Erin McKenney’s involvement with United Way Suncoast began in 2014. While serving on the Board of Directors for Tampa Connection, a local nonprofit leadership organization for professionals in the Tampa Bay area, she met a retired United Way Suncoast employee, Betty. Betty helped the board of directors develop leaders who understood the value and impact that nonprofits have in society.
From her first introduction to United Way, Erin was impressed not only by the work being done to support those in need in the community, but in helping to develop nonprofit leaders.
So, when she decided to transition her career from the legal to the nonprofit sector at the end of 2019, setting up a meeting with new United Way CEO Jessica Muroff was tops on her list. Erin says she is, “still grateful that she took time to meet with me given the amount of work she was juggling as the new CEO.” In fact, she is grateful for all the leadership support she has received from United Way over the years and is excited to be carrying that forward with Women United.
Erin grew up in Sarasota and credits her “amazing parents” for setting a great example of giving back for her and her siblings. Both of her parents have been involved with nonprofits and volunteering for years. After volunteering at church with the family, Erin eventually began teaching Sunday school and tutoring.
After graduating from college and law school, Erin worked as a prosecutor at the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office, where she “saw individuals coming through the system who lacked the education and resources that might have made a difference in their lives.” After leaving that job, she practiced health care law for a few years and then served as in-house counsel for a private equity multi-family housing organization based in Tampa. During that time, she served as a volunteer and board member for several nonprofits including Junior League, First Tee of Tampa Bay and Tampa Connection.
She also continued serving her church, Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, which led her to the Tampa Urban Young Life program, helping adolescents grow in their faith. She calls it “one of the most transformational experiences of my life.” She ended up teaching a financial literacy class to middle and high school students for three years. Of the experience, she says, “I learned more from my students than I could have ever taught them. I learned about their childhood experiences, their family systems, and their financial struggles. But I also saw their grit and their determination to succeed. They just needed love and support and mentorship. My experience teaching this class planted a seed in me that continued to grow until I made the decision in late 2019 to leave the legal profession and combine my passions and skills to work in the nonprofit sector.”
After leaving her job, she spent the next six months traveling, working on projects in a variety of countries, and studying topics like education, workforce development, and closing the opportunity gap.
These experiences led to her current role as the Associate Director of Development for St. Petersburg College (SPC), where she uses what she’s learned to help SPC achieve its mission to educate, empower, and engage it’s more than 40,000 students.
Though the decision to leave her law career wasn’t easy, Erin is grateful for all her experiences along the way. She sums up what brought her to where she is today by saying, “Every experience and decision led to the current merger of my talent and passions in a way that allows me to help our community while feeling excited and inspired by my work.”
United Way Suncoast and Women United are lucky to have someone as focused on giving back as Erin and we appreciate her support.