Giving back is way of life

for new United Way leader

by Tim Froberg

It takes a good sport to sit in a festival dunk tank while the public tries to douse you.

That’s the kind of guy Peter Gianopoulos is: community-oriented and eager to give his valuable time to improve lives in the area he loves.

Merge a passion for the community with a distinguished business background, and the United Way Fox Cities has an impressive leader for the post-pandemic years.

Gianopoulos is settling into his new position as the organization’s president and CEO. His job is to strategically drive the direction of the United Way Fox Cites to improve the health, education and financial stability of Fox Cities residents.

Gianopoulos seems like an ideal fit for the organization. He worked for more than 25 years with Thrivent Financial where he served in a variety of critical leadership roles in areas such as governance, risk management, compliance and internal audit. 

And he’s done it all when it comes to volunteering his time to assist nonprofits in the Fox Cities. In addition to the fundraising dunk tanks, he’s picked up trash, grilled bratwurst at cookouts and coached youth sports, while serving on nonprofit boards like Children’s Hospital Wisconsin, Fox Valley Symphony and his current organization, United Way Fox Cities.

Spend a few minutes with him and it quickly becomes clear that Gianopoulos is a “we” person – not a “me” person. His mother taught him the value of volunteering after Gianopoulos and his family moved to the Neenah area in 1980, and he never forgot it.

“The way I see it, we’re all connected – we’re all trying to take care of one another,” said Gianopoulos. “We’re living a shared story- not an individual story. I’ve gotten more back from volunteering than I’ve put in. I learned a long time ago that when you help other people, it will come back to you tenfold.”

Gianopoulos’ advanced skills in strategic business planning should serve him well in his new job. A  University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh graduate who received his masters degree in business administration from UW-Milwaukee, Gianopoulos received Thrivent’s President Award for innovation and delivering business results He was also the initial recipient of Thrivent’s Volunteer Excellence Award for outstanding community service. 

Gianopoulos began his new job at the United Way April 1, succeeding previous CEO Peter Kelly. Gianopoulos had retired from Thrivent and was doing some consulting work, but was approached and asked about his interest in the job. Ultimately, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join a life-changing organization like the United Way Fox Cities.

Upgrading the organization from a technology standpoint and improving community engagement are two of his top priorities.

“I love our community, but there is still a great need in it right now,” Gianopoulos said.  “Many of the programs we’re looking at building will have a stronger focus on technology and community engagement. I want the United Way Fox Cities to be in a better position for the long term. The United Way I’m looking to design and retool is for the generation that is entering the work force.”

Gianopoulos has started his new job at an exciting time as most of the country has reopened following the global pandemic.

“Our community was very generous,” Gianopoulos said. “We’re only slightly down from the previous year in regards to donations. But there’s lots of work ahead. If I can be a catalyst to help make changes for the better, that’s what I’m looking to accomplish.”