United Way Worldwide Appoints Interim President & CEO

United Way Worldwide (UWW) installed the chair of its U.S.A. board, Neeraj Mehta, as interim president and CEO of the organization effective March 1. That’s the day current leader Brian Gallagher announced he will step down.

Gallagher’s departure was announced on Feb. 9, a week after an investigation found that the Alexandria, Va.-based national office did not engage “in actionable harassment, discrimination, or retaliation” with respect to three employees who filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Gallagher announced he would be leaving the organization after nearly 20 years and had been discussing a transition with the board for more than a year.

The UWW board retained Diversified Search to facilitate an executive search for the next president and CEO. This work is expected to be completed later this year, according to the announcement.

Mehta will focus on engaging the global United Way Network, and guiding UWW’s organizational transition and strategic initiatives as it works to serve communities facing unprecedented economic, health and social crises, according an announcement from UWW.

Mehta has been an at-large member of the United Way Board since 2016 and has led the U.S.A. Board since 2020. In December 2020, Mehta announced that he would leave his current position as executive vice president and chief executive officer of Payment Solutions and chief commercial officer of Synchrony. Prior to joining Synchrony, Mehta held numerous executive roles at GE Capital, including president and chief executive officer of GE Capital, Commercial Distribution Finance.

In addition, Mehta has served on multiple for-profit and nonprofit boards and has been an advocate for diversity, including support of GE’s internal and external Asian Pacific American groups.

“I am pleased that such an experienced leader as Neeraj has agreed to step into this role during this critical time,” said United Way Worldwide Board Chair Juliette Tuakli, M.D. 

“I have been so impressed with the work that the United Way Worldwide team does to support our United Way Network and communities across the globe,” Mehta said. “The hurdles we are facing are daunting, but not insurmountable, but challenging times also present great opportunities.  So, as we turn our attention to finding our next leader, I am confident that we will come through this stronger and ready to continue providing the support and care our communities need.”

In a letter to United Way affiliates and staff on the day his departure was announced, Gallagher said there was no merit found to allegations of misconduct after the organization thoroughly investigated them. “There is no evidence of a toxic or hostile culture. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely, just like almost any other workplace,” he wrote. “I am proud of my life-long commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. I am equally proud of the work done in those areas by our team at United Way Worldwide. Our commitment is real and our work is effective. This entire episode will not diminish United Way Worldwide’s commitment to the right of every woman, or any person, to come forward with any concern they might have, and to be heard and protected in that process.”

 Tuakli and Mehta said in a joint statement released after the investigation: “The investigation was completed in a thorough, thoughtful, and dutiful manner, while also recognizing the urgency of the situation at hand.”

In addition to the EEOC complaints, as many as 200 affiliates apparently have been considering withholding dues to the national office this year, according to reports published by The Huffington Post.

Gallagher joined United Way in 1981 and led several local affiliates. He became CEO of United Way of America in 2002 and subsequently became CEO of United Way Worldwide in 2009. He’s been recognized each year since 2003 in The NonProfit Times’ Power & Influence Top 50.

As a network, United Way and its more than 1,100 U.S. affiliates reported total revenue last year of about $4 billion, including $3.4 billion in public support. The national headquarters reported revenue of almost $250 million in the Fiscal Year Ending December 2019, the most recent tax form available. That year, Gallagher earned total compensation of $1.5 million, including base compensation of $548,784, bonus and incentive compensation of $630,170, and retirement and deferred compensation of $353,263.