In the community and corporate world, United Way partners with dynamic leaders who envision bold change and put action to aspirations.
In our office, it’s no different. We’re proud to have dedicated, driven employees powering our work to build stronger neighborhoods across the region.
Kimberlee Guenther, Ph.D., is one of those exceptional people. She’s whip-smart, industrious and committed to creating an equitable community with her neighbors.
To recognize Kimberlee’s work at United Way, we’ve promoted her to a new role: Chief Impact Officer. Kimberlee will continue to oversee our grantmaking and community engagement efforts, including the Neighborhood Network Initiative and the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. Kimberlee will also work collaboratively with nonprofits, corporate partners, government and philanthropic organizations to coordinate recovery efforts as the community faces the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism.
Recently, Kimberlee co-led the development of the Response Fund in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust. Together, she and her counterparts at the Trust created a new funding strategy in a matter of days, granting $24.3 million to 350 community organizations serving clients on the front-line of the pandemic.
“Kimberlee is a skilled leader who builds trust among diverse stakeholders and motivates her team for transformative results,” said Anna Lee, director of Community Impact at The Chicago Community Trust. “As my partner in managing the Chicago COVID-19 Community Response Fund, I have relied on Kimberlee countless times for her ability to see the big picture while executing on important details. I am excited for this new role as Kimberlee’s unwavering commitment to justice will advance United Way’s mission for a stronger Chicago region.”
Kimberlee previously served as our vice president of Community Impact. She joined United Way of Metro Chicago in 2013 as manager of Research and Evaluation after working as a community-based researcher at The Field Museum and the Center for Urban Research and Learning at Loyola University. In 2015, Kimberlee earned her doctorate at Loyola University. Her research focused on the need to bring residents’ experiences and voices to the forefront of discussions about concentrated poverty and housing policy.
Throughout her academic and professional career, she has always put communities first.
“It has been amazing to work with Kimberlee over the years. She is a true believer in the power of communities to lead the way in building safe and thriving neighborhoods,” said Sara Reschly, director of community partnerships at Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.
“One of the things I appreciate most about Kimberlee is her approach to work with us as a partner — coming alongside us, instead of a top-down approach,” she added. “There is a mutuality. She pushes us in ways where we need to grow as a collaborative, and she is open to our feedback, too. It’s a great model on how funders can work with communities.”
When Sean Garrett, our President and CEO, joined the organization nearly two years ago, he quickly recognized the critical role that Kimberlee plays at United Way. She focuses and unites the region’s funders around key strategies that positively impact individuals, whole families and, in turn, entire neighborhoods.
“Kimberlee speaks the truth, even when it’s not fun to do so. She is committed to equity and getting there through a people and community-based approach,” Sean said. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to call Kimberlee a partner and friend. I can’t wait to see what the years ahead have in store for all us with Kimberlee’s continued leadership.”