10 Things You Didn’t Know about Brian A. Gallagher

United Way operates from approximately 1800 community-based organistions in 41 countries. In the US alone, the charity generates around $3.7 billion in revenue. Outside of the US, that figure sits at around $1.1 billion. At its helm is Brian A. Gallagher, a man who’s successfully turned the organization from a clunky, outdated, and poorly thought of charity into one that’s more than ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century. To find out more about United Way’s CEO, here are ten things you didn’t know about Brian A. Gallagher.

1. He was appointed CEO in 2002

After spending his entire career with United Way, Gallagher finally achieved the ultimate position of President and CEO of United Way Worldwide in January 2002. He now oversees the activities of around 1,800 community-based United Way organizations, both in the US and overseas.

2. He’s the epitome of the America dream

As the Guardian notes, Gallagher epitomizes the American dream. He was born as one of six children to parents who’d emigrated to the US from Scotland and Ireland. Despite being born into poverty, he found a way to free himself of it. After benefiting from the mentoring of older people in his community, he became the first in his family to win a place at university… although his decision to study social work wasn’t exactly to the liking of his father, who feared his son would end up living “in the trunk of a car”.

3. He revitalized United Way’s public image

After graduating with a degree in social work, Gallagher applied for trainee management positions at both Sears and United Way. United Way was the first to offer him a position, and he spent the next few decades working his way up the ranks. By the time he took over as CEO, the organization wasn’t in the best of shapes. One of its former CEO’s had recently been jailed for fraud and financial mismanagement, and its reputation had taken a beaten. On his appointment to CEO, Gallagher set up revitalizing United Way’s image. He repositioned it from a fundraiser to a community organizer and helped instigate a series of sustained changes that have attracted the attention of a huge range of stakeholders.

4. He believes that education should be accessible to everyone

Education is the number one route out of poverty and deprivation. Unfortunately, schooling comes with a price tag, with the result that many people are simply unable to afford the education they need to lift themselves out of poverty. Speaking to business-review.eu, Gallagher explained that while he believed that education should be accessible to all, more work needed to be done in figuring out how to pay for it. “All education should be accessible to anyone,” he said. “Maybe it should be free of charge for those who really can’t afford it, but it must be accessible. People say that the solution is free education. Yes, agree, but we have to create tax levels that will pay for them. However you do it, you have to figure out how to pay for it. (…) It’s about access to quality education.”

5. He thinks the environment is becoming a human needs issue

As it stands, Gallagher believes that the biggest threat to civilization is a disparity of income and opportunity. That said, he also believes that environmental issues will soon become one of our greatest concerns. Speaking to philanthropyaction.com, he outlined his position thus: “The environment is going to become a human need issue. Right now we tend to think of the environment as a completely separate sector from education, income, health, and those types of issues. I think the walls there are going to break down because the environment will have a much more direct impact on people’s health and income.”

6. He earns over a million dollars a year

Figuring out Gallagher’s exact net worth isn’t easy. Depending on the publication, estimates put his fortune at anything between 2 and 12 million USD. The one thing we do know for sure is what he earned last year. How? Because United Way has been kind enough to tell us. According to the company’s data, Gallagher earned a grand total of $1,578,515 in 2019. This included $548, 916 in base compensation, $200,000 in bonus and incentive compensation, $452,645 in other reportable compensation, and $376,954 in health insurance and retirement benefits. Not a bad sum, by anyone’s reckoning.

7. He’s got no problem in asking people for money

As the CEO of United Way, asking people for money is built into Gallagher’s job description. While many of us would balk at the prospect, Gallagher seems to view it as one of the most enjoyable aspects of his job. Speaking to Harvard Business Review, he said, “As the leader of a nonprofit, I ask people for money as a big part of my job—and I love doing it. Making the ask isn’t as hard as you might think. The most effective leaders I’ve seen in any setting—business, government, nonprofit—are driven by purpose, mission, and the sense that their work is making the world a better place. If you approach donors from that standpoint, you’re really just having a conversation about mission and purpose and then asking them to join you. You simply have to blurt out the number and not worry about how many zeros it has at the end.”

8. He makes time for extracurricular activities

While United Way takes up the majority of Gallagher’s day, he somehow manages to find time for a wide range of other activities. He’s previously served as a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and has also sat as the Chair of the Independent Sector. His current activities run to serving on the boards of America’s Promise Alliance and Leadership 18, along with serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Ball State University.

9. He’s been awarded an honorary doctorate

In 1981, Gallagher graduated from Ball State University with a degree in social work. Over 20 years later, the university honored their distinguished son with an honorary Doctor of Humanities.

10. He’s a dedicated family man

Outside of the office, Gallagher is a committed family man and a father of two. He and his wife Ramona live with their two daughters, Katie and Maggie, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


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