United Way of Tarrant County
United Way of Tarrant County
1500 N. Main St., Suite 200
Fort Worth, TX 76164
TD Smyers became president and chief executive officer of United Way of Tarrant County in July 2017 after serving as executive vice president and chief operating officer from November 2015 to June 2017.
He retired July 2011 from a career in the U.S. Navy after serving as commanding officer of the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base and then served four years as Regional CEO for American Red Cross North Texas Region before joining United Way.
When he joined the organization, like many United Ways across America, revenue had been declining since 1999.
“A lot of that was systemic, as people started moving away from the old federated campaign, where your work made you feel like you had to give. The problem with that approach is that it worked, but it left people with a pretty bad taste in their mouth about philanthropy. They didn’t feel like philanthropists, they just kind of felt like they had to do it,” Smyers says.
“We’ve reinvented our United Way over the last 3 ½ years, evolving it from a traditional structure to one aligned with our diverse, modern community. We’ve shed the old donation fee structure to produce true ‘frictionless giving,’ where all of a donor’s contribution goes right to where they want,” he said.
United Way has built new partnerships through initiatives like Kernel, a social innovation accelerator, and Mission United, a collaboration with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families to close the gap between returning warriors and the opportunities they need to successfully reintegrate.
The organization also has brought cutting edge technological platforms into the social sector, like TXServes and, in cooperation with Leadership Fort Worth, BoardBuild, a program to train and match volunteers with boards of director.
“And we’ve focused public philanthropy on those areas causing the most damage to Tarrant County’s social fabric,” he said.
Smyers is stepping down in December and headed – as appropriate – for the high seas. He and his wife, Barbara, whom he describes as “a gifted photographic artist,” will launch out of Fort Lauderdale on a 2013 Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 foot catamaran named La Vie Dansante – The Dancing Life.
“And then we head east to The Bahamas and where we go from there is a mystery right now. We’re going to spend some time in the islands and by some time I mean years. And then we’ll see where the winds take us after that,” he said.
Maybe once a sailor, always a sailor.
– Paul K. Harral
When was your company founded?
United Way of Tarrant County was founded in 1922 as Community Chest. United Way of Tarrant County is governed right here. United Way Worldwide is not a parent company and doesn’t hold governance over us.
75 to 80 people. There are some seasonal employees.
Our total revenue budget for the coming year, including corporate campaigns, grants and other revenue is $21.6 million.
Type of Business
United Way of Tarrant County is a convening leader and funder for positive social change in Tarrant County. The resources we provide come from public philanthropy – every man and every woman kicking in a little to make our diverse communities better places to live, work and thrive. We’re part of a larger United Way network but are governed locally with complete autonomy.
What was your greatest challenge and how did you respond to it?
I n 2016, it became necessary to reduce our team by 30%. This was a traumatic experience, personally and organizationally. Throughout the process, our leaders locked arms, communicated transparently and focused on a new dawn and new purpose for United Way of Tarrant County. Now, two years later, our team culture is strong, our community position is relevant and respected, we’ve added staff and our revenue is up for the first time in almost 20 years.
Do you see the present business climate as challenging, uncertain or optimistic and why?
In general, I think our present climate is optimistic. Today’s United Way of Tarrant County provides a great platform to join forces for good, and a powerful way to empower that combined force with resources to change things. The appetite for working together and sharing resources is reflected across our economic sectors – from the sharing economy (Uber, AirBnB, etc.) to non-profit collective impact – so I’m definitely optimistic.
If you could make one and only one change in the present business climate, what would it be and why?
I’d like to see more of our regional businesses more invested in broad social initiatives, like eradication of poverty, establishing cradle-to-career pipelines for kids and destigmatizing mental illness. Tending to the health of our social fabric impacts the bottom line of all businesses. A healthier workforce and client base shape a more sustainable economy for all.