The Most Rewarding Experience I’ve Ever Had

by Steve Paternostro, Industrial Marketing Specialist, Alabama Power Company

LE of the Year Steve Paternostro and Campaign Chairman Mark Drew
LE of the Year Steve Paternostro and Campaign Chairman Mark Drew.

I’ve been in sales for many years selling equipment and energy but the first thing I asked myself was “How do I get people to give money?”

As I continued to learn about United Way and the agencies that depend on the organization, I realized I had driven by  United Way agencies everyday to and from work and didn’t know what was going on inside.

It was visiting the agencies, learning about the clients, the needs in the community, and the impact United Way has on real people that equipped me to be the best advocate I could be.

My job was to visit companies and ask the employees to support or continue to support United Way by making a pledge. My strategy was to put myself in the position of being in the audience listening to me speak. I’ve heard many United Way presentations in past years as a member of the audience and I knew exactly what I wanted to hear and the questions that people would have but wouldn’t ask.

My most powerful experiences came when people in my audiences would stand up and tell me how they have been personally helped by a United Way agency.  Once a worker at a steel company stood up and discussed the challenges he and his family were faced with and asked for help with his special needs son right there in front of everyone. I was co-speaking with David Higgins from Easter Seals, and he and I were able to give him guidance on where to go for assistance.  What was truly amazing was what happened after the meeting.  The plant manager told me that he never knew his employee had a special needs child.  I said “that’s my point, you never know who that person is that is in need, they could be sitting right next to you.” That truly demonstrated how United Way works and how together we can make a difference.

I gave presentations to dozens of companies and I was touched to see the workers signing the pledge forms while I was speaking and encouraging each other to give.  At one of the meetings, I asked several employees what motivated them to donate to the United Way, he replied “man it’s because we lived it.”

I was absolutely floored when I was selected as Loaned Executive of the Year. I want to give the credit for any success I had to the staff at United Way and the unbelievable team of Loaned Executives I had the privilege of working with. The entire United Way staff laid the perfect groundwork for us. They are truly a special group of people that work tirelessly for the benefit of those in need. Excellent training, support, feedback, and guidance as we experienced the ups and downs of fundraising. This LE team was the definition of a team…..we helped each other when our schedules were double booked, shared best practices, helped each other overcome obstacles, vented frustration and celebrated successes. We made each other better while pushing towards a common goal.

My advice to anyone considering volunteering as a Loaned Executive is to “just do it”. It is rewarding work and one of the most life changing things you will ever do- it will open your eyes. Being a LE will give you the opportunity to see the various needs in the community and how everyone contributing a little can make a huge difference in so many people’s lives.