By Loni Nannini
The board of directors of United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona is a reflection of diverse strengths and personalities that gift “Three Ts”—time, talent and treasure—to help the region thrive.
“This board has a collective wisdom of lived and shared life experiences that we bring to bear to help create healthy communities and healthy families, and that is what United Way is centered around,” said Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert, the 2021-22 board chair.
Lambert emphasized that “collective” is the operative word.
“We bring together all facets of the community to solve pressing needs, so the future vision is about connecting all of these different dots to help make the community better for all Tucsonans. We can only do that with an organization that has a collective impact approach,” said Lambert.
The philosophy hinges on people, according to 2021-22 Vice-Chair Michelle Trindade, who began gifting time as a young single mom serving meals to homebound seniors through an agency affiliated with the United Way in Lakeland, Fla. in 1997.
Shortly thereafter, she began contributing small weekly donations through the Annual Workplace Campaign with GEICO. Her donations grew along with her career as she traveled the country, all the while exploring different United Ways. By 2018, she arrived in Tucson as regional VP of GEICO and joined the United Way board of directors.
“This is a wise and fiscally responsible nonprofit with great reach and the way they rally resources is incredible,” Trindade said. “Not only through donations, but through volunteerism. Days of Caring is the largest volunteer event in the state. In 2021, my team had more than 100 volunteers working on 16 projects over two days. That is harnessing the power of community. Impact happens through giving and through people too. You see that in a lot of organizations, but not like this.”
Allison Duffy, a four-year board veteran and 2020-21 chair of the Annual Workplace Campaign, said United Way aligns with the level of efficiency and professionalism she demands from her own company. She is president and owner of Silverado Technologies, which provides nationwide IT services such as network management and strategic consulting.
“As a working professional, my time is limited. Everything I do needs to be something that I have a passion for. It needs to be fulfilling,” said Duffy. “The United Way wins national and international awards for its professionalism as a nonprofit and a fundraising engine, with 11 straight years of clean audits and the ability to leverage $5 of impact from every dollar donated.”
That level of efficiency combined with measurement of impact through data and metrics “is the secret sauce of the organization,” said Edmund Marquez, 2020-21 board chair and chair of the Tocqueville Society.
Marquez, who owns the Edmund Marquez Allstate Agencies, likens United Way to an index fund worthy of investment because donors realize their time and money are used wisely.
“I compare it to the S & P 500, which chooses the top 500 companies,” Marquez said. “If one company fails, the next in line steps in. That is what the United Way does with nonprofits. They choose the best, most efficient nonprofits to work with and if they do what they should, they continue to invest. If not, they choose another. There are 3,600 nonprofits in Tucson and we partner with the best and most impactful.”
All board members realize that philanthropy is paramount and that everyone—at every age and life stage—has something to give. Many have also found that the journey of giving reaps unexpected rewards.
“While it is heartwarming to be able to give of my treasure, it has been increasingly meaningful for me to give my time and talent, too,” said Howard Stewart, president and CEO of AGM Container Controls and chair of the United Way’s Centennial Endowment Campaign.
“Frankly, I think that our Tucson United Way helped me to discover a part of myself that I didn’t know existed. You see, by gradually asking me to step forward at increasingly higher levels of the volunteer portion of their organization, I was effectively provided with the opportunity to break free of my lifelong inclination to be an introvert. In turn, it’s become easier for me to start asking my friends and other community members to step forward to help the people that United Way represents.”
For those fortunate enough to have the ability to gift treasure in addition to time or talent, Stewart has a special ask.
“As each of us inevitably approaches our life’s end, those of us who have done well realize that we ‘can’t take it with us.’ As such, this is a terrific time when all of us need to open our eyes to find out how great it feels to make a big difference by giving back to effective non-profits like the United Way,” he said.