United Way introduces new chief executive

New United Way of Greater Toledo President and CEO Karen Mathison has a passion for the agency. “I’ve made it my life’s work,” she says.
New United Way of Greater Toledo President and CEO Karen Mathison has a passion for the agency. “I’ve made it my life’s work,” she says.

Making sure graduating Toledo-area students are “career-ready” is the top priority for the new chief executive of The United Way of Greater Toledo.

Karen Mathison, 47, now president of the United Way of Olmsted County, Minn., was introduced Thursday as the new president of the nonprofit agency’s Toledo branch. Ms. Mathison, whose starting salary will be $146,000, will assume her new duties Jan. 7.

“I’m delighted to be here,” Ms. Mathison said during a morning news conference at the United Way’s downtown Toledo headquarters. “I have a passion for United Way. I’ve made it my life’s work.”

Jani Miller, chairman of the United Way’s local board, said Ms. Mathison’s worldwide agency connections and proven ability to address health and education issues were primary factors in her hiring.

“It was a tough decision,” said Ms. Miller. “It took us six months to decide who was the right person for the job.”

Ms. Mathison replaces Bill Kitson, who stepped down June 1 as the local United Way’s director to take a similar position in Cleveland. Jane Moore, the Toledo organization’s executive president, has served as interim director.

About 80 people applied for the Toledo position, from whom Ms. Mathison was one of two finalists, Ms. Miller said. United Way officials declined to name the other candidate, but said he was from the Toledo area.

Ms. Mathison holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and leadership from Concordia University in St. Paul. She has served as president of the Olmsted County agency since 2002.

Ms. Mathison is credited with increasing revenue by 11 percent and improving donor retention during her tenure at Olmsted. She also oversaw implementation of a community-wide impact plan that focused on education, income, health, and community basics.

Toledo officials hope to see similar accomplishments.

“We think you’re a wonderful addition to the Toledo area,” United Way Vice Chair Tom Waggoner told Ms. Mathison during the news conference. “I think we’re going to see brighter days ahead for United Way, and brighter days for this community.”

Ms. Mathison also serves as co-chairman of United Way Worldwide's Health Advisory Council. Since 2011, she has been a member of United Way Worldwide’s Partnership Committee to create collective strategies for local United Ways to work across the organization to solve issues in education and health.

She is an appointed member of the National Professional Council of United Way Worldwide, a position she has held since 2006. She is on the United Ways of Minnesota board of directors and is a former chairman of the United Ways of Minnesota Association. She is also a 2010 graduate of the United Way Worldwide Advanced Leadership Program.

Ms. Mathison is involved in various organizations, including the Greater Rochester (Minn.) Rotary, the Rochester Area Workforce 2020 Coalition, and the Rochester Public Schools Foundation board of directors.

The United Way of Toledo in September kicked off its annual fund-raising campaign and aims to raise $13.8 million — the same goal it had last year, when it raised $13.6 million.

The United Way’s yearly campaign raises money to aid programs and nonprofit organizations aimed at improving education, income, and health, with an emphasis on graduating high school youth.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.