Chris Sargent, a Battle Creek resident with nearly two decades of nonprofit leadership, including multiple roles with United Way, has been named President and Chief Executive Officer for United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region (UWBCKR).
“The board is excited to have Chris take the leadership reins permanently,” said Erick Stewart, chairman of the UWBCKR Board of Directors. “Chris has the passion, relationships and strategic mindset to guide United Way’s work and make a lasting impact that will change our region for the better.”
Sargent, 42, has served as interim CEO since last fall, following the departure of Michael Larson. Previously, Sargent was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for UWBCKR, a role he assumed following the 2012 merger of United Way of Greater Battle Creek—which he led as President and CEO—and Greater Kalamazoo United Way.
“I’ve had the privilege to play a key role in creating United Way’s impact strategy, hand in hand with our staff, volunteers, partners and supporters. We’re already seeing results, and that’s exciting. I’m thrilled to help lead that work for the long term and transform lives in meaningful, lasting ways,” Sargent said.
According to Sargent, United Way has transformed its mission in recent years from a funding organization to one that leads strategic change. Last year, UWBCKR unveiled impact goals focused on specific, measurable results that include improving high school graduation rates, increasing the number of economically stable households, improving family and infant health, ensuring a safety net for people in need, and addressing economic and racial disparities.
“Our region has lots of great agencies working on important social needs and challenges. But delivering sustainable, long-lasting change takes an organization that can pull together those agencies and every other available resource, whether local and beyond, in a focused, strategic way. That’s what United Way does. We’ve created goals and strategies around education, financial stability, health and basic needs, and we’re bringing together the diverse people, ideas and resources to achieve them,” Sargent explained.
Find out more about UWBCKR’s impact goals and strategies here.
The announcement concludes a five-month, nationwide executive search led by a volunteer committee of UWBCKR’s board and involving many community members. Stewart said the board conducted the search out of its responsibility to the region to select the best long-term leader.
“We had more than 60 strong candidates from across the country apply for this role. That shows both the power of our impact strategy and the allure of this wonderful regional community,” said Stewart. “The fact that Chris outshone them all proves that homegrown leaders can meet and exceed the talents of anyone in the nation.”
A 1997 graduate of Alma College, Sargent spent most of the past two decades working in the nonprofit arena. His experience includes resource development with Heart of West Michigan United Way (Grand Rapids) and Michigan United Conservation Clubs (Lansing); capital campaign leadership for Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center (Augusta); and various development and strategic leadership roles for United Way of Greater Battle Creek, which he joined in 2004. He was President and CEO of UWGBC from 2009 to 2012. Sargent also has specialized training in community engagement, equity and racial healing.
Beyond his United Way leadership, Sargent has served as board chair for Michigan 2-1-1, Leadership Council chair for the Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo, board chair for Battle Creek College Access Network, a member of the BC Vision Steering & Advisory Committee, a board member of the Humane Society of Southcentral Michigan, and on other boards and committees.
Sargent resides in Battle Creek with his wife, Kim. They have three children and several grandchildren.