My day as the CEO

Lisa Depew, Woman in Philanthropy member

It was not your typical “day at the office.” Not mine anyway. My day as United Way CEO started with an introduction to the company: its structure, reach, impact, etc. I never knew how “local” the local United Way was. This massive charity really took on a more personal touch for me when I learned how focused our local United Way was on the five-county area. The (real) United Way CEO, Steve Heath, and I then met with his senior staff where I received an update on the major happenings in marketing, finance, and outreach. What struck me most about this meeting were the smiles. The energy. The passion. It was extremely inspiring to see a range of experts, in different fields, all extremely excited about what they are doing. How effective the world would be if we all brought such passion to our work.

Key takeaway: Be passionate—it’s contagious!

Another deviation from a “normal” day—mine at least—was leaving the office. Randy Gustavus, senior vice president of resource development, took me to a SMUD event kicking off their United Way campaign. There, I had the opportunity to try to drop Steve in a dunk tank. (How often do you go to the office and get encouraged to soak your CEO?) It was also inspiring to see another company’s kick-off event, their camaraderie and enthusiasm, the smiles and teamwork. It’s nice to get out and expand one’s horizons beyond what you see every day at your own workplace.

Key takeaway: Expand your horizons—there’s so much to see & learn from others

Speaking of expanding horizons, the later part of our day consisted of two on-site visits, one to the YMCA and one to the Girl Scouts of America. Personally, I’m a transplant to Sacramento, having grown up in Dayton, OH, and while I’ve driven to & through Sacramento over the years, I haven’t really seen the facilities available in my new local area. Everyone at each of these nonprofits was so gracious, giving us tours, telling us about their programs. I wish everyone had the opportunity to see, face to face, what facilities & programs are out there and the dedicated people behind them.

Key takeaway: Get involved—it’s your amazing community out there

Lastly, I’d like to comment on commitment. People talk about bottling the energy of toddlers; I say if we could harness the commitment of those at the United Way California Capital Region & their nonprofit partners, there’s no limit to what the world could do. Spend five minutes learning about the impact United Way is having—about the 95% of 4,000 children in the 2009 Abuse Prevention program not having a second call to child protective services concerning parental abuse; about the high school whose population is 15% foster youth and their focus on developing a sense of pride and ownership in the students by creating their own business; about the 2011+ plan to aid education because the penal system uses 3rd grade reading scores as a metric for projecting how many prison cells they’ll need down the road—and you’ll be forever changed by the passion, commitment, and dedication going on in your community.

Key takeaway: Committed people are changing the world

In conclusion, I’ll use a quote from one of my personal favorite nonprofits, Team Will—an organization committed to raising awareness and funding for childhood cancer research. “It’s not okay to sit back and let things happen when you can make a difference.” Get involved because you too, can make a difference.


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