Leslie Ann Howard just retired as president and chief executive officer of United Way of Dane County, a position she had held since 1989. She is the first woman to hold this position in the 93-year history of the organization. Ms. Howard joined United Way in 1981 as director of the Volunteer Center, and in 1982 became vice president of Planning, Fund Distribution and Agency Services. During her tenure as president, the organization grew from an annual Campaign of $5.5 million to over $24 million in total revenue and has transformed from a grant making agency to an organization that is effectively changing the human condition. Leslie has led the evolution of United Way from a fundraising organization to a community impact organization, creating a model that has served as a catalyst for United Ways around the country.
Ms. Howard received her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1976 from Lafayette and went on to earn her master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1979.
An advocate for collaboration and change, Ms. Howard has spent a lifetime working and volunteering in the nonprofit sector. Her focus has included early childhood; education; safety; health; ending family homelessness and racial justice issues. Ms. Howard spearheaded the Schools of Hope Initiative, which focuses on closing the racial achievement gap in Madison’s public schools. During her tenure, Leslie brought together the private sector, government and nonprofits to develop strategic partnerships addressing school readiness, early grade reading, behavioral health, family homelessness, ex-offender reentry, senior independence, access to health care and community safety.
Her work with the United Way extends to the Board of Directors of United Way of Wisconsin, including chair of the Board, the Nominating Committee, and the executive search process. She has served on many committees for United Way Worldwide, including the Finance and Audit Committee, the National Professional Council's Task Force on September 11 Fund, and the Committee for Increasing Demand for Integrity, Accountability and Cost-Effectiveness. Ms. Howard chaired United Way Worldwide’s National Professional Council (NPC) and the Information and Technology Committee. She has served as a consultant for corporations and nonprofits in the area of strategic planning.
Ms. Howard has served on numerous boards, including: Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, Madison Area Technical College, Community Action Coalition, The Nature Conservancy-Wisconsin Chapter, Madison Downtown Rotary, Eagle School and Friends of Wisconsin State Parks. She is currently serving on the Board of American Family Insurance Group and is a member of their Audit and Nominating & Governance Committees. She is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches a graduate course in non-profit leadership. She served as chair of the Lafayette College Class of 1976 fund drive, and is a member of Tempo, Vantage Point and served as President of the Wisconsin Chapter of the International Women’s Forum. She also has coached girls and boys basketball teams.
Ms. Howard was recognized by the Madison Chapter of the American Marketer’s Association as the “Marketer of the Year” and was a “YWCA Women of Distinction.” She was featured in the Wisconsin State Journal’s “Know Your Madisonian”, recognized as one of Madison’s most influential individuals, one of Dane County’s top executives, and as one of Madison’s “Women on Top”, all by Madison Magazine. Ms. Howard was named to In Business “Executive Hall of Fame” and Madison Magazine’s “Best in Business.” Recently, Ms. Howard was the recipient of the “Distinguished Social Worker Award” from the South Central Wisconsin Branch of National Association of Social Workers, the President’s Award from the Urban League of Greater Madison, the 2014 Jeffrey Clay Erlanger Civility in Public Discourse Award from the City of Madison, the Award of Excellence from 100 Black Men of Madison, the Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation from Madison Magazine’s Best in Business, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Fundraising Professionals.