By Maria Saporta
Following the cue of several of his colleagues, Milton Little, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Atlanta, will be taking a three-month sabbatical starting June 21.
Little said he will use the time to do some traveling, perhaps overseas; help his 18-year-old son prepare to enter his freshman year at Howard University; and spend “a lot of time reflecting and planning for the United Way of the next 10 years.”
Little first began thinking about taking a sabbatical just before the 2016 holidays.
“Several of my United Way colleagues from around the country have taken sabbaticals, and they urged me to do it,” Little said. “One of my colleagues had just come back from sabbatical. We were all talking about the toll these jobs take on us.”
So Little approached his board Chairman Mike Petrik, who is a partner with Alston & Bird, which offers its senior colleagues sabbaticals.
“He was immediately supportive, and I’ve got a supportive board,” Little said, adding that United Way has the staff in place to carry on over the next three months. “I’ve been told these three months will be over in a minute, and you’ll find out that not a lot will have happened while you are gone.”
Little is planning to be totally unplugged from the office during his sabbatical.
An email announcement will be sent out on Monday June 19 to inform United Way’s constituencies about his sabbatical and sharing the thinking behind it.
“Over the past five years, at United Way of Greater Atlanta, we have been transforming the organization to make greater strides in our mission to build thriving communities within our region,” Little writes in the draft email.
“Today, we are better positioned than ever to solve some of our organization’s and communities’ greatest challenges. This has been a demanding process – leading an overhaul of a large and complex organization – while also remaining focused on the day-to-day challenges of fundraising, organizational leadership, volunteer and community engagement, advocacy and public policy.
“With United Way of Greater Atlanta on more solid footing with staff teams and community volunteers enthusiastically driving key priorities, an ambitious 10-year effort underway to improve the well-being of 250,000 of the region’s children, and new board leadership in place, this is as good a time as any for me to take a well-planned sabbatical, beginning in mid-June and ending in mid-September,” Little continues in his email.
“I am grateful to the board of directors, to my dedicated team, our partners and community of supporters for making it possible for me to take the kind of much needed break that many private sector and non-profit organizations mandate for their CEOs.”
In his role as president and CEO of United Way for the past decade, Little has worked with the dozens – if not hundreds – of nonprofit partners as well as the business community and countless civic organizations.
“This sabbatical will provide the opportunity for me to step back from the unrelenting demands of day-to-day leadership of one of the nation’s largest United Way organizations and use the time to reflect, rejuvenate and look forward to the future with new energy and inspiration.”
Little said that while he is on sabbatical, the organization will be in good hands under the chairmanship of Steve Scherge, senior vice president and CFO at Graphic Packaging and the staff. Specifically he mentioned United Way’s COO – Tim Pakenham – will lead the organization’s administrative leadership team for the next three months.
Meanwhile, United Way has been in final negotiations on the sale of its existing building along Edgewood Avenue. The office tower should be vacant by early next year – available for a new owner.
“We are optimistic all will go forward with the sale,” said Little, who did not disclose the prospective buyer. “I would have hoped it would have been wrapped up before I left, but there’s a team here in place, and the board is well-poised to move forward.”
The Atlanta Regional Commission has been moving out of the Loudermilk Center into its new space at Peachtree Center starting Monday, June 19.
United Way will be renovating and moving into the space where ARC has been. The plan will be for his organization to be in its new space by the end of the year.
But if something comes up between now and mid-September, Little said don’t call him.
“I’m not checking voicemails or emails or my cell phone,” Little said. “If the building is on fire, call the fire department.”