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.”
Dona Ponepinto, President and CEO of United Way of Pierce County in Tacoma, WA, has a steady, decades-long history of service to United Way. But, perhaps surprisingly, the most consistent theme you’ll find in her lengthy experience is anything but consistency. Ask anyone who knows Dona, and they’ll tell you that she’s not afraid of change.
“Part of what I’ve done throughout my United Way career, and something I’m probably most proud of, is being a change agent,” Dona says. “Even when I started out with United Way in California more than 30 years ago and things were still somewhat traditional, we were learning how to move in a different direction. Learning about how to better bring communities and partners along to be part of change.”
"Even when I started out with United Way in California more than 30 years ago and things were still somewhat traditional, we were learning how to move in a different direction. Learning about how to better bring communities and partners along to be part of change."
“The transformation of this United Way has been fun to be a part of. It’s where I get my energy,” says Dona. Her energy is contagious, and has inspired staff and partners to get on board with projects such as UWPC’s Center for Strong Families initiative, a project that started in 2016 and has served more than 3,500 families in the area. Funded by more than 15 partners and working in collaboration with organizations like Goodwill, Sound Outreach, Bethel School District, Clover Park Technical College, Tacoma Community House, and the Tacoma Housing Authority, UWPC has opened seven centers to support families as they become more self-sufficient, increase their income, decrease expenses, build credit, and acquire assets.
“It’s about giving people a hand up, not just a hand out,” she says.
Dona served as Vice President of Community Investments for United Way for Southeastern Michigan from 2006 to 2013, a position she was hesitant at first to apply for after living in Southern California for almost 18 years, but proved to be “one of the most fun and challenging roles” she’s ever taken on. During her time in Detroit, she embraced her role as an agent of change and helped the organization reimagine how they invested in communities while also honoring the rich history of the area. Before working in Detroit, Dona spent more than 15 years in California working for Orange County’s United Way and United Way of Greater Los Angeles. In fact, her relationship with United Way stems back even further to when she was a child watching her parents support United Way.
“My mother actually helped start the First Call for Help, a precursor to the 211 program at the United Way in Beaufort, South Carolina,” Dona says proudly. “My parents gave to United Way for more than 20 years. I guess you could say United Way has always been in my blood.” With deep roots in the organization and a strong vision for the future, it’s no surprise that Dona’s time with United Way has been such a positive experience for herself and the many partners she has worked with.
“This isn’t just my career, it’s my vocation,” she says. “And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
25 YEARS AGO
From her position as U.S. President of United Way Worldwide and past President of the United Way Suncoast (Tampa, FL), Suzanne McCormick offered this observation:
“What has become painfully obvious to me is that in fifty years, as a United Way network, we haven’t collectively moved the needle enough in creating more equitable societies and definitely not in terms of equal access to education and opportunity. We haven’t moved the needle far enough in creating an understanding of the impact we make in communities. We haven’t moved the needle far enough in creating an imperative understanding that we need to invest resources for the best skills and staff talent to help us solve the world’s most complex social problems to improve lives. We have been playing catch up for too long, without ever actually having caught up. It’s time to stop reinventing the wheel and trying to create solutions in silos or community by community. The future clearly dictates that if we truly want to improve lives, we must harness the power of shared technology, create multi-sector partnerships, and work together – as a functional network – with shared values for shared solutions. We’ve been on a listening journey recently, and are actively learning from our history, our mistakes, and our successes. We hope to change the environment we’ve been operating in to allow for more innovation sharing, best practice sharing and learning, and genuine partnership.”
Each list reflects several perspectives:
All reinforce the need of local United Way organizations to:
In retrospect, readers might casually observe, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” While a majority of the specifics change, local United Way organizations continue to be confronted by issues that affect fundraising and quality of individual and family life. Continued concern for racism and sexism is a reminder of persistent issues. A deeper analysis of these issues serves as a reminder of several truths proven by United Way history.
1. The issues defined by United Way leaders transcend individual organizations. They touch nearly every community.
2. They directly relate to that common part of the United Way mission: “to improve lives” and United Ways’ focal responsibility to raise money to do so.
3. United Way continues to serve a centrist role in most communities, developing resources and focusing public attention on causes of problems more often than symptoms of problems.
Reflection: This periodic look at issues identified by professional United Way leaders goes beyond the thought that “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” This snapshot of issues underscores the continuing efforts of local, national, and international United Way leaders to confront them in a united way.
The point is – seniors are a mixed bag. They are a lot like everyone else, just older.
That said, there are very real challenges associated with aging. As our bodies and minds grow older, our strength and acuity naturally begin to fade – but this doesn’t happen to everyone in the same way or at the same rate. Many people remain healthy, strong, and vibrant as they grow older, while others become increasingly frail over time. There are a lot of reasons for this decline, both genetic and environmental, with a lot of socio-economic factors in the mix. It’s this set of circumstances we focus on when United Way Healthy Aging develops resources and supports for people as they age.
United Way British Columbia (UWBC) manages a portfolio of Healthy Aging programs that provide important non-medical services to older adults, which help them live at home longer, remain physically active, stay connected to friends, and remain engaged in their communities. Active, Connected, and Engaged: that’s our mantra. There are currently six different programs in the United Way Healthy Aging portfolio, all of which are delivered locally by community-based service agencies. This amazing network of service agencies is the life force of United Way Healthy Aging.
When the pandemic took hold early in 2020, we were asked to take on a leadership role in the Government of British Columbia’s Safe Seniors, Strong Communities (SSSC), an emergency COVID-19 response initiative. We immediately enlisted our Healthy Aging network, and everyone pulled together to help older adults living at home stay safe and connected during the pandemic. Better at Home program providers were a huge part of the SSSC effort. They were joined by other program providers from the Healthy Aging network, as well as agencies from the broader community-based seniors’ serving sector.
Active, Connected, and Engaged: that’s our mantra.
We are so grateful for the amazing community service workers and for the thousands of volunteers who stepped up this past year to provide ongoing support and services to older adults in need throughout the province. And while 2020 was by no means a normal year, we were able to hold the course and meet many of our long-term strategic objectives, like expanding the number of Better at Home programs available in British Columbia (imagine being a non-profit community agency and starting up a new program during a global pandemic – talk about neighborhood heroes!).
There are now 81 community agencies delivering Better at Home services throughout British Columbia, with more to come in 2021. We also stuck to our schedule and launched two brand-new programs, as planned, earlier this year (the Navigation & Peer Support program and Digital Literacy pilot project), and we’ll kick off a new Men Sheds program this fall. As I write this, United Way Healthy Aging funds 127 volunteer driven, non-profit agencies who deliver some 195 Healthy Aging programs in communities across BC.
The work of strengthening connections and supporting seniors continues, even as the COVID crisis subsides, because the need for these kinds of services will continue. Helping people stay active, healthy, and engaged as they age is Healthy Aging’s reason for being, and we are proud of the part we play in strengthening connections that support seniors in need in local communities.
Kahir Lalji is the Provincial Director of Healthy Aging by United Way – a department of the newly amalgamated United Way British Columbia (UWBC). Kahir holds a Master Degree in Gerontology from Simon Fraser University and serves on the Board of HelpAge Canada, BC211, and Destination Imagination. To learn more visit the Healthy Aging webpage, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This feature story is an extension of UWRA’s Aging in Place research conducted in 2019, funded by a grant from the Cinda A. Hallman Memorial Fund, which addresses two of the recommendations made by UWRA:
1) Amplify United Way’s commitments to older adults, and
2) Drive knowledge sharing across the United Way network.
UWRA is excited to spotlight United Way British Columbia (UWBC) and its portfolio of Healthy Aging programs
Toward Stabilizing the Brand...
We are nearly at the half-way point of our LIVE UNITED Initiative, a spring and summer online campaign (see below). You may have heard that NFL star Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara agreed to serve as co-chairs. They join a number of our United Way ambassadors and influencers in helping to push out information about the good work United Way is doing in communities around the world. Russell and Ciara have been generous with their time and talent, recording a heartfelt video to launch the initiative and amplify our content across their social media channels. To date, we’ve generated more than 2 million impressions across United Way Worldwide social media platforms, including content that spotlights the transformative work going on in local United Ways.
Toward Stabilizing the Network...
Listening, listening, and more listening. Neeraj has engaged United Way leaders through dozens of one-on-one meetings with Board Chairs and CEOs, and dozens more in-network and small group meetings, including the Council of States and the Major Market Forum. What he and others have heard informs the work of two task forces, which have been established to set a new path forward.
Toward Stabilizing our Culture...
The two task forces – one to consider our business strategy (including network governance) and the other to consider our culture – are now up and running. Both task forces include representation from local United Way leaders, Board members, and UWW staff. Their aim is to create critical new frames for the future of United Way. The Board is relying on these task forces to bring forward their best recommendations for strengthening our network models and suggestions on how we make decisions together.
The work of the Business Strategy and Culture Task Forces will be instrumental in laying the foundation for the next UWW CEO. The Executive Search Committee continues to work apace. They have finalized the position description and recruitment materials, and the search is underway. We’ll share more information as it progresses. In the meantime, I hope you are all enjoying a safe, healthy, and joyful summer.
One of the distinguishing features of my United Way experience was the training, teaching, and learning.
We wrote the first government relations handbook for local Boards and staff, taught classes at the National Academy of Volunteerism (NAV), and executed the first UW Capitol Hill Day while I worked at the national office. Our first job was to convince local Boards and CEOs that government relations was an integral part of their mission.
My career has gone full circle. One of my most intriguing experiences at the national office was working on the 1986 Tax Reform Act. Nonprofits wanted a charitable deduction for non-itemizers. In my current role as Executive Vice President for External Affairs at Volunteers of America, I worked with several coalitions to make changes more favorable to charitable giving in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted in late 2017.
One of the distinguishing features of my United Way experience was the training, teaching, and learning. I was included in a program designed for staff members of color who were on the CEO track. It taught us how to interview with multiple Board members rather than just one person. We were filmed and critiqued and supported after the class concluded. Even today, I often value colleagues with United Way experience because I find that they understand how to staff Boards and committees, and appreciate the nuances of community leadership. Today at Volunteers of America, our CEO, Mike King, is a former staff member from the United Way of Dallas. Our Senior Vice President of Development, Tom Waters, previously worked at United Way Worldwide.
Being a leader is lonely. Being a Black woman leader can be isolating and disconsolate.
After twelve years at three United Ways, I furthered my career as a Vice President of an urban education think tank at Michigan State University, Executive Director of an international children’s agency (SOS Children’s Villages), and the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.
Throughout my life, I have often been a “first and only” – the first and only African American and/or woman in my class, my position, or my organization. I am the daughter of an Army colonel and a teacher. I was born, attended school, and worked for an international child welfare agency based in Germany. I have lived in thirteen places in my life. Often being the “first and only” brought excruciatingly painful episodes of racism, sexism, and exclusion at work. Being a leader is lonely. Being a Black woman leader can be isolating and disconsolate.
Among my more colorful experiences at United Way, a co-worker was asked to stop his Klan mail from coming to the office. An executive had a Black man crawl under the table and shine his shoes during an executive staff meeting. And there were Board members interested in courting. My life was threatened on Haitian radio after I completed an assignment to stop a Miami agency from blatant political activity in Haiti. While such incendiary behavior is rarely displayed today, our country and the nonprofits we lead still have a complicated journey ahead of us toward equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Even today, I often value colleagues with United Way experience because I find that they understand how to staff Boards and committees, and appreciate the nuances of community leadership.
I am proud of my role in several United Way projects. In Indianapolis, we established the first battered women shelter that was partially funded by a new divorce filing fee. I worked in Miami at the height of the crack epidemic. The devastation to families was horrific. We worked with family court judges to pass legislation that would keep children from languishing in foster care and speed up family reunification or adoption.
Along my journey, I built a strong group of friends and advisors. I am still close friends with many of the people I met along my United Way path. Balance and perspective were achieved through active roles in local and professional organizations and world travel. I was an officer of the founding National Board of the Coalition of 100 Black Women and Chapter President in Indianapolis and later inWashington D.C. While at United Way of America, I was on the Board of Women in Government Relations. I have served on several nonprofit Boards. The MetroStage theater Board is currently my most exciting. My travels have taken me to several countries including Morocco, New Zealand, and Iceland. I will have visited all seven continents after my 2023 trip to Antarctica.
By the way, I live across the street from the UWW headquarters.
In 2018, Lehigh and Northampton counties became the first dual-counties to join the World Health Organization/AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. Carmen Bell, Director of Healthy Aging at United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley (UWGLV), is spearheading the age-friendly initiative on behalf of UWGLV.
“What Carmen is doing is pushing forward systemic change—a challenging task,” says Erin Connelly, UWGLV Senior Director of Impact. “Whether it’s funding agencies, convening people, or simply encouraging individuals to reach out to their neighbors, Carmen is persistent and resilient in pushing this cause forward. It’s the type of work we need to move the needle in the right direction for our community.”
Much of the Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley work is based on direct input from older adults. The team has conducted “listening tours,” surveyed community members, organized and attended events, and collaborated with other organizations to better understand the needs of older adults.
“Almost 16% of the population in Lehigh and Northampton counties is 65 or older, and that number is increasing,” Carmen says. “We saw a need to reach out to this population and make sure they have the resources they need to live healthy and happy lives.”
“Based on what we heard, we decided to fund programs specifically around transportation, case management in the home, chronic disease care, meal services, and grocery shopping services. These were things that older adults said would help them safely age in place, manage their health, and go about their daily tasks with ease.” Over the past few years, the organization has distributed millions of dollars in funding for healthy aging programs and initiatives.
In 2020, AgeFriendly Lehigh Valley adjusted its approach to addressing relevant issues around racial justice, inequity, and, of course, COVID-19. They refocused to meet urgent needs and shifted their perspective to make sure they were inclusive and mindful of all people in their communities.
“With so much change in the social and political landscape, we knew we needed to take a step back and reassess,” says Carmen. “By doing so, we made sure we remained both respectful and relevant.” With this in mind, Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley has developed a set of core initiatives designed to meet the needs of the whole individual and the whole community. These initiatives are:
Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley continues to work on its cornerstone initiatives while taking into account the challenges posed by COVID19. Additionally, Carmen reports that she has had the opportunity to connect with other United Way organizations and community partners to continually improve her program and inspire others to undertake age-friendly initiatives.
This feature story is an extension of UWRA’s Aging in Place research conducted in 2019, funded by a grant from the Cinda A. Hallman Memorial Fund, which addresses two of the recommendations made by UWRA:
1) Amplify United Way’s commitments to older adults, and
2) Drive knowledge sharing across the United Way network.
UWRA is excited to spotlight United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s work in making their community more accessible and inviting to people of all ages through their Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley initiative.
For more information visit: unitedwayglv.org/agefriendlylehighvalley
FRANKLYN BAKER, President & CEO of United Way of Central Maryland
UWRA: Please introduce yourself and take us through your journey with United Way.
Franklyn: I’m Franklyn Baker, President and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland in Baltimore. I have dedicated my career to the nonprofit sector. My previous experience encompasses leadership roles for both local and national organizations,including Greenpeace USA, Volunteers of America, and Children’s National Medical Center.
I joined my local United Way in 2016 and was thrilled to be able to build upon its strengths and successes, especially its “from every angle“ approach to driving family stability and broadening and deepening our impact across central Maryland. This position is a perfect fit for me—I am deeply committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion in community building and breaking down barriers to drive positive change.
What energizes me most about my job is the constant change. Shortly after I started, we moved our headquarters from downtown Baltimore to an office building located in a community of need in Southwest Baltimore. The move was intentional—it provides significant savings to our operations that we can direct back to our residents and neighborhoods and places us directly in one of the many communities we serve.
Since coming aboard, we’ve evolved both our program model and business model. We’re incubating new ideas and accelerating best practices that address root causes of poverty. We target hardworking families that may be working two or more full-time minimum wage jobs, but who still struggle to afford basic needs. We’ve added more family stability sites that provide homelessness prevention and shelter diversion services to families in locations across central Maryland, expanded our Neighborhood Zones (resource and service hubs for challenged communities that address education, income, housing and health), and expanded our On Track 4 Success early intervention education program that helps children succeed in school with the goal of graduating. Our first ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report was released early in my tenure. I am a staunch advocate of sharing its findings with our partners, donors, legislators, corporations, foundations, and the media to increase awareness of and remove obstacles for hardworking families who cannot afford the basics in life. I’m also passionate about exceeding goals: In addition to our annual fundraising campaign, we also surpassed our target of raising an additional $4.5 million to help struggling families and individuals and to improve the effectiveness of our operations.
UWRA: Describe what the past 12 months have been like for you, your community, and your United Way.
Franklyn: Where to start! It’s been a year unlike one that any of us has ever experienced, and it’s taken its biggest toll on those who were already struggling. I’m proud of the United Way team here and how quickly we pivoted to respond to the cascading needs resulting from the pandemic. We immediately established a COVID-19 Community Fund, which to date has raised nearly $3 million to help our neighbors, neighborhoods, and other nonprofits and organizations impacted by the pandemic. The ever-increasing need—and the new needs that emerge every day—have certainly been challenging. Still we have mobilized all of our resources and worked closely with State government and new and existing partners to provide more of what’s needed, where it’s needed, and when it’s needed. You can read more about our response here: uwcm.org/covidresponse.
UWRA: What keeps you going?
Franklyn: My team keeps me going! They are an incredible group of talented, mission-driven professionals whose deep and abiding commitment to serving others aligns well with my own ethic, sustains me during challenging times, and is reaffirmed with each one of our successes. 2020 was certainly a rollercoaster ride, but seeing the outpouring of support from our community and the incredible dedication, commitment, and around-the-clock work of our staff, volunteers, board members, and others to address the ongoing and emerging challenges facing our region gives me hope and is truly inspirational.
What accomplishments are you most proud of for 2020?
Franklyn: There are so many 2020 accomplishments to celebrate, and you’d need an entire newsletter devoted to them. Still, I’d say I’m most proud of the fact that when the pandemic hit, we were already in a position of strength and could quickly and effectively respond to the challenges of the pandemic and rapidly make a measurable difference for those in need.
I’ve also been proud to launch robust Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives that support our team and the community. And the cherry on top? An unsolicited and undesignated $20M gift—the largest individual gift in our 96-year-history—from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. Our strategy and proven ability to deliver positive, meaningful results, and our strong and thoughtful plan for our future work, were driving factors in her decision to award this transformational gift, which will significantly amplify our ability to help even more people.
UWRA: United Way of Central Maryland has been a long-time supporter of UWRA (thank you!). Why has it remained a priority to provide that annual gift?
Franklyn: While I’m newer to the United Way family, the careers of so many of my team members and colleagues have been shaped by mentors who are now part of UWRA. We want to support the success of those who have supported our professional success. We value the wisdom that exists in abundance within the UWRA membership.
UWRA: Can you talk about your efforts to engage retirees in your own community?
Franklyn: So many times, our minds gravitate toward traditional campaign engagement opportunities for retirees. On the other hand, we have a cadre of the female pioneers who initially shaped our Women United membership group. These seasoned “alumnae” and leadership givers are retired C-suite professionals who are still connected to us and serving in multiple ways, from giving to mask making and mentoring.
UWRA: Anything else you would like to add?
Franklyn: I know I mentioned that one of our greatest accomplishments of 2020 was being well-positioned to help families and individuals to respond, recover, and rebuild from the pandemic. But on a personal note, one of my wife and I's most significant achievements is rearing a lovely daughter who is a well-mannered, bright 18-year old freshman at Loyola University, Maryland. Young people like her offer great hope for our future.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of UWRA’s Endowment, the Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC) has approved a challenge grant of $10,000 to UWRA.
The challenge grant builds on the foresight of two of UWRA’s early leaders, Don Morgan and Don Sanders. Morgan, a long-time United Way professional and former UWRA Board Chair, proposed the idea of an endowment fund in 2000 to honor UWRA founder Gordon Berg. Don Sanders, another United Way veteran and the UWRA Board Chair at the time, joined forces with Morgan to co-chair the first campaign, establishing the UWRA Gordon Berg Endowment Fund in 2001.
An unassuming individual, Berg dedicated his life to helping others. He began his career as a social worker and cultivated leadership and community building skills by establishing daycare centers throughout St. Paul, Minnesota, to support women entering the workforce during World War II. Berg later moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he served for 23 years as the director for United Way of Central Carolinas. While in Charlotte, Berg launched the Foundation for the Carolinas, building it into one of the largest community foundations in the United States. He served as the organization’s Executive Director upon his retirement in 1978 from United Way. In the final chapter of his career, Berg paved a path for United Way retirees, officially founding the United Way Retirees Association with Chuck Devine in 1990. Berg passed away on July 2, 2005 at the age of 92.
The UWRA Endowment was launched with seed gifts totaling $20,000 from the two organizations that were beneficiaries of Gordon Berg’s time and considerable talents, FFTC and the United Way of Central Carolinas. The fund’s inception was bolstered by the generosity of close to 100 Founders who made contributions to the Endowment in its early years. Included in the Endowment are five Named Funds established by United Way colleagues, friends, and family members who contributed initial and cumulative endowment gifts of $10,000 or more: Dick and Mary Lu Aft, Tom and Carol Brown, Alan and Selma Cooper, Dan and Kathleen Dunne, and Friends and Family of Bob Beggan. Since its beginnings, the UWRA Endowment has grown at a steady pace and today has over $225,000 in assets. Endowment earnings provide funding for the organization to launch new programs and to expand and sustain existing initiatives.
CHALLENGE GRANT DETAILS
Foundation For The Carolinas will match, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $10,000 of irrevocable, lifetime gifts received into the UWRA Endowment.
Please join UWRA Board members in doubling the impact of endowment contributions through the challenge grant. As of publication, we have already met 30% of the goal through generous contributions from current and former Board members.
Your gift sustains UWRA’s programs and services and honors the United Way system that provided lasting friendships and incredible life experiences that made a difference in the communities you served.
Thank you to former UWRA Board Member Ed John for spearheading this effort. Visit the UWRA website for more information and to make a contribution.
UWRA: In what roles have you served during your United Way years?
Marian: I began my 30-year United Way career in 1974 as the childcare coordinator for United Way of Eastern Fairfield County (UWEFC) in Bridgeport, CT. With UWEFC, I served as the Associate Executive Director, Executive Director, President, and Chief Executive Officer. The title of President and Chief Executive Officer was rare in those days! In 1992, I joined the United Way of Massachusetts Bay in Boston (UWMB) as the President and CEO. I also served as CEO of the United Ways of New England. I retired from United Way in July 2004.
UWRA: What were some of your early successes?
Marian: UWEFC was chosen as the best United Way program in America and featured in the annual Presidential Message delivered by President George H.W. Bush. We were honored for our "Regional Youth Substance Abuse Prevention'' initiative. I was blessed with a great staff, a very involved board, and a fantastic group of volunteers, which allowed us to earn this type of recognition.
Another successful venture was our Alexis de Tocqueville efforts. I had my broker buy 1-5 shares of stock of every public company in our area, and I would take the annual reports with me when meeting CEOs and “encourage” them to increase their giving, host dinners, or help by recruiting others. Also, whenever a local couple was featured in Architectural Digest or another national magazine, I personally made cold calls to confirm their willingness to host a United Way dinner—and, they all said yes!
UWRA: You have worked with several U.S. presidents. Can you elaborate on some of those experiences?Marian: Early in my tenure, Bill Aramony suggested I represent United Way with President George H.W. Bush's "Thousand Points of Light." I agreed to meet with philanthropic giant Raymond G. Chambers, the chairman of this newly formed foundation. We discussed our thoughts about childcare in America, youth development, and the importance of volunteers. The following week, I was invited to the White House to talk about being the founding President and CEO of the Points of Light Foundation.
I accepted a three-month position, which turned into almost a year. During this hectic time, UWEFC surpassed campaign goals and received six awards for community leadership and programming. We were invited by President George H.W. Bush to meet him in Westchester as he arrived on Air Force One. My husband, the board chair, the incoming board chair, and the campaign chair attended this meeting. This meeting led to a long-standing relationship with the Points of Light Foundation.
I have now worked with six United States presidents: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. With board support, I took a leave of absence to serve as the President and CEO of the Presidents' Summit for America's future. Presidents Bush and Clinton were the co-chairs, and retired General Colin Powell was the honorary chair. First Lady Hillary Clinton also played a prominent role.
UWRA: Who were your mentors?
Marian: My mentors included George Wilkinson. He demonstrated how critical it was to focus on research and data analysis as a part of our reports and presentations. That served me well!
One of our innovative programs was the Ambassador's Circle. The first Chairman was Oz Nelson, the CEO of UPS. Our first speaker was Jack Welch, CEO of GE. That was a fateful meeting, because Jack became my mentor. From Jack I learned the concept of wild-card planning and "how to plan" for success. Jack continued to be my mentor when he moved GE's world headquarters to Boston. I could write another book about Jack's words.
During 2018, we lost my great friend and long-term supporter, President George H.W. Bush. During 2020, both Jack Welch and Ed Ansin, another mentor, passed away. I feel blessed to have had these and many, many others in my life.
UWRA:Tell us about your time in Boston.
Marian: In 1992, I was asked to take over at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay in Boston (UWMB). Bill Aramony has just resigned amid an internal investigation and unfavorable news reports about the misuse of funds. To help reset the trajectory of the situation, Ray Chambers, a tremendous supporter and friend of mine, asked me the amount of the largest gift in Boston’s history. I confirmed it had been $35,000. Ever generous, Ray sent a check for $50,000 and asked me to tell the Boston United Way Board that someone they didn't know believed in me and offered this gift as a vote of confidence. From there, we simply got down to business!