The Tulsa Area United Way might not be the hands distributing the meals, the carpenters rebuilding the homes or those physically cutting the checks issuing rent relief, but it is the organization providing the financial backing that makes those efforts possible. Through all of this, since August 2017, Alison Anthony has been TAUW’s president and CEO.
Anthony’s work with the local United Way began long before she started leading the organization. Before coming to TAUW, she worked as the director of strategic outreach at Williams, and then as president of the Williams Foundation – the charitable arm of the Tulsa-based energy company. In both roles, she partnered with the United Way to help fund its annual campaign.
Outside of her Williams office hours, Anthony found herself compelled by the United Way’s mission to unite people and resources to improve lives, so she got involved and chaired TAUW’s strategic planning initiative.
With her fifth child finishing high school, Anthony started to consider how life might look differently, both personally and professionally. She hoped her next career move would be a defining role where she could leave a legacy. Enter TAUW.
“I came to this role thinking not just about what good we’re doing for the community,” she says. “I came into it thinking if we’re really successful, the companies that run campaigns and the donors that give to us are also receiving great value for their participation with the United Way. I don’t just mean the altruistic, feel-good kind of stuff. I mean they really understand the value.”
Anthony brings her experience on both the corporate funder and donor side of the United Way’s effort. She knows what it’s like to parse through potential projects that need funding, and she knows how to identify where a company’s mission and vision intersect with the heart of the United Way.
But connecting funders with the cause is only half the equation. Anthony says one of the key wins during her tenure with TAUW has been the continuous learning and collaboration around crisis response and the ability to leverage relationships to help the community to move forward during tough times.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, TAUW partnered with Tulsa Community Foundation to raise $3.7 million, meeting needs in the community before any federal dollars were available. Using the model they developed during the 2018 teacher strike, TAUW facilitated a collaborative effort to feed students when schools closed.
Anthony would tell you she’s only one small piece of the puzzle. Thirty-two TAUW employees, a 40-person campaign cabinet and countless other volunteers are ignited by the mission, and work hard to be the bridge between Tulsa’s resources and those in need.
“I think there’s so much value in the way the TAUW weaves together the talent and generosity of so many people to know that we’re connecting and caring for each other with compassion.
Raising Funds in Tough Times
In a normal year, TAUW has 1,000 businesses running campaigns to raise the funds to keep Tulsa’s social security net strong.
Over 25,000 donors came together in 2020 to raise over $24 million dollars – only $1.7 million shy of the 2019 total – in a much more challenging year. Anthony says these dollars fund 59 partner organizations of various sizes in six Tulsa-area counties, along with collaboration and innovation grant programs.
“A lot of people do a capital campaign once in their lifetime to raise that type of money,” she says. “We do it every year.”