Column: Wells Fargo’s Mike Donnelly shoulders big Atlanta civic roles

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on March 04, 2016

For nearly five years, Mike Donnelly has been Wells Fargo’s regional president in Atlanta. And in that time, he’s become so involved in the Atlanta community he never wants to leave.

Donnelly is preparing to chair the 2016/2017 campaign for the United Way of Greater Atlanta, and he has recently become the board chairman of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership.

And those roles are in addition to his other civic engagements – the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Woodruff Arts Center, Teach for America, Leadership Atlanta, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Georgia Aquarium and Zoo Atlanta.

“Atlanta is just different,” Donnelly said when talking about the other cities he has worked – Washington, D.C., Baltimore and most recently Birmingham. “I had done more and felt I was a bigger part of Atlanta after two years than I did after six years in Birmingham. It’s open. It’s inclusive. And we’re growing. There’s also more work to be done.”

Today, Atlanta is the third-largest market for Wells Fargo. It also is No. 3 in the Atlanta market with 18 percent market share, Donnelly said.

“Deposits are up 8 percent year over year; revenue is up; and our loans are growing,” Donnelly said. “We are doing very well in Atlanta.”

Wells Fargo has about 5,000 “team members” in Atlanta across the different business sectors, and the spirit of giving back is part of the bank’s DNA.

“We have a local foundation,” Donnelly said. “We give about $4 million a year to nonprofits in Atlanta. We gave to 400 nonprofits last year.”And that doesn’t include the employee giving campaigns to United Way or other giving by the associates. Wells Fargo has been the top donor to United Way nationally for the past seven years.

“It’s a huge complement that (United Way’s) Milton Little entrusted me to help chair that campaign,” Donnelly said. “It allows me to model that for our team members. And it allows me to do good for Atlanta. Our business can’t do well unless Atlanta does well. I want to do as much as I can while I’m relevant. And if people think I can help, I want to make Atlanta better.”

Little said that it wasn’t a hard sell to get Donnelly to agree to chair the campaign. “He said, ‘Sign me up,’” Little said. “All along he was ready to do the job. When I came, he immediately said yes.”

Donnelly said Wells Fargo believes that its people should not just do their jobs; they have to give back and “find a way to make the community better.”

In that spirit, Donnelly became chairman of the BeltLine Partnership last year after serving on the board for a couple of years.

“The Beltline means so many things to so many different people,” Donnelly said. “I don’t know what else is bigger over a longer period of time for Atlanta than the Beltline. The Beltline is changing the way people live.”

Now that the situation between the Beltline and the Atlanta Public Schools has been resolved, Donnelly said it has cleared the way for new investment in the project.

Later this year, he expects the Partnership to announce a new capital campaign to continue with building out the multi-use trails and acquiring land. He also said the Partnership is focused on affordable housing along the corridor as well as greater civic engagement.

Meanwhile, Little said the 2015/2016 campaign under the leadership of David Mangum, president and chief operating officer of Global Payments, is going well.

“We’ve got a celebration planned for the end of April,” Little said. “We are within eyesight of meeting our goal of $77.5 million.”

Frank Blake to receive award

Frank Blake, the retired chairman and CEO of The Home Depot, will be the recipient of the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award in Leadership Character from the Turknett Leadership Group and the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

“For many years, I’ve viewed Frank Blake as not only one of the best CEOs in Atlanta, but also one of best nationally and globally,” said Bob Turknett, CEO of Turknett Leadership Group.

Pat Falotico, CEO of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, agreed. “Frank Blake is widely regarded as a man of great humility,” Falotico said in a statement. The award will be presented as part of the 12th Leadership Character Awards luncheon on Oct. 4 at the Georgia Aquarium.

Bobby Dodd Institute to honor three

The Bobby Dodd Institute, at its annual Breakfast of Champions, honors companies and individuals who promote giving jobs to people with disabilities.

The 2016 breakfast, held on March 2 at the Cobb Galleria Centre, put the spotlight on the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Cassie Mitchell from Georgia Tech and Gloria Richardson of the Bobby Dodd Institute.

Federal Reserve Bank was honored as the “Employer of the Year” because of its dedication to creating a diverse workforce. Mitchell received the Circle of Excellence Award, which honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the lives of individuals with disabilities. Richardson was honored as BDI’s “Employee of the Year.”

“Work is a vital part of the human experience – it provides dignity, self-sufficiency, and a connection to our community – but only 31.5 percent of Georgians who have a disability are employed,” said Wayne McMillan, BDI’s president and CEO. “Bobby Dodd Institute is proud to honor individuals and institutions that break down barriers to employment for people with disabilities by providing job opportunities and by shattering stereotypes about people with disabilities in the workplace.”

BDI’s Wayne McMillan retiring

After 16 years at the helm, Wayne McMillan will be retiring and president and CEO of the Bobby Dodd Institute.

During his leadership, the Institute saw unprecedented growth in both its capacity to provide workforce development services and its mission-based social enterprises.

Since 2001, its annual budget has gone from a $3 million to one exceeding $15 million.

BDI also has more than doubled the number of people served with job training and connected with jobs annually, and the number of people with disabilities employed in BDI’s social enterprises grew from 23 to more than 250.

“I’ve been fortunate to lead BDI through a period of dramatic transformation in the scope and structure of our programs and social enterprises,” McMillan said.

BoardWalk is currently vetting candidates, and a new leader should be announced by late spring.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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