UWRA: Please introduce yourself and recap your United Way career.
Ann: I’m Ann Murtlow, President and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana since 2014. I’m an east coast native, but now a proud Hoosier. Prior to leading United Way of Central Indiana, I spent my entire career in the corporate sector, primarily in leadership roles in engineering, construction, and utility companies. Since my first day on the job, United Way has gone through extraordinary change, much success, and celebratory milestones. Our United Way led the significant effort for high-quality early education opportunities for low-income children throughout our region and statewide. We have signed strategic partnership agreements, beginning with Eli Lilly and Company in 2016, to drive measurable, social change. We secured a multimillion-dollar federal Social Innovation Fund grant to put the two- generational (2Gen) approach to work, helping entire families become financially stable. And, we had our huge 100th birthday celebration in 2018 on one of the most cherished institutions in Indy -- the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
UWRA: Describe what this year has been like for you, your community, and your United Way.
Ann: We started 2020 with our charge of driving impact in basic needs, family opportunity, and social innovation initiatives to help 216,000+ households in Central Indiana who struggle to make ends meet. But then COVID arrived, and our world stopped. Hoosiers were losing jobs at a rapid pace. Our partners in human services faced significant disruption in delivering services to those in need, so we rallied. Together with our large philanthropic partners, we were the first United Way in the country to announce a significant economic relief fund to help our community through the crisis. We started with $16.5 million on March 13, and it quickly topped $23 million in two months. More than 200 organizations received grants across our six-county region, helping tens of thousands of Hoosiers. This year proved to all of us that our community needs United Way to be responsive, hopeful, and resilient. Now more than ever before, we must continue our work with a sense of focus, relevance, a strong message of hope, and motivation to charge ahead.
UWRA: What keeps you going? What accomplishments are you most proud of for 2020?
Ann: I’m generally an optimistic person. I’m proud that we were able to move so quickly to launch our COVID relief fund. Two years ago, we completed a massive transition to a new strategy and funding model focused on those who need us most. I’m proud of that work, which positions us well to help our community recover and rebound in the long term. As racial tensions reached their highest point this past summer, it was past time we all stepped up and said, “Enough.” United Way stepped out early and united with our community in opposing racism. Locally, United Way of Central Indiana pledged that racism, both implicit and explicit, presents significant barriers to our communities of color. And, we pledged to do something about it -- in all areas of United Way’s work. You can read more about our pledge, alongside Indy’s leading companies, at www.indyracialequitypledge.com
UWRA: United Way of Central Indiana has been a long-time supporter of UWRA (thank you!). Why has it remained important to provide that annual gift?
Ann: Retirees from United Ways hold a host of critical history and a wealth of experience. They also have dedicated much of their professional lives to the United Way mission. Many of these wonderful professionals helped to onboard me to United Way – celebrated leaders like Mary Sellers, Janet Jackson, Rob Reifsnyder, and Mike Durkin. I consider them to be mentors and dear friends. UWRA is also partnering with members of my staff to benchmark leading practices for keeping late-career professionals and retirees engaged as United Way donors and volunteers in communities around the country.
UWRA: Can you elaborate on your efforts to engage retirees? Why is that a priority for you?
Ann: Members of Always United (our retiree group) are some of the most engaged people we have in our family of donors and volunteers. These are folks who have likely been connected through United Way in their workplaces for many years, and they want to stay meaningfully involved. Simply, our strategy to engage retirees starts *before* they retire. It’s important to develop these personal relationships to keep them engaged in our mission. And once they do make the leap into retirement, we need to connect them to impactful experiences. We had a retiree who served as a tax-prep volunteer a few years ago. I’ll never forget what he said: “I knew I could help change a client’s life with this program. But meeting him and knowing him changed my life for the better, too.”
UWRA: Anything else you would like to add?
Ann: I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity, as CEO, to continue the service to the community that began when I was the CEO of one of United Way of Central Indiana’s biggest corporate partners. The people that I have met in leadership within the network are outstanding talents, and the people on our teams serve with humility and passion every single day – never losing sight of our mission. I am grateful to be counted among them!