Adria Johnson, President & CEO at Metro United Way, Best Women CEOs of 2021 Profile

Adria Johnson
President & CEO at Metro United Way

Adria Johnson, President & CEO at Metro United Way, Best Women CEOs of 2021

“Uplifting & Empowering A Community”

As the organization’s first Black president and CEO, Adria Johnson has a perspective and lived experiences that fuel the need to improve lives around Metro United Way’s community. She was born and raised in Louisville, and there’s nothing she wants more than for the Greater Louisville Region to thrive. And Metro United Way plays a unique leadership role in ensuring positive, sustainable change.

Adria has had the blessing of working across multiple private, public, and nonprofit sectors. That variety reflects her intention to align her desire to serve others with career opportunities. As the daughter of a teacher and social worker, who also experienced episodes of poverty and struggle while growing up, it’s not surprising that compassion, empathy, service, and justice were rooted in Adria’s core.

Despite experiencing reward and success while working in the private sector for the first ten+ years of Adria’s career, there was a loud and growing urge to tailor her career to one that allowed her to more directly engage and impact those in their community who were struggling. “Hence, when the corporation I was working for at the time underwent a merger and began planning to transition its corporate headquarters out of state, rather than relocate or continue my career in this sector, I sought the opportunity to begin pivoting. And I’ve never looked back.” She adds, “Immersion into the human services field has provided me continuing and increased opportunity to serve our community’s and state’s most vulnerable citizens. And for that, I am grateful.”

Adria believes the key qualities contributing to her success are rooted in her: humility; authenticity; compassion; understanding; tireless advocacy for fairness, justice, and inclusivity; strong work ethic; courage; ability to connect and establish meaningful and trusted relationships across demographics and socio-economic spectrums; and unwavering desire to serve others. “I am a strong believer in ‘walking the talk’ and treating everyone with common courtesy and respect – from the curb to the cleaning closet to the board room,” she says. “I have broached each role that I have been given the opportunity to occupy with gratitude and an expectation that my success is measured by my ability to impact others and spur meaningful and lasting change.”

Metro United Way works daily to lift its community by mobilizing people and maximizing its community’s resources to advance opportunity and equity for all. Metro United Way drives efficiency and impact throughout the local nonprofit sector through best practice sharing, data-informed decision making, advocacy, and accountability for quality and results. They bring together businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and individuals to engage in the kinds of collaboration that changes lives.

“The woman I am today has been shaped, no doubt, by the generations of women in my family before me. I think about my great-grandmothers and grandmothers who had limited educational achievement, endured domestic violence and abuse, and who shouldered rearing children and held down their families either lacking a mate or with inconsistent support. Again, no doubt, these phenomenal and resilient women have shaped me,” explains Adria.

However, her greatest motivational role model was her late father, who consistently told Adria that these women shaped her strong work ethic; yet he was her superstar. He was the ultimate public servant, exercising a level of service, kindness, compassion, and humility that she strives to emulate daily. “Upon being selected as Metro United Way’s next president and CEO, he told me to ‘Go make Louisville better’ and I intend to keep him smiling from Heaven by doing just that.”

For those who want a strong and equitable community, Metro United Way is the change agent that fuels the community’s spirit of unity by building lasting, transformative opportunities for all. For more than 100 years, Metro United Way has empowered individuals and families to achieve their fullest potential by generating meaningful and lasting change in our community. They use data-driven insights to identify and prioritize the community’s greatest needs, focusing on equitable outcomes for all. Metro United Way brings together 116 nonprofit partners, 865 corporate partners, more than 2,000 volunteers, advocates, and more than 41,000 donors to fuel powerful programming and transformational policymaking. Together, they fight to improve the disparities that persist in education, economic mobility, health, housing, and racial equality in Jefferson, Bullitt, Oldham and Shelby counties in Kentucky as well as Clark, Floyd and Harrison counties in Indiana. IEWL


Metro United Way


Adria Johnson
President & CEO at Metro United Way


Metro United Way advances the common good in our community by creating opportunities for a better life for all. For 100 years, Metro United Way has served our community and will move forward throughout the next decade with a more focused approach to addressing community-level issues by showing measurable progress in the areas of education, financial stability and health, the building blocks for a good quality of life.

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