- Sep 16
Partner, Grant Thornton LLP
Board Chair, Gateway Foundation
In August, Gateway Foundation sat down with new Board Chair, Arla Lach, a partner at Grant Thornton LLP who has served on Gateway’s Board of Directors since 2015 in a variety of roles.
Gateway: Arla, what has drawn you to increase your commitment to Gateway Foundation’s mission-driven work since joining the board seven years ago, and most recently your willingness to take on the significant load of Board Chair in the 2023 fiscal year?
Arla: Nonprofit governance has been central to my personal and professional trajectory throughout my adult life. I learn so much while serving the organizations I have been fortunate enough to be associated with. I was introduced to Gateway’s work by a colleague who knew I was looking for my next service opportunity, and it felt like a good fit for my interests and some of the organization’s needs. After extensive service on a board in Chicago’s cultural sector and then for a nonprofit addressing women’s and girls’ issues, Gateway offered an opportunity to serve a new sector in which there is such significant and persistent need, while affording me the opportunity to learn about governance at a large and complex national nonprofit.
On a personal level, as the mother of two young people on the brink of adolescence, a stage when so many individuals first explore alcohol and drug use, I have appreciated learning about the social, health and economic factors that contribute to substance use disorders, which we know are so difficult to address without the kinds of quality, professional services Gateway provides.
Gateway: What are you most proud to date of as an active board committee member?
Arla: As an accounting professional, I have been able to offer a relevant skill set to Gateway’s finance and audit committee as the organization revisited some of its best practices in the constantly evolving arenas of finance and digital systems, particularly during an executive leadership shift that coincided with my joining the board.
Gateway: Are there situations you see as crucial to address in the near term?
Arla: There are two that come to mind right away, both related to optimizing the strategic decision-making capacity of the board. First, investment in technology that can support Gateway’s work with real time reporting that can be easily shared with the board as needed. Second, ongoing and proactive cultivation of a diverse board who bring a wide, relevant range of professional, regional and lived experience to the table as Gateway continues to expand its footprint and services.
Gateway: What do you see as your biggest priority in your tenure as Board Chair?
Arla: My greatest priority will always be to show up and to serve the interim and then the permanent CEO and Executive Management Team in whatever way mays best enable them to do their jobs at the highest level possible. I am excited about the future of Gateway and what its operations might look like over the next three – five years. Together the board and staff will be able to expand services, particularly in the realm of mental health care, and bring these community division offerings to market across Illinois and beyond, while continuing to provide effective programs for those involved with the corrections systems across the nation seeking to recover and stay in long term recovery.
Gateway: Any last thoughts?
Arla: I know Gateway and the sector well now, and am honored to bring mature governance experience to a committed board and staff at a time of great potential. I would describe the present as a greenfield opportunity for Gateway, and one we are well positioned for. The board is poised to welcome a new, permanent CEO in the coming weeks, after a deep, national, managed search. We are committed to ongoing support of strong executive leadership and a devoted staff, who have continued to deliver excellent services on the front line despite pandemic impacts, as the Gateway Foundation enters its next era.