Manatee United Way goal: $2.6 million

vmannix@bradenton.comJuly 26, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Anne Lee vaguely remembers the sendoff line from the 1971 rock hit, "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who, although they weren't her cup of tea as a teenager.

"The Doobie Brothers were my favorite," she said.

Yet the First Bank retail banking president has taken The Who's words and put them in a perspective United Way of Manatee County officials and supporters can dig.

Lee chaired the 2012-13 United Way fundraising campaign, a $2.5 million success.

Instead of stepping down after one year as is tradition, Lee, in a collaborative decision with the nonprofit's officers and board, will chair the 2013-14 campaign, too.

The move, announced at Thursday's Kickoff Breakfast co-hosted by the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Coffee Club, made sense.

Lee has been with United Way for nearly 30 years and a boardmember for five.

"My first year as vice chair I really didn't learn a lot because I wasn't doing it," she said at Renaissance on 9th. "Then, in my first year as campaign chair, I got to meet many people who are decision-makers, want to do good, had a lot of great suggestions and we are implementing them this year.

"Now I can come back and say, 'OK, we're doing this and how do you want to be a part of this so we can do the most with the most people involved?"

The idea of extending the campaign chair's term had been discussed previously and gained traction after Philip Brown's arrival as president last year.

"Anne knows employers in the community and she's dedicated to using those relationships to get things done for the United Way," Brown said. "It seems it would not be an effective use of our people if we didn't take advantage of their skill sets and interests."

Lee's predecessor agreed.

"We have people with experience, who know the organization, know the community, they're heavily involved and you hate to lose that bank of talent by pushing them out," said Bruce Body, the board chair.

Lee's objective this campaign is not solely to exceed its $2.6 million goal, but to increase the number of United Way advocates and volunteers.

"Rather than just raising

funds to give the agencies, which is a good thing, we want to make a bigger impact on the community," she said.

Having continuity at the campaign chair augurs well for those objectives, said Kelli Kennedy, a volunteer with the Women's Leadership Initiative, which supports "Reading Pals," a program designed to help students reach reading proficiency.

"Usually when you have somebody new come on board you have a period where you have to get them up to speed, but Anne's already there," said the Manatee District Schools grants coordinator. "It gives us the opportunity to keep moving forward and not plateau. Besides, you never accomplish everything you want in one year. So this gives her a chance to continue what she started."

That works for Laurel Lynch, executive director for Hope Family Services, a domestic violence agency and United Way beneficiary.

"Leadership is not oftentimes something you can teach. It's innate," she said. "Anne is a natural leader. She motivates people, she's a fabulous campaign chair and I think we'll see a record set this year because of her leadership."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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