A Lawrence Township Resident Pilots the United Way
Writer / Marcia Vigren
We’ve all heard of the United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI). Many of us have even donated to it through our workplace. But do you really know what UWCI does and who it helps? If not, just ask Ann Murtlow. The Lawrence Township resident runs the place.
Murtlow is the 13th executive to lead UWCI—on the heels of a successful career in business leadership. After nearly ten years as CEO of Indianapolis Power and Light, Murtlow decided it was time to do something new. She took six months off to travel, have surgery on her rotator cuff and do some consulting and mentoring. She then took the job with United Way.
UWCI serves Marion, Hendrix, Boone, Hancock, Morgan and Hamilton counties. Many Lawrence residents are beneficiaries of United Way services. Murtlow stays busy informing the community about UWCI’s mission and its new strategy, the “New U”, and is excited to explain how they are making a difference on big community issues.
“United Way is about bringing people together to create a force for change that is greater than any of us, individually—or as a single institution—can hope to achieve on its own,” explains Murtlow. “We do three unique things. First, we support 91 human service agencies that are aligned with our priorities that we hold to very high standards, or we have to separate from them. Second, we focus on organizations, programming and partnerships that create what we call The Path to Self Sufficiency. We connect the work of our agencies and others in working along the path to help those in need improve their situations over the long-term. Finally, we keep a bird’s eye view on this entire Path so we can identify big gaps and strategically invest in ways to close them.”
Before landing in Lawrence Township, Murtlow had a long career in the energy industry and did quite a bit of moving around. She never had the opportunity to get involved in her community.
“When I moved here, and took the job as CEO of IPL, I was able – for the first time – to get involved in my community and realized how much I enjoyed it,” says Murtlow. “In addition, I fell in love with this community. My family and I decided to make this our permanent home.”
She and her family moved to Lawrence Township in 2002. “One can always count on seeing lots of friendly neighbors while exercising or walking the dog.” Many of those neighbors, in turn, donate to United Way, lead companies that run campaigns or volunteer as ReadUp tutors.
Murtlow believes she brings both a corporate and individual donor’s perspective to understanding how corporations think about their community engagement, allowing UWCI to connect quickly and meaningfully with them. “We try to engage companies and their people with their time, talent and treasure,” said Murtlow. “We want to involve the community.”
Anyone who has a passion for people and helping in one of the United Way’s focus areas can do so by being part of the UWCI team. “You don’t have to be a part of a workforce campaign to get involved,” says Murtlow. “You can give online. You can volunteer online.”
Murtlow possesses two traits that she feels make her successful: discipline and passion. She is passionate about UWCI and has the discipline to make the difficult decisions to “lean into change.” She is bringing a long-term strategy to this successful non-profit organization, which is vital in the quickly changing technological world in which we live.
Murtlow has had the pleasure of working with Lawrence Township resident and Indiana Pacer, George Hill. He has been working closely with UWCI on the Hubbard Life-Changing Teacher Award. The Pacers organization has really bought into United Way with team members and staff generously donating and holding charity events. Pacers Paul George and Roy Hibbert are members of the Tocqueville Society, United Way’s group of most generous donors.
Ann met her husband of 28 years – Jim – at her first job. Like Ann, he is an engineer. They have two kids who, after Park Tudor, attended IU. Their daughter, 24, lives in Chicago and their son, 20, just returned home from studying abroad in Australia.
Murtlow serves on several local boards, and is an emeritus director of Central Indiana Corporate Partnership. But perhaps most extraordinary is that she is a backup singer in a local band called Nucklehead, which often plays at George‘s Neighborhood Grill here in Lawrence. She also knits, cooks Greek food and treasures time with her family and friends.
For additional information about United Way, visit www.uwci.org
UWCI builds the Path to Self-Sufficiency through a focus on four priority impact areas, which are all part of the “New U” long-term, high level community goals:
1. Education – the best path out of poverty
– 80% of early childcare centers to be high quality by 2021. We started at 14% at high quality and are now at 26%. Many of the centers were not only below high quality, but didn’t even meet basic safety standards. To attain this goal, UWCI is:
A. Using public information campaigns to drive demand through parent awareness
B. Advocating for financial incentives for the child care centers
C. Providing capital grants to build out childcare facilities so they can get on the state’s Paths to Quality rating system.
Because of this effort, both the state and city-county governments have taken steps to expand access to quality Pre-K for all families.
– 90% of central Indiana kids to be reading at grade level by grade three. Currently, the average is 83% over all six counties, but high poverty areas tend to be much lower.
– 90% on-time high school graduation rate. Although the current average for UWCI’s six counties is 89%, there are significant challenges in many of the higher poverty areas.
2. Income Stability – for families who are one challenge away from financial ruin
Reduce the proportion of financially unstable families in Central Indiana from 32% to 25%. Financially unstable families are defined as those that spend more than 30% of their income on housing and utilities. They typically won’t have enough disposable income to save for an expensive incident that could put their families at risk. The cornerstone of UWCI’s income strategy is implemented through the Center for Working Families model in neighborhoods. The model focuses on providing immediate income support for participating families, employment counseling and financial literacy skills (managing a budget, cleaning up credit, etc.).
3. Health – so kids can learn and adults can earn a sustainable income
Indiana is ranked 47th state in healthy Americans. Central Indiana has the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd counties in the state as well as the 25th, 40th and 78th. In high poverty areas 50% of the kids are obese. UWCI would like to reduce the childhood obesity rate in alignment with the goals of Jump IN for Healthy Kids, a partner of United Way.
4. Basic Needs – so people can focus on improving their situations longer term
Continue the relationship with 211 Connect-to-Help, which is the 911 for human services. When people dial 211, they are connected to the human services agencies and programs that can help them. The top three needs are housing, hunger and energy assistance. UWCI and its partners administer the Marion County Energy Assistance program that helps people pay their winter utility bills so they will be able to stay in their homes.