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United Way sees promise in new CEO's connections

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Ann Murtlow has no experience running a not-for-profit, yet she is charging into the top job at one of the city’s largest charitable groups.

“For a leader to be highly effective, it takes two common things: passion and discipline,” she said.

And the people who hired Murtlow say her connections to the Indianapolis business community are a big plus.

United Way of Central Indiana’s board of directors on Wednesday hired Murtlow, the former CEO of Indianapolis Power & Light Co., to replace President and CEO Ellen Annala.

Annala, 67, will retire at the end of March after 23 years with the organization, including 15 at the helm.

Murtlow will take over an organization with a $70 million endowment that reported $52 million in revenue and $115 million in net assets at the end of the 2011 fiscal year.

The not-for-profit did not disclose Murtlow's salary.. Annala made about $245,000 in 2011, according to public records.

Annala, who spent her entire career working in the not-for-profit sector, expressed her confidence in the organization's selection of someone from the corporate world as CEO.

“This is someone I’ve known for a while, not really well, but well enough to know how strongly she feels about the community,” Annala said. “She has instant credibility. People know her and like her, and I think that she may be able to open some doors.”

Murtlow, a 52-year-old New York City native, began her 30-year business career with a degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh University in 1982 before she went to work for Washington, D.C.-based engineering and construction firm Bechtel Power Corp.

She moved to Arlington, Va.-based AES Corp. in 1987 to head the power company’s environmental permitting activities for new power stations.

In 1997, she started a stint in AES’ London office, where she oversaw business development and operations in 22 European countries, as well as an environmental liaison to the corporate directors.

She served as IPL’s CEO from 2002 to 2011 before stepping down for personal reasons. She was one of the few female utility CEOs in the United States, leading the company during a tumultous time in the industry.

In the video below from IBJ's "Leading Questions" series, Murtlow discusses in detail how she approached the new position and the challenges it presented.



Since leaving IPL, Murtlow has been running AM Consulting LLC on a part-time basis.

During her tenure as the head of the electric company, Murtlow accrued not-for-profit experience by volunteering as a board member for the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, the Indianapolis Zoo, the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, the Economic Club of Indiana and The Mind Trust.

She also co-chaired the tissue-collection committee for Indy’s Super Cure, which was a partnership between the 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee and the Susan B. Komen Tissue Bank.

She beat out about 225 other applicants nationwide for the United Way job, said UWCI board member David Resnick, who headed the CEO search committee.

“We were enamored with her management skills, her leadership skills, her ability to build relationships,” Resnick said. “She’s an amazing networker.”

Murtlow plans to take the listen-and-learn approach during the first few months at her new job. She already has been routinely speaking with Annala to get a grasp of her responsibilities.

“I’m a big listener,” Murtlow said. “I care about people. I get to know the people that work for me. I really do believe that everybody’s opinion is worth hearing. I like candid debate. So I kind of think that works in any setting.”

She will take over an organization that raised $40.6 million in 2011 to distribute to almost 100 other not-for-profits. That fundraising campaign was largely orchestrated through executives some of Indianapolis’ largest companies, who decide how much their firms contribute as well as rally their employees to do the same.

Murtlow’s connection to the local business community will be doubly important as companies expect more from their relationships with the United Way, Annala said.

“They want volunteerism. They don’t want just giving,” she said. “This is a trend that has been happening over several years … that whole corporate strategic philanthropy. Companies really align around particular priorities.”

Not-for-profit consultant Bryan Orander, president of Fishers-based Charitable Advisors, said Murtlow’s status as a corporate executive means she has established relationships that candidates from other cities or from elsewhere within the not-for-profit sector would have had to set up.

“She has access to people as a peer or a friend,” Orander said, “whereas more people come into that position as a fundraiser.”

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