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One on One with Rodney Prunty

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Rodney Prunty became President and CEO of United Way of Central New Mexico in June 2019. Rodney believes inherently in Servant Leadership and is unwavering in his focus to create long-term, positive community change. He is an avid sports fan and his favorite NFL Football team is the Los Angeles Rams.

What brought you to NM and what is your favorite thing or place here?

New Mexico has always been just so beautiful to me personally. When our family vacationed here three years ago, we were literally just so enamored with the aesthetic beauty of it – the weather, the climate. Living in the Midwest for so long with the snow, and just even in the summers, if you want to call them summers, made it very, very untenable.  

I would say my favorite thing about New Mexico is the mountains, I love them. It’s almost like a stress reliever to me. I could stare at them all day; it never gets old.

Another thing that I really like about New Mexico is the food. It’s phenomenal. It’s putting me at risk, and I have a challenge with my diet in terms of trying to remain in shape. The food is delicious.

What is top of mind in your approach for leading United Way?

What I want people to come away with is that we’re building on our success. We’re going to be much more outward focused than we’ve ever been before in terms of engaging the community in new ways. And we’re really going to be focusing on the strengths of the relationships that we have and how we can be better at fortifying those relationships so we can create a sense of shared purpose for everyone in the community. Shared purpose is a big deal.

What excites you about the possibilities here at United Way of Central New Mexico?

We’ve done some phenomenal work. We‘ve engaged people on so many different levels whether it is through Mission: Graduate or the beginning of what we’re doing with Mission: Families, as well as our donor groups. But we still haven’t really tapped in fully to the engagement possibilities in our communities.

I’m excited about forming more strategic, consistent, engaging, opportunities with our corporate supporters and working with donor groups to further deepen their meaningful experiences in terms of their philanthropy and volunteerism. I’m looking forward to considering the education continuum to say, what can we do to help strengthen kids in the early childhood side of the equation and make sure they enter kindergarten prepared to succeed and to read at grade level by the time they get to third grade.

With Mission: Families, we can operationalize some of this work and use a place-based approach to really make a difference and to involve the community in being part of the solution. So many people never get an opportunity to participate in their own success. Let’s bring people to the table and have conversations about how they can be problem solvers and help create their own destinies for themselves.

What’s your vision for Mission: Families and Mission: Graduate? What does success look like?

With Mission: Graduate, we’ve done great work on the high school engagement piece, the engagement with employers, and certainly the large number of degrees and certificates that have been earned since our goal announcement. But again, there are opportunities across each specific milestone in education. What are we doing across that entire continuum? As we are looking at 2020 and beyond, what can we do on the other side of the continuum to help support the workforce of the future while still supporting the workforce of today.

With Mission: Families, we’ll need to be intentional and focused on how we best engage communities to be at the table. I can imagine that in 10 years we have anywhere between five and seven community neighborhoods where we have Mission: Families locations – whether it’s in a school or a community center. My vision is getting Mission: Families to people by meeting them where they’re at. We know that accessibility is such an issue with so many folks who are dealing with adverse experiences, either as parents themselves or with their children. How do we create a better access for them?

We recently announced that we added 29,469 new graduates with degrees and certificates. Our data lags by three years so we still have time to achieve the goal. What can we do to make this happen and what are the benefits of setting audacious goals?

Just at first blush, what’s been so helpful in our approach with the collective impact work of Mission: Graduate is the data. We know what the data tells us in terms of what’s been great, so we can celebrate our successes, but peeling through the layers of the data to see where are the areas we could create interventions for particular populations – whether it’s women, Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, or what have you – could lead to more people having educational success.

We will see more of an acceleration of those degrees and certifications earned because we’re going to be focusing with an equity lens to determine the issues and where we can provide more resources and support. Then, I would also say on the other side of it, we might dispense with what we haven’t been successful with so we can focus more on what’s worked.

So I think those two factors combined can go a long way in helping us achieve our goal.

The benefits of setting a goal like this would be that it gives us that north star to shoot for. There’s an accountability and a sense of urgency there, and it allows the community to dream big.

What keeps you up at night?

I would say continuing to assure that our brand continues to get stronger, that our relevance continues to grow, and that we’re able to bring in revenue as well to really change lives for the better in central New Mexico. There are so many great things that we’re doing as a United Way so how do we focus on intentionally getting that message out to people? How do we create deeper relationships and experiences with our volunteers, donors, and community stakeholders? I’ve always been a person that believes that anyone who gets involved with United Way, it gets in your DNA, because we’re such a unique organization and we have so much to offer and we’re doing great work. So, part of what keeps me up at night is how we make sure people really, truly understand that we have created avenues for people to learn more about what we’re doing and to get involved.

Red or green

Red! Simply red.

MORE: READ One-on-One with Rodney Prunty, published in the Albuquerque Journal July 22.