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Meet the CEO: Gary Godsey

Matt Hawthorne

After 30 years in nonprofit management, you’d think Gary Godsey would no longer be interested in the details, but that isn’t the case. As head of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Godsey is known around his West End office for sneaking up on any one of his 80 full-time employees and quizzing him or her about the organization’s goals and vision statement. “It’s OK to memorize it, but do you really know what it means for us?” he says of the group’s mission. When new goals were introduced recently, they were made visible: Godsey had the goals posted inside bathroom stalls.

There’s a method to his madness, as evidenced by the group’s recent success with a $58.4 million fundraising campaign. But tough economic times are even tougher for nonprofits. “The biggest misconception out there is that we don’t run like a business—we have the same pressures,” Godsey says. “Because we’re supported by the public, their status is part of our success. Here’s the real conundrum for United Way: When times are worst, we need help the most.”

Age 51

Title/Company President and CEO, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas
Tenure Nine years in Dallas, 27 with United Way

First job I started with the American Cancer Society. I was going to grad school and saw an ad for executive director. They asked me if I liked to wear a tie and what I was good at: I said public speaking. [At that job] I had 18 boards in 18 counties.

Worst job I was about 12, and working for my grandfather, who was an electrician; we would wire houses in the

=== From my dad: “If somebody offers you a microphone, take it.” I emceed the talent show in fourth grade, and sang Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head. !==

Best part of your job Being associated with an organization that has such a sterling reputation. My job is not to mess that up, to protect it, and make it better.   

Family My wife Vickie just retired as a public schoolteacher. We married in 1976, and have two grown children and three grandchildren. 

Hobbies Playing what I call “company” golf, grip it and rip it. And I go to the dump once a month for mental release—I can’t stand clutter. My closet is color-coded.

Book I just read Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present by Bob Johansen. I’m currently reading Uncharitable by
Dan Pallotta.

TV Anything but reality TV. I like the History Channel, 20/20, 60 Minutes. But I love The Biggest Loser, honestly.   

Recent purchase An F-150 pickup truck 

Prized possession My grandmother’s wedding band and wedding ring. The bottoms are worn through.   

If you weren’t CEO of the Metro Dallas United Way I’d like to be an elected official—something on the federal level. [As with this job] you have to work with people, and have lots of constituents.

Management Style I’m a coach. I’m a hands-off guy. I like details, but I don’t like doing them—I like reviewing them. My job is to remove obstacles to help get the job done.

Weaknesses I take things personally. That’s probably the fundamental weakness of anybody who cares about what they do.

Industry Trends There are too many of us [nonprofits]. As of Dec. 31, 2008, there were more than 16,000 in Dallas and Collin counties alone. Because the economy has really been so tough, I think you’ll see a natural weeding out of nonprofits just because they can’t all survive.

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