August Napoli Retiring as CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland Next Year


  • Illustration by Tom Carlson

August Napoli, who has served as CEO and president of the United Way of Greater Cleveland since 2016, announced today that he will retire next year, effective June 30, 2022.

“I greatly appreciate the board’s support for the changes we’ve made in the way United Way operates and the work we do improve the lives of those living in poverty across our community. In the coming months, it’s my intention to continue working with our talented team to develop and refine the next stages of our new business model and build on the momentum we’ve gained over these past five years together," Napoli said in a press release.

“I’ve always said this work is a marathon, not a sprint. Buoyed by our ongoing and expanded partnerships and the support of the thousands of individuals and corporations who have been with us on this journey, I’m confident the new United Way is well prepared for the next leg of this very critical race to improve the lives and livelihoods of all those we serve.”

While everyone will publicly pat Napoli on the back as he exits, many will celebrate the moment. Napoli, as Scene detailed in a lengthy feature last year, has in recent years done serious damage to the United Way's financial health and reputation.

As workplace giving has cratered, Napoli and his team have ruled with fear and no clear philosophy, jumping from "disruption" to "disruption" without communicating any clear vision.

Cuts in recent years, current and former employees told Scene in 2020, have nothing to do with the performance of partner agencies or the re-alignment of priorities. It's because of poor fundraising, ostensibly the organization's raison d'etre.

As longtime employees with expertise have been shoved aside, Napoli's team has created an atmosphere they called "paranoid," "fear-based," "intimidating," "chaotic," "hostile," "miserable" and "terrible."

There's little reason to expect that anything has changed during the course of the pandemic, but a worldwide upheaval means Napoli gets to walk off into the sunset as a celebrated pillar of the Cleveland instead of forcing to reckon with a tenure that's done serious and lasting damage to the legacy nonprofit.

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