Portland, Ore. – Cindy Adams, President and CEO, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette (UWCW), announced today that she is retiring this summer after a 40-year career in the business and nonprofit sectors.  

“It has been a privilege to work with the UWCW staff, our Board of Directors and community leadership, and I am proud of what we accomplished in a COVID-19 environment that was uniquely challenging,” said Adams. “I am confident that UWCW will continue to seek opportunities to invest in, lead and support collaborative work to create greater equity so that everyone in our community can thrive.”  

“The pandemic created a space for me to reflect on where I am in my life and what's important to me and my family. My decision to retire from UWCW was difficult, as those who have gone before me well know. That said, I look forward to spending more time with family and friends and enjoying the experience of other cultures that comes from traveling,” Adams added. 

Adams will depart on a high note with many accomplishments at UWCW. During her tenure, the United Way team: 

  • Enhanced United Way’s presence in the business community by elevating conversations with key donors and community leaders and working with community partners to understand where the greatest need is and potential gaps for investment and collaboration.
  • Diversified talent in the organization by building the leadership team and the Board of Directors with individuals who have lived and learned experience as well as diverse demographics
  • Created a three-year strategic plan that will identify key focus areas to inform the organization’s future investments and impact
  • Grew revenue year over year to increase impact
  • Received a $20 million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the largest unrestricted gift in UWCW’s 100-year-old history, which allowed the organization to make its largest gift of $1.2 million to Bybee Lakes Hope Center to finish the transformation of that facility to serve 4,700 persons each year
  • Shifted UWCW’s culture to include increased focus on data and impact accountability to stakeholders, community leaders, funded partners, donors and the individuals and families being served
  • Elevated the issue of the region’s lack of affordable housing options with an intentional focus on housing stability, guided by Adams’ experience at Aloha United Way in Hawaii
  • Raised more than $1.5 million for wildfire and COVID-19 disaster response through the generosity of donors and foundations, to meet immediate needs in communities of color

Adams joined UWCW in December 2019, arriving three months before the pandemic shut down most of the country. The Board of Directors is conducting a national search with Wahl and Associates, LLC to fill the position. For questions about the position or referrals, contact Joe Wahl at joseph@wahlandassociatesllc.com.

What others are saying about Cindy Adams:

“It has been my privilege to work with Cindy over the last two years. During a global pandemic, a racial justice awakening and devastating wildfires, UWCW has been a leader in providing assistance and delivering resources to our communities at a time of tremendous need,” said Charlene Zidell, president of the Zidell Family Foundation and UWCW Board Vice Chair and incoming Impact Committee Chair. “Cindy’s business acumen and vision formed the basis for our extensive due diligence process resulting in a very significant gift to Bybee Lakes Hope Center, which doubled the nonprofit’s daily bed capacity for people experiencing houselessness and supporting their journey to housing stability. In addition, her leadership and support in developing a collaboration with the Oregon Law Center to address the urgent need for rental eviction intervention and prevention is representative of UWCW’s agility in identifying critical issues and finding solutions,” Zidell said. 

“Cindy has done an excellent job elevating UWCW to a new level and increasing our impact in the community,” said John Ewert, an executive team member of SheerID and UWCW Board Chair. “Under Cindy's tenure, we have been able to raise and direct more funding into our community in response to the emergencies caused by the COVID pandemic and Oregon wildfires. She has brought us a greater sense of urgency about the intersection of houselessness and racial equity. And at this same challenging time, Cindy has built a well-qualified and diverse leadership team and board who will carry our community-focused mission forward. We are sorry to see her go and wish her the best in retirement,” Ewert added. 

“Cindy’s leadership and experience during a global pandemic and a challenging regional non-profit landscape enhanced the organization’s presence as a voice for disadvantaged communities of color, families and individuals,” said Jason Green, Managing Director of CBRE, Secretary of the Board and member of the Impact Committee. “UWCW’s regional social impact agenda, corporate development and advocacy work will grow through the executive team she has assembled during her tenure.  As a board member, I am optimistic about the organization’s future work and investments in the Portland metro area,” Green added.  

About United Way of the Columbia-Willamette

For more than one hundred years, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette has been working to meet the needs of vulnerable families. No matter the crisis, we have always remained steadfast to our commitment to LIVE UNITED. Together, we are helping our community recover and become more resilient, while building a more inclusive and equitable region where all families have the resources and opportunities to thrive. For more information and to get involved, please visit www.unitedway-pdx.org


Media Contact: Adrian McCarthy -- adrianm@unitedway-pdx.org -- 503-730-9721