President & CEO
United Way of Metro Chicago
Location: Cook County
Year Founded: 1929
Industry Group Specific: Nonprofit, Community Services
Sean Garrett’s career journey is rooted in the United Way. In 2004, Garrett worked as a community fellow at United Way of Dane County Wisconsin and then transitioned to a role with the major gifts department at United Way of Metro Chicago a year later. He has held several positions with United Way Worldwide and in 2018, moved to the role of president and CEO.
“What energizes Sean is knowing that when thousands of people make the choice every year to give what they can to help our communities thrive, we have incredible power to make a real and lasting impact,” said Garrett’s staff. “This is what drives the work of United Way and that is the story and mission that have driven Sean Garrett to success during his career journey.”
United Way of Metro Chicago brings together business, government, philanthropic, individual and community leaders to deliver funding and resources while amplifying the expertise of nonprofit organizations across greater Chicago. The nonprofit helps individuals meet their basic needs and work alongside neighborhood partners to address local priorities and create communities where all people can thrive.
Under Garrett’s leadership, United Way of Metro Chicago secured the largest corporate gift in organization history with $10 million for BMO for the nonprofit’s Austin Neighborhood Network, as well as $25 million from MacKenzie Scott. Garrett was responsible for spearheading the launch of the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, developed in partnership with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Community Trust.
Garrett has also been instrumental in expanding the Neighborhood Networks from 10 to 17 and providing four years of free internet service to 100,000 Chicago families. In 2023, the organization launched 211 Metro Chicago, providing Cook County residents with a 24/7/365 hotline for health and social service resources.
As president and CEO, Garrett said he has the great privilege of spending time across the many neighborhoods and surrounding suburban regions, working alongside many community leaders and partners to identify the greatest opportunities to create neighborhoods where people can thrive.
“I am grateful to play a small role in bringing people together, sharing the story of positive community transformation that is taking place every day in neighborhoods around the region, and ultimately helping to build a stronger, more equitable Chicago region for every child, person and family,” said Garrett. “That is what drives me and ignites my passion for the work.”
For his philanthropy spirit and willingness to support the Chicago community, Garrett has been named a titan.
If I have a superpower, it is probably the ability to remain calm in the face of chaos. Almost to a fault, I try hard to never get too high or too low. For me, this is important because changing the human condition doesn't happen overnight. It happens when we consistently advance the work in partnership with others.