Paul Dolan: A Legacy of Leadership and Service to Others

Paul and Karen Dolan

Cleveland, dubbed by The New York Times as “the City of Good Will,” has a long history rooted in charitable giving. For more than a century, United Way of Greater Cleveland’s past and future have been inextricably linked with that of our city and the people we serve. Formally established as the “Community Chest” in 1913, United Way has assisted more than one million Greater Clevelanders, connecting them with essential, life-changing resources and services.

For more than twenty years, Paul Dolan has been a passionate board director at United Way. He has served on the Executive, Resource Development, and Community Impact Committees and chaired the Philanthropic Fund and Donor Relations Committees.

Throughout his many years of service, Paul has continuously challenged the status quo, never accepting needless suffering as the only reality for Greater Clevelanders who live within poverty’s grasp.

Fellow director Enid Rosenberg said, “It has been my privilege and pleasure to have worked with Paul Dolan over the past 15 years. Paul is a gentleman who listens intently, learns about all relevant information, and then helps lead both strategy and action. Paul is what I refer to as an ‘upstander’ living a life dedicated to helping others move from poverty to prosperity.”

In 2018, when United Way embarked on the most significant transformation in its history, Paul was named Board Chair. The organization was in the second year of a three-year strategic plan that called for extensive, multi-dimensional change. Anchored in his belief that our neighbors are our “North Star,” Paul partnered closely with United Way’s Board of Directors and employees to delve deeper into the systemic solutions necessary to address the root causes of poverty while we continued to provide vital crisis relief.

“Paul’s steady leadership during a time of rapid change has been invaluable to United Way. His critical and strategic thinking, his knowledge of the organization, and his authentic passion for the Mission and compassion for the people we serve is inspiring.”


Paul’s advocacy and leadership were instrumental to United Way’s successful execution of this bold plan to best serve the Greater Cleveland community. During his five-year tenure as our Board Chair, United Way established itself as an agile and dynamic leader, collaborator, and partner in our community. Organizational successes under Paul’s leadership include:

  • Establishing United Way’s two-pronged approach to moving people from poverty to prosperity through the creation and work of
    The Community Hub for Basic Needs, which offers crisis relief and assistance to address immediate needs, such as food and shelter, and .
    The Impact Institute, which confronts the systemic barriers that lead to poverty, such as racism and child abuse, seeking scalable, measurable, long-term solutions.
  • Broadening United Way’s fundraising efforts to include targeted major gifts and a robust endowment.
  • Creating a new era of collaborative partnerships to change the understanding of poverty and debunk existing stereotypes.
  • Speaking up and speaking out, raising awareness about one of poverty’s most significant root causes, systemic racism, to effect change by creating and implementing strategic internal and external partnerships, programs, and actions.
  • Elevating United Way’s standing as a trusted, leading voice for those who often go unheard through an active public policy agenda focused on identifying and addressing local and state-wide issues.

“With support from the Board of Directors, retired CEO Augie Napoli, and current CEO Sharon Sobol Jordan, Paul’s execution of the organization’s transformation and support of diversity, equity, and inclusion as fundamental tenets of that transformation has been outstanding and essential to building the health of our community. I am beyond proud of his incredible leadership,” said Marc Byrnes, Chairman Emeritus of Oswald Companies, Life Director at United Way, and Paul’s predecessor as Board Chair.

Paul’s commitment to bettering the lives of Greater Clevelanders extends beyond United Way. As Chairman and CEO of Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team, Paul boldly advocated for a name change from Cleveland Indians to Cleveland Guardians. In addition, he is dedicated to advancing the city’s economic, health, and cultural sectors, serving as Board Chair of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, as well as on the boards of the Cleveland Clinic, Playhouse Square Foundation, Unify Labs, and Evergreen Cooperatives.

“As the longest-serving Board Chair in United Way of Greater Cleveland’s history, Paul’s thoughtful, steady leadership has made an extraordinary difference for so many across Greater Cleveland,” says Sharon Sobol Jordan, President and CEO of United Way. “He has had an immeasurable and enduring impact on our organization, our community, and the individuals and families United Way serves.”

United Way is grateful to Paul and his wife, Karen, who remain unwavering supporters of our work. We thank Paul for his five years of thoughtful, dedicated, and enthusiastic service as Board Chair from 2018 to 2023.

This article originally appeared in Give for Good, which is published by United Way of Greater Cleveland for our friends and benefactors. For more information on how to support our work, please visit our How Can I Help? page or email Joshua Landis, Associate Director of Community Philanthropy, at jlandis@unitedwaycleveland.org.

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