On her fifth week as CEO of United Way of Miami-Dade, Maria C. Alonso watched Hurricane Irma barrel toward South Florida.
“Week five, Cat 5, why not?” she reflected upon her whirlwind initiation to the position. “Isn’t that how you start every job?”
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After a 22-year career as a banking professional, most recently as Senior Vice President and Miami Market Manager at Bank of America, and a longtime United Way board member, Alonso was selected as CEO through a rigorous selection process. The position opened when Harve A. Mogul decided to step down from the role after 27 years of service to the organization. Mogul is now acting as President Emeritus and overseeing United Way’s endowment.
During Hurricane Irma, the United Way deployed 12 staff members for 232 hours at the Miami-Dade County Emergency Operations Center and recruited more than 1,200 volunteers for disaster relief efforts. They delivered food, ice and hygiene kits to shelters, assisted living facilities and other community organizations across the county.
United Way shows a new side of giving
“It taught me an area of work of the United Way that I really hadn’t seen before,” Alonso said. “We have responsibility from the county to oversee the donations and the volunteer deployment needed for the emergency. We don’t do this work in isolation. We do this work in partnership and collaboration, so we use all of our assets.”
As Miami-Dade County’s official volunteer and fundraising arm, United Way’s overarching purpose is threefold: to bolster education, financial stability and health with a mission of “building community by helping people care for one another.”
For Alonso, taking on the role of CEO was a no-brainer: “I honestly couldn’t pass it up because it was an opportunity to augment the impact that I had at Bank of America and really multiply it, take it to a new level.”
She also had big shoes to fill. Under Mogul’s leadership, United Way of Miami-Dade has earned national recognition as one of the leading United Ways and nonprofits in the country. It is frequently cited for excellence in its major gift and fundraising programs, diversity efforts, emergency responsiveness, financial stewardship, governance and community-building initiatives. During his tenure, Mogul grew the organization’s annual revenues to $60 million from $19 million.
Harve Mogul wishes his successor well
“I want Maria to be unbelievably successful,” Mogul said. “I would be very comfortable if in 10 years, someone says, ‘Who was that man who was CEO?’ That would be good. That would show what a great job we’ve done to keep making the organization better. You serve your time, but the organization continues. There’s only one legacy that someone in my position would want, and that’s for it to be better and to keep helping, but helping more.”
Mogul isn’t the only one supporting Alonso. Carlos A. Migoya, President and CEO of Jackson Health System, longtime United Way volunteer leader and chair of the local chapter’s board, said she stood out as the right choice for the job.
“Maria has proven herself a tireless champion for all of United Way’s diverse stakeholders,” Migoya said. “She brings a perfect combination of skills, experience, credibility and relationships.”
When looking back on his achievements over a lifetime of service with United Way, Mogul said it’s easy to look at major milestones, like the Center for Excellence in Early Education, the Center for Financial Stability and the organization’s response after big hurricanes.
“But it isn’t the big things. It’s the little things,” he said. “The little things are really what make a difference in terms of community change, especially from the mission point of view. If the job, ultimately, is to help people to be caring, then we’re that tool… Everyone doesn’t get up in the morning and say, ‘I’m going to invent something big or respond to some crisis.’ You get up and say, ‘Maybe I can feed someone.’ To me, the fact that we’ve put together an organization that can be responsive in that way is probably the big thing.”
Get to Know Maria Alonso
Longtime banking professional and United Way volunteer steps up to lead.
- Senior Vice President and Miami Market Manager at Bank of America, where her role included corporate social responsibility, fiscal discipline in the nonprofit sector and marshaling volunteerism.
- Chair of United Way of Miami-Dade’s Community Impact Committee; longtime donor, volunteer.
- Chair of both Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and New World School of the Arts.
- Co-Chair of The Miami-Dade Beacon Council’s One Community, One Goal initiative.
- Board member of The Miami Foundation, Camillus House, Miami Dade College Foundation, March of Dimes and Teach For America.
Harve Mogul’s Legacy
Looking back on decades of dedication to the organization he loves.
- During Mogul’s tenure at United Way, total annual revenues grew to $60 from $19 million, and total assets to $51 million from $5 million.
- Founded the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education in 2007, a national best-practices teaching and learning center.
- Founded the Center for Financial Stability in 2009 to support families and individuals facing economic hardships.
- Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Sand in My Shoes award recipient in 2015, dedicated to the person “who best demonstrates an unequaled love and commitment to South Florida as a place to live and work.”
- Awarded Key to the City by Commissioner Frank Carollo. June 21 was proclaimed Harve A. Mogul Day.
Words by Shayne Benowitz / Photography by Nick Garcia / Hair and Makeup by Sofia Gaensdorfer for Makeup by Rory Lee