establish UWPV as a support organization for local and regional disaster recovery efforts.

Prior to joining UWHC, Ayres served for 12 years as the executive director of the Center for New Americans, an education and resource center for immigrants, refugees, and other limited-English speakers in western Massachusetts. He has extensive experience working with school systems, local and state governments, community coalitions, workforce boards, and other nonprofit organizations to develop programming and policy.

Ayres is the incoming board president of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network and an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Administration and Philanthropy at Bay Path University. He holds master’s degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

“I am excited for the opportunity to partner with the United Way Pioneer Valley’s steadfast board of directors, dedicated staff, and vital community partners to extend the organization’s impact in the communities we serve,” said Ayres. “It’s an honor to be entrusted with the organization’s leadership as we continue to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of people across the Pioneer Valley.”

The Pioneer Valley spans 25 communities in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties in western Massachusetts, from Holland and Brimfield in the east to Tolland in the west, to Granby and Chester in the north.

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