United Way began as a voluntary association of local Denver charities in 1887, and has grown into a network of affiliates that share the mission “to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities to advance the common good.”
Only nine people have been called upon to lead the alliance of local, state, national, and International United Way organizations during its 134-year history. Each of its leaders has brought unique experiences to the job. Each has made significant contributions to the organization and its affiliates. Each one stands on the shoulders of those who have come before, ready to further the vision of our greatest goal: to live UNITED.
Glance through history as we prepare for the arrival of our newest President and CEO, Angela F. Williams.
2021 - PRESENT
ANGELA F. WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, UNITED WAY WORLDWIDE
“I am absolutely honored to join the world’s leading charity at a key moment in the organization’s history and world events," Williams said. “Around the world, issues of health, education and economic sustainability are at the forefront of ensuring equality and access to a good quality of life. I recognize and appreciate the tremendous role that United Way Worldwide plays in supporting individuals and families and transforming communities. I am committed to working with the Board, volunteers, partners and staff to build on the rich legacy of the organization in its second century of service.”
Read the full press release from United Way here
2002 – 2021
BRIAN A. GALLAGHER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, UNITED WAY WORLDWIDE
During his term of office, Gallagher was responsible for system-wide United Way changes including a focus on United Way impact on education, financial stability and health, the adoption of membership standards that require affiliates to practice financial consistency and transparency in financial reporting and leadership in diversity, equality and inclusion. Under his leadership, in 2009, United Way launched the LIVE UNITED campaign to engage individuals and organizations in “supporting the recovery, reimagining and rebuilding of communities across the world.” In addition, he spearheaded United Way Worldwide’s technological capacity to serve by increasing its electronic services and fostering the development of platforms such as the Salesforce.org Philanthropy Cloud and Workplace by Facebook. “Without question,” he wrote in a 2019 UWRA newsletter, “the rate of change in United Way is increasing in direct proportion to the increasing speed of technological change. We will continue to enjoy success in fulfilling our vital mission so long as we all continue to demonstrate our proven capacity to transform ourselves in response to change.”
1997 – 2001
BETTY STANLEY BEENE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, UNITED WAY OF AMERICA
She became known for her recognition of the achievements of others with hugs and her signature United Way teddy bears. Her leadership was characterized by her concern for continuous improvement. Her speeches to local and national United Way audiences stressed the need to keep up with the ever-increasing rate of social and technological change and listening carefully to their constituents. She challenged United Way volunteers and professionals alike to embrace, rather than reject, change. ''Our United Way system is a national treasure that must constantly renew itself if we are to successfully carry out our mission.” she observed at her final national Community Leaders’ Conference.
1992 – 1996
ELAINE LAN CHAO, PRESIDENT, UNITED WAY OF AMERICA
Her passion for this work was exemplified in 1995 comments to United Way of America’s Community Leaders’ Conference at which she said, “Without the compassion and generosity shown by our entire United Way family, millions upon millions of children and families would not know where to turn for help. True to the United Way mission, you, as United Way leaders, along with countless other volunteers, staff, donors and non-profit agencies, represent the best of our country’s caring for people in need."
1992 – 1992
KENNETH “KEN” W. DAM, INTERIM PRESIDENT, UNITED WAY OF AMERICA
1970 – 1992
WILLIAM “BILL” ARAMONY, PRESIDENT, UNITED WAY OF AMERICA
He called for all United Way of America affiliates to adopt the United Way name and newly introduced “helping hand” logo and inspired major operational changes in over 2,200 affiliates with the 1978 strategic blueprint entitled “Rebirth and Renewal.” His professional philosophy was expressed as follows in his1987 book United Way, the Next 100 Years, “The capacity exists to build a system that serves the whole community. It begins with non-vested volunteer involvement. It demands long-term commitment to solving key social problems. It is based on the unwavering conviction that every community group should be invited to participate in the process, and that exclusion of even one key group is wrong.”
In 1992, Aramony resigned from his position while under investigation for misusing United Way of America funds for personal purposes.
1960 – 1970
LYMAN S. FORD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNITED COMMUNITY FUNDS AND COUNCILS OF AMERICA
Known for his tact and diplomacy, Ford oversaw a decade of local social service agency fund-raising drives promoted by corporate leaders who wanted to simplify payroll giving into a single unified drive. His commitment to professional development was supported by his creation of four regional Field Service/Personnel regions, each staffed with experienced United Way professionals and committed to supporting professional career development and mobility. His additional national volunteer board service during these years cemented United Way relationships with the National Information Bureau, the National Council on Social Work and the National Conference of Lawyers and Social Workers. “Cooperation,” he was fond of saying, brings life to the expression, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’”
1943 – 1960
RALPH H. BLANCHARD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY CHESTS AND COUNCILS OF AMERICA
Blanchard returned to “Three Cs” as its executive director in 1943. Building on the close working relationships he had formed with national corporate leaders while in New York, Blanchard garnered their support in creating the National Health and Welfare Retirement Association, a national retirement savings program for employees of not-for-profit organizations, most of whom had been excluded from Social Security coverage. For fourteen years, Blanchard served not only as the chief professional officer of Community Chests and Councils of America, but at the same time was the architect and 14-year president of “NH&WRA,” today’s Mutual of America Financial Group.
1926 – 1943
ALLEN T. BURNS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY CHESTS AND COUNCILS OF AMERICA
In 1926, those “NCSW” members who were employed by local Community Chests, Federations of Social Agencies and Social Planning Councils formed a “spin-off” organization, named it Community Chests and Councils of America and employed Burns as its first executive director. He continued in that position until his retirement in 1943.
Burns’ New York Times obituary included the following: “The number of local community chests and local welfare councils increased enormously under the vigorous leadership of Mr. Burns. His influence during this period of growth was very important because he continuously sought improved educational standards and opportunities for chest and council personnel and because he always advocated the fact-finding and research approach to problems of community organization.”