United Way of Northwest Louisiana (UWNWLA) has announced that LaToria “Tori” W. Thomas will become the next President & CEO of the organization, effective March 1. Thomas will be the first woman and first African American to lead UWNWLA. She currently serves as Vice President of Community Investments & Operations at UWNWLA and has been with the organization since 2018.
Named 2021 ATHENA Honoree and United Way Worldwide Leadership program inductee, Thomas brings more than 20 years of nonprofit leadership experience to this role, including work in foundations and grant-making organizations, fundraising, program development, and management. She is the founder of Emerging Philanthropists in New Orleans, a giving circle for young professionals, and she was also selected as a Connecting Leaders Fellows for the Association of Black Foundation Executives. Thomas has served on the boards of the Committee for a Better New Orleans/Metropolitan Area Commission, Young Leadership Council, and Forum 35. She currently serves on the Executive Committee for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.- Sigma Rho Omega Chapter, the Advisory Board for the Greater Shreveport Chamber’s Leadership Program, and AFP North Louisiana Board.
A national search was conducted for the President & CEO position that attracted 37 candidates. After several interviews, Thomas was chosen by a selection committee made up of five UWNWLA board members. “United Way of Northwest Louisiana has officially seen 100 years of service, and over the next 100 years, we want to continue to strengthen our relationships and community impact,” said UWNWLA Board Chair John Adams. “Tori has shown great determination within this organization by bringing structure and efficiency while supporting United Way’s mission. Her background and experience allowed her to rise above the rest, and we are confident that her motivation and perspective to create change will reshape this organization for years to come.”
For the next three months, Thomas will be working alongside retiring UWNWLA President & CEO Dr. Bruce Willson to prepare for her induction. After 13 years of service to the organization, Dr. Willson is assured that he is leaving UWNWLA in good hands. “It has been a pleasure to watch Tori grow and exceed expectations over the past three years,” said Dr. Willson. “She has a vision for this organization that is grounded in meeting the needs of our community in the most efficient way possible. She has been an asset and blessing to United Way since she came on board, and I look forward to seeing her vision come to life.”
Thomas graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Northwestern State University. After graduating, she started her nonprofit career at Shreveport Green as an AmeriCorps Crew Leader. Thomas then relocated to New Orleans to assist with the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s rebuilding efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. She later served as the community specialist and program analyst for the AARP Foundation, the charitable affiliate of AARP that serves vulnerable individuals 50 and older by creating and advancing solutions that help them build economic opportunity and social connectedness. Thomas also served as an Executive Director for Dress for Success New Orleans and as the donor services officer for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, where she managed 19 national and local scholarships.
“I am so honored to have the opportunity to step into this new role and continue serving my hometown, the place that has poured so much into me,” said Thomas. “United Way has come so far, but if there is one thing I’ve learned during my time here, our work is never finished. It is through my commitment to service, I want to see this organization continue its mission to improve the health, education, financial stability, and essential needs for all.” Since Thomas’s time at UWNWLA, she has made many advancements. The most significant for the organization was her achievement in increasing grant funding and campaign revenue.