Managing through challenging times with Donna Sharp, executive director of Greater Longview United Way


On this episode of Manufacturing Leadership: An Oil and Gas Podcast, Michael Clements speaks with Donna Sharp, executive director of Greater Longview United Way, chat about leadership during challenging times, United Way's mission and its partner organizations and the rewards of volunteering. 


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Manufacturing Leadership

Managing Through Challenging Times with Donna Sharp

Intro:Welcome to manufacturing leadership, a podcast for young professionals in and out of the oil and gas industry. And now here's your host, Energy WeldFab's Michael Clements.

Michael C.: Hello listeners, welcome to manufacturing leadership an oil and gas podcast. I'm your host Michael Clements Jr. and I'm here today with friend and greater United Way Longview president Miss Donna Sharp, how you doing today Miss Donna?

Donna Sharp: I'm great Michael, thanks.

Michael C.: Yes ma'am, well wonderful to have you on the show, very excited today.

Donna Sharp: Thanks, it's a pleasure to be here, an honor and I appreciate the invitation.

Michael C.: Yes ma'am. Well you and I first met I would probably say it was a little over a year ago, you all had reached out and wanted to discuss a partnership and possibly collaborating with the United Way on a few different things.

And I had the opportunity over the past year to meet and learn more about your organization, as well as do a tour of a few of the other organizations you all work with. And that was a terrific opportunity; I really like how you collaborate with so many different organizations, that was something that really struck home with me.

Donna Sharp: Well it was a great opportunity for us to come out and visit with you, I know of your passion for the community, and your philanthropic work in the community. So one of my visions and goals and missions is just to tell the United Way story, certainly we're a fundraising entity and there's no question about that, but it's amazing the folks that may not know exactly what United Way does.

So you know we were able to come out and visit with you, and you were interested and you kind of had a bit of that passion too for wanting to learn more and know more, then took you on the agency tours and got to see a lot of things firsthand, to see what United Way does, and it was just a wonderful opportunity and the beginning of a great friendship and partnership.

Michael C.: Yes ma'am. Well it was a wonderful opportunity, and I also got to meet some other individuals that you all work with, I was able to see firsthand the work that you all do in the community, just a wonderful opportunity.

And so whenever we were discussing who would be right for the show you're one of the first names that popped up for me, and it's always a great opportunity not only to get someone that's a leader and someone that is a president of an organization. But tittles aside, being a leader inside of a nonprofit organization has I'm guessing some tremendous challenges involved with it.

Donna Sharp: Certainly.

Michael C.: And a lot of our listeners and the people that I incorporate with or mainly folks in the private sector, whether it's manufacturing, transportation whatever it may be, so to have the opportunity to have someone on that really works in a completely different area. You probably have a lot of the same challenges that we do, so I'm very excited to hear your perspective on things and get a little bit of your twist on leadership?

Donna Sharp: Well thanks, and I'm happy to share. Certainly there are challenges in many things, but when you have a great passion and you believe totally in what you're doing, it certainly helps drive that train.

Michael C.: It makes it a little bit easier doesn't it?

Donna Sharp: Yes.

Michael C.: Well wonderful. Going into a little bit of background on yourself your faith, family, and hobbies what is the greater United Way Longview president...

Donna Sharp: Do outside of that.

Michael C.: Yes ma'am.

Donna Sharp: Yes, well I was raised in Alvin Texas, and moved up here in the mid-70s with my parents, thanks to the oil and gas industry, and I'm very thankful that that I did. Since I've been here, certainly Longview is home I can't imagine any other place, and it's amazing the community that we live in, and that I'm able to be a big part of that, and I just I have a total buy-in to East Texas in Gregg County.

I'm an active member of First United Methodist Church and downtown Longview, serve as chair of the worship committee on the church. We were married in Nicholson chapel at First Methodist Church, a lovely little chapel at that big Church downtown. But I am married to Jamie Sharp, Jamie is from Longview, he went off to Baylor and then he came back to Longview. And I'm kind of glad he did, because we met in the early and we've been together ever since.

So just a wonderful life, we have one furry little friend Gidget she's our baby that rules our life, and she's a lot of fun. But we enjoy doing lots of things, we love to travel little road trips here and there, go to festivals and all. So probably my favorite hobby is just family time, whether it's on the road traveling having fun, or it's sitting around the house watching a game or whatever we really enjoy our time together.

Certainly love music, mentioned the festivals we go to a lot of them, music festivals that may have 30 people there, a lot of fun and we're very involved with the Arts, my husband's an artist and we're involved with museums and some artists communities that he works with. So just love life, full of life, lot’s going on.

Michael C.: That's wonderful; I really like the dog's name Gidget.

Donna Sharp: Yes, it kind of dates me and let you know how old I am. There are Gidget goes Hawaiian and all kinds of Gidget movies from a few years ago.

Michael C.: Well wonderful, and I take it that you probably didn't, your first job wasn't with the United Way, so how did your career get started?

Donna Sharp: Well my first job actually, when I turned 16 it was like oh I can get a job now, you didn't get a social security card until you got to be about 16 or so back in the day.

And so Alvin little small hole in the wall, and I went to work at jack-in-the-box and boy I just thought I didn't have any bills, I got all of this money which was just little bits of money, but it was fun, I enjoyed my time there. But then coming to Longview, and as I graduate from college had a few steps in my career to get where I am now.

Michael C.: Oh that's wonderful, I'm really encouraged to hear your first job as a jack-in-the-box and I think to our listeners out there that's very encouraging to know, it's not where you start, a lot of people think if I'm going to go work at jack-in-the-box that's we're all end up, but that's not the truth it's about getting out and getting to work.

I try to tell younger people that all the time, like it's not about where you're at it's just a matter of learning. I mean I'm sure there are that she learned in your first job that you've been able to carry with you.

Donna Sharp: I can still make a taco a jack-in-the-box I can promise, but you just learn working with people, working with the public and how attitude is everything. And when you can bring that smile forth, and help make somebody's day and even if it's serving Alma taco it still makes a difference.

Michael C.: That's wonderful. Moving on, what was your first position with a non-profit?

Donna Sharp: Well I taught school at a private school which was a non-profit, but I was a school teacher so that venue was a bit different. But after I left the school I loved teaching, and I loved seeing the lights come on when someone learned something, and there was a position at Longview Community Ministries for a Learning Lab.

Well this Learning Lab presents classes all of the classes are free and they're designed to teach people better life skills, how to break the cycle of poverty, and so it was kind of like well it can fill my need to help people, and it can also help fill that teacher need. So I did that I started there I believe in 2007, and after a short stint as the learning lab coordinator I became assistant director, and then a couple of years later became the executive director of Long Beach Community Ministries.

And so that really kind of ignited my passion for serving the community and serving others, and seeing people that are struggling so hard to break the cycle of poverty, and to see successes and challenges in the face of adversity the bug bit me. Then an opportunity came along at Longview United Way for an executive director position, and if you'll indulge me just a second I have to tell you this little story, I loved long beach community ministry, still do.

And I had several people encouraging me to apply for this position at Longview United Way, and I thought you know really I'm good, I'm good where I am. But you know maybe this is the second time this position had been presented to me, and so I thought well I'm just going to give it to the Lord and we're just going to pray about it, we're going to talk about it, so I talked to my husband about it, we prayed about it. And so I said I kind of need God to pick up the phone here and let me know what I should do, and he says Donna he doesn't pick up the phone, and I said well he should.

And so lo and behold in my devotional the next week I was reading and the little sermonette that went with the devotional basically said, God has had the plan for your life known all of your life, and he'll soon be opening doors and wants you to have the faith to walk through them. And so I told my husband I said he called me today, I told you he called.

So that was just a reinforcement to me that while I love Longview Community Ministries, I feel like I made a great difference there, but I was being led to move on to United Way. And so I've not regretted being there, I love it. So basically my passion of just wanting to help people, and when I went to United Way it's more that I can help people on a grander scale, because Longview Community Ministries does wonderful things, but at United Way we're funding 37 programs and 21 agencies, and so we can reach a lot farther through United Way.

Michael C.: Hearing your background and how you got to be with United Way that's wonderful, if you've never been in non-profit or if you haven't worked in volunteered your time it does take a toll on you. And you know I was interested in hearing, you know once that bug kind of gets in you, you don't shake it, and like you were saying waiting on that phone call from God, I really feel as a leader in your heart you're led in certain areas.

And there's just sometimes there's just things you just can't shake, and even if it's something that maybe you're intimidated by or like I don't know if this is a good move, I loved hearing about how you were led by the Lord to move into that position.

Donna Sharp: Oh absolutely.

Michael C.: How long were you with Longview Community Ministries?

Donna Sharp: I was there eight years.

Michael C.: Okay, so that was a jump?

Donna Sharp: Oh yes it was a huge jump, and it was a nerve-racking jump, it's like okay you got me here now walk with me, so yes it was a huge jump.

Michael C.: So the position that she moved into at the United Way, where does it fall in the hierarchy as far as you're president now of the organization, where was this?

Donna Sharp: That's where I started.

Michael C.: Oh okay, so you came right in and hey I'm here and we're going to make the most of this organization and what we have. What was the state of the United Way at the time?

Donna Sharp: Well it was good, it's got a long history in Longview, we've celebrated 70 years last year, and ironically when we celebrated our 70th anniversary I was looking back at the original articles of incorporation, my father-in-law happened to be an original signer on the United Way's Articles of Incorporation which was kind of cool to me. But when we came in to the United Way, the United Way and many nonprofits, all nonprofits faced struggles in fundraising, and certainly the economy has a large part to play in that.

So just coming in and trying to find new ways to tell our story, a lot of work for United Way and this is nationally across the board is done through what's called workplace campaigns. Where we'll come in and we'll present to a company about what we do, and then the company will offer their employees an opportunity to give a pledge if they'd like to. But I found a lot of folks outside of those workplaces that held campaigns may or may not really know about United Way, so a really strong emphasis on telling our story which is how we met, and then getting folks involved because once you know and once you see it certainly is, it just develops the passion too.

But we face struggles just as any other nonprofit would face, but we're kind of a double edged in that the agencies that we support if their fundraising efforts are down, and if our fundraising efforts are down then we're not able to support them as fully, so that increases their money's coming in are impacted. But we're doing great, we've got a wonderful solid team at United Way, so we just continue to grow and tell the story.

Michael C.: One of the biggest things about the United Way that attracted me to it was in our first conversation last year; you had discussed how if you just go give your money to an organization there really isn't much checks and balance there. Like who am I giving this cash to, who am I writing this check to, what are they going to do with these funds? I think a lot of folks want to do more, we want to give but there's always that thing in the back of our mind that says I don't know if I'm doing right or wrong.

In a leadership position a lot of times you have to overcome that and you have to look past it. But whenever you're giving away X amount of dollars out of your income, and you have kids you're going to have to put through school, you have groceries you have to buy, dinner you have to pay for, but you still want to do those things, it can be a little bit of a challenge. And so how do you, well I guess one of the things that I really liked was that you all screamed, you all make sure everybody that is you all are going to be giving the funds to.

So I like it because you all basically make it easy, you say okay I'm going to cut a check to the United Way, but the United Way is then going to fund all these different organizations across East Texas and in the Longview area. That was probably what drew me in the most, was knowing that hey they're not just cutting checks to their friends, they're not just cutting checks to somebody down the road who they know their organization may need a hand, tell us a little bit about that.

Donna Sharp: Yes, one of my board members likens it to giving to a mutual fund, when you make one investment it's going to 37 different places because we fund 37 programs. When I first started at United Way and this may be typical for every director as they came in, but I had requests phone calls, emails of a nonprofit that maybe just startup or whatever that wanted to see about getting funding.

And so I explained and I have a packet that I could send to them and all, but very few completed or took that next step because the agency has to be certainly a 501C3 has to be a non-profit, but they have to show financial stability for a couple of years. Because we certainly want to invest in a well-grounded program, so they have to submit all these documents in 990's and financials for the last couple of years. And then we have what's called a community solutions team, and I'll talk about that in a little more detail later, but this team is like about ten volunteers.

We have one team for our education programs, one for our income programs and one for our health programs. And what they do if this agency say is wanting to be approved to apply for funding in the education area, that education community solutions team goes and visits that agency, once they've submitted all of their financials and they look like they might be a viable agency.

So we go visit them, we learn about what they're doing, we take a walk around, we make sure that the program they're wanting funding for is not something we already fund, because certainly our requests for funding are always more than we're able to give, so there are a lot of hoops that have to be jumped through. And I never apologize for the hoops because we're funding thoroughly vetted agencies, so that a donor knows when they give their dollars, that they're going to use and they're going to a good strong organization.

Now once they're approved to be a partner agency they can write a grant, and we take those grants every April. And so the community solutions teams in each focus area, they review the grants. It's kind of hard because I don't make any of those decisions, I answer questions, I give recommendations, but I don't say who gets what, how much, and if that, the teams do that. And so when they look at that grant application, they're going to look at things like what's needed in our community because we do a community needs assessment to find out what's a priority.

And so then they'll make recommendations for funding based on the amounts requested, that gets approved by my board and then they're notified of their funding. Then in January of every year the funded agencies and programs report back to us their results, so not only do they have to be thoroughly vetted and approved, they have to come back and report that they're actually making an impact, because we're all about changing lives, hands up not hands out.

Michael C.: Oh that's excellent. And the fact that there's so many different people involved in that decision-making is, all those things there's so many like you said the hoops or the things you have to go through, but all those things are there so you know that your funds and your things are going to something that's going to count, and it's going to make a difference in the local community.

Donna Sharp: Absolutely.

Michael C.: One of the other things that's really great about it is this is made up of community leaders, business leaders, managers, these are people that are in organizations making critical decisions every single day. Talk to us a little bit about those types of individuals that you're counting on to help make these decisions?

Donna Sharp: Certainly. Board members serve as the chairs of these three committees, then the people that make up the committee, we don't ever want the committee to grow more than 15, we'd like to keep it between 10 and 15.But some of them have been longtime volunteers on these committees, some are rather new. It's a wonderful way for them because they know the program so well, the system that we use for the grant applications and all of that they're fully knowledgeable of everything that goes into that and so they play a crucial part.

We have business leaders, we have a librarian, we have general managers, we've got folks that work in industry, and we’ve just got all kinds. What we try to do is we try to diversify our board and our committee groups so that we're representing all aspects of the community as best that we can, because when we do this community needs assessment that's going to tell us the things that we need to fund, and we always see the same sorts of things rise to the top affordable housing, mental health services and all of that.

But again it's so reassuring to know that it's local people making the recommendations on local funds that stay right here, everything raised here with the exception of 1% stays right here in Longview. And I know there are lots of myths about United Way and other organizations and such, but we pay 1% of our campaign to United Way worldwide, and that's for the branding, that's for resources, that's for travel credits I mean we get a return on that 1%, but that's all that leaves here, so truly what is given here stays here.

Michael C.: Which is very common for national organizations, that's not anything that's not typical. Most international organizations are going to have some type of; I guess you're going to have to send some type of funding back.

Donna Sharp: Yes, we have to jump through hoops too, so yes. But it's a rewarding process, and the people that you get to see and every one of these programs that's requesting funding; we spend one full day with the teams visiting every one of those agencies. And so it's great to see them in their home environment, with recipients of their services and you know we've got Longview Child Development Center, I love going there early in the morning because the kiddos come in at 8:00 in the morning and they run to the director and they hug her and they're just so happy to see her and that's their other mother.

But to be there and get to experience their day-to-day and talk with them in their environment, it's the best way, it's the best way for the agencies to represent themselves, and it’s the best way for the committee's to get to know them.

Michael C.: One of the agency tour that we went out on, as I was leaving the room on the first stop that day there was a lady that stopped me and she says you said you were with Energy WeldFab, right? And I said yes ma'am, and she goes I want to let that you're one of our first calls when we have someone that could potentially be a welder or works in that type of industry.

And she says you all have actually hired a handful of people that you all are on our list as someone we like to send, because you all will hire someone who if they have a traitor, they have a good skill that's all you're looking for. It doesn't matter what you look like or what you have or what you don't have, it doesn't matter. And so here I was on a tour with the United Way going to one of your agencies in the first stop that day, and she was telling me how our organization is also tied into all of this here at Energy.

And so it was really just kind of a full circle, and it was like wow we're all working together here in the community, we're all on the same team essentially. Now are we and different organizations, are we in different lines? Yes, but at the end of the day it really kind of hit me like all of us are working for the same goal. We want everybody to do well, we want everybody to succeed.

And the idea of success is different across different individuals, but the fact you all have been able to pull together no matter what your position or title is, I would still say if you're a volunteer and you're doing these things essentially you're in a leadership role. There's someone watching you, there's someone seeing what you're doing, there's someone who's fascinated by the job you do, and to get to intermingle and contact and correspond with individuals like that on a daily basis, that has to be. I guess for yourself, you probably talked to business leaders and things all the time, that's got to be a perk of the position.

Donna Sharp: Oh absolutely it is, to get to visit with folks and visit with again the recipients of services. You know you spoke about how the intermingling and the interfacing, I'm very proud to say that our 21 partner agencies that carry out our programs it's like we're just one big happy family. Essentially they're competing for money, but you would never ever expect that or see that.

I mean the collaboration between the agencies, I mean we'll have one agency that may be serving youth from 15 to 25 and they need help with someone getting job skills or getting prescriptions, and so they're going to call one of the other agencies, I mean everybody's got everybody's number on speed dial. So the way that we collaborate and work together with the partner agencies makes me very proud of what we do, and the community we serve.

Michael C.: I think the individuals that were on the tour with me that day, one was a I think he was a manager in the lead role at one of the major call centers here in Longview.

Donna Sharp: Derek.

Michael C.: Yes Derek. And then the other individual was I believe a manager at one of the local bankers here, getting to collaborate and talk with those guys that day it was a wonderful experience, and just having the opportunity to meet other leaders and then also see how they go about making decisions for their companies.

And how do you make a decision on not just what you're doing inside of your walls, but how do you make a decision on yes we're going to do something with United Way or we're going to work with this group over here? It was neat to get to see that firsthand, and I really grew more of an appreciation for what you all did. I really enjoyed our time in the office last year when we got to meet, and sit down and I got to learn more about the United Way.

Michael C.: And I got to learn more about your great collections.

Michael C.: Yes ma'am. And I got to learn more but whenever I actually got out and got to go see firsthand, and Miss Donna you were very patient with me, and I see that this is no different than work, it's no different than making a sales call. It's all about building a relationship, and maybe someone's not going to do something today or even tomorrow, but you keep those relationships open and you keep the communication open and the dialogue open there between, and you never know what could happen.

I'm looking at now being involved with the United Way going forward, we discuss some things here recently and so I'm excited about that opportunity, as well as seeing what can I learn from you. I'm also a member of other organizations, and so what can I be doing in those organizations when I'm a president, chairman of. So what can I be doing in that organization that I can learn from Miss Donna over here in the United Way.

So therefore we're not only making and collaborating and making one or two organizations better, we're making many organizations better at a time, and the more leadership and the more collaboration we have, the better results and the better the productivity, and in turn the better it's going to be for these organizations and those that are meeting or using the assistance from.

Donna Sharp: Absolutely.

Michael C.: That's wonderful. We both have to work with volunteers, we have to work with employees, we have all different types that we work with on a daily basis.

So inside the walls at the United Way, I got to meet a couple of individuals there how do you keep your team motivated?

Donna Sharp: We laugh a lot and we're silly, but we're a small staff there are four and a half of us and I say half not only is my part-timer a little on the short side, I give her a hard time all the time, but I've got a great team. We love each other, we all have a passion for what we do, and being who I am I just I have to make myself delegate things, and I've got a wonderful staff that I can trust to do those things and take care of those things, so that's number one.

But we take some time for staff meetings and we do some silly things, we had a little Christmas party where we had a little marshmallow throwing contest. And so we take some time to stop and smell the roses, because otherwise we're all 90 to nothing at our desks all day every day. So we take little breaks we'll go celebrate birthdays and milestones and those sorts of things, but we couldn't exist without volunteers as all nonprofits for the most part do.

Our volunteers like I said with the allocations teams, and what they do, they're are 30 people right there minimum that are doing what we could not do. And I mean we could do those things, but it's not our place to be making those allocation recommendations, that's a community of people that are coming together to do that. So we have lots of volunteers, they're easy to manage but we've developed pretty good systems for that, we've got some events that will have volunteers walk through.

So anyway it's just great, and we just kind of have to stop sometimes and celebrate our wins, because sometimes those losses creep up on you and just in every situation as it is, it's the things that bother you, they get your attention and your focus so we just has to say okay we can do everything we can about that, and then let's just focus on our wins.

Michael C.: Motivating individuals you know we're really coming out of a downturn here in our area, we rely very heavily on the oil and gas and industry, and so being in philanthropy the last few years here, was that a challenge?

Donna Sharp: Absolutely, we definitely saw it. Last year our campaign came in about a hundred thousand dollars under what we were hoping, and we had to pass that along to the agencies, and that was heart-wrenching for me.

Because while this is my job and I'm a professional and I'm the leader they're my family too, and to know how their work was going to be impacted by the fact that we had to reduce the funding. And again they apply every year, so there's never a guarantee of the amount that you're going to get each year. But it's fairly consistent over the years, and then when you have to true up the loss it hurt me, it was tough.

Michael C.: Did you feel like it took a toll on you as a leader, a little bit?

Donna Sharp: Yes, it did. Because it was things that were out of my control, but there are so many different facets of how we run our campaign and how we do things, you can't help but second-guess yourself and say what could I have done that I didn't do. And you do everything that you can, but still it's a personal hit.

Michael C.: Do you have any tips for working out of that a little bit, because we faced it here and when there's not work coming in, there's not a lot to get excited about. And as a leader you start not pointing fingers at everybody else, but you start saying what am I doing, why is it not going right.

And one thing my dad had to continue reiterating me, is that the works not there, there's nothing going on. It's not that we could do something different here, or you could be doing something different or I could be doing something different, it was works just simply not there. And trying to stay motivated during that time it wasn't the lack of motivation, it was that wow when's it going to turn around. I mean since I've been out of college, the only thing I'd saw was you know a steep line up and yes and plenty of work and I'm sitting here saying what happened, what's going on here.

And you get used to working at a certain speed and a certain rate and then it just came to a complete halt, and I know it had to be tough in nonprofits, and I mean really anywhere in East Texas over the last couple years is pretty rough. But I could imagine that, and you know although we have a lot of employees relying on us, you have all those different organizations relying on you, and each one of those organizations is affecting 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 people and you start incorporating all that, you've got a lot of lives that are...

Donna Sharp: Can be a bad trickle-down.

Michael C.: Yes ma'am.

Donna Sharp: Well when we truly like I say have a wonderful team, I have benefit of one lady that's been there over 16 years and it's been there over 11, and then myself I've been there 3 and got a couple of newer employees. But we all sit together and we just tell it like it is, we look at our weaknesses, we look at our objectives, we say okay well what could we do better here, what could we do different here, you know what happened. 2012 was a great year, what happened in 2012 that made it such a great year? Well it was economy and lots of different things.

But so we sit and we have those conversations together, and we outline some goals and objectives and then find ways to meet those goals and objectives. And then I can just give it to the team and we can delegate and look and then they can report back to me and all, but we just find new ways and different ways to approach things. So I think having the historical knowledge of people that have been there awhile, and then the fresh new ideas from our youngster that's in their 30s, maybe seeing some things differently than some of us, so I'm totally always have had an open-door policy.

Come in if you've got an idea that don't think it's going to be shut down, come in let's talk about it. So we'll sit and we do a lot of if, you come to my office in our conference room we've got just sticky note pads all over the conference room, where we're just riding things. You think of something, come write it down and we'll talk about it.

Michael C.: You just mentioned something I found really interesting, you said the youngster we have, are you seeing it as being a challenge for other organizations? I know the ones that I'm on currently we're having a challenge with age right now, and we're seeing a lot of our members getting older and they're saying hey we need to find somebody else to do this, I still want to help out but I'd rather not be responsible for this anymore.

And I'm seeing that more and more and more and I was talking to someone with the an bucks the other day, and they were telling me like man we need some younger members. Is this a trend?

Donna Sharp: I think so, I think for some of the civic organizations like am bucks they're in rotary, I know there are people in so many different areas and doing so many different things that you do see some of the more mature generations maybe a larger number of them and those civic organizations, and some younger people are coming in to kind of fill the space, but it certainly is a challenge.

I know that I've got lots of friends that are with the YPL, I told them I'm an OPL, but that are very involved in lots of causes and lots of activities and lots of things in Longview and that's a wonderful thing.

But you do see generational trends in the volunteer efforts, and the funding efforts, you know they're generations that want to give of their time, and so they will do anything for you all day every day and then others that may want to give of their money and others that may want to actually see exactly where my hundred dollars, what is that 100 dollars doing? And so you certainly see that. But I think we've got a pretty wide range on our volunteers of different generations, age and age ranges and all of that, so I think we've conquered that and faced that really well.

Michael C.: Well If you're a member of a non-profit and you're listening to the show, I would definitely say if this isn't an issue for your organization right now, be thankful but also be prepared because it could be at some point. We're facing the challenge of in our local chapter API of trying to find individuals for our golf tournament, our bass tournament, sporting clays and these are events that traditionally have had a lot of people, but now we're trying to find some younger folks to come in and help and we're really facing some challenges there.

And you may get them there for two meetings, or you know and then they show up the day of the event and it's like hey this thing starts four months before the actual event gets here, we've got to have you here and helping out. I think that also goes to the leadership in these organizations in trying, today we had a meeting at lunch and one of the things that kind of came into mind for me was that we've kind of worked ourselves into such a small group, that for a while there it was like everybody knew their role, everybody knew their job, they just went and did it.

And so as new members were trying to come in and be interested, there wasn't much opening there for them to get in. And so I don't think by any means we missed our window there, but we are going to have to change our approach to new members, and be maybe a little bit more open to giving up larger duties to someone who may has only been there for a year or just a couple of meetings who is asking for that responsibility. That's definitely a challenge; I was interested in hearing if that was something you saw in the different organizations you're working with.

Donna Sharp: Now I do see in the partner agencies more and more of their volunteers are retired folks that have the time, and can come and work several shifts during a week, so they face struggles with volunteers. One of the things I read recently is we're all trying to engage all kinds of different ages and generations to come in and collaborate with us and help us do what we do, and they said that to consider when you're asking a person to come in, whether it's someone in their 30s, 20s, 40s whatever the case may be, ask them to come with a friend.

And then so they're not walking into a situation that's foreign to them, without their buddy beside them and they say that that seems to be fairly successful in creating volunteers.

Michael C.: I like that; it's all about just getting some interests in the organization.

Donna Sharp: Because once you can tell the story and get the interest, a lot of times you got them.

Michael C.: That's right; I think that we could probably spend a whole show just talking about that. One thing though if you're a leader listening to the show out there, it's more than cutting a check and I think that that's a lot of, we've kind of gotten into this society like you said we're okay some of us want to give our time, some of us want to give our money, some of us want to get our dog away if they're chewing on something. But really it's not just about cutting a check, it's like what are you actually doing to get out there and make your community better.

And you don't necessarily have to even be involved with an organization; I would encourage it because organizations are what changed the world community, and leadership and those things. But really it's not just about putting your signature on a check and say well I did this, what are you doing to make a difference in your community, and that's the kind of leadership younger people are going to have to see that it's not just about giving your money away, that couldn't be further from the truth it's more about what are you doing to get involved on the ground floor, what are you doing to recruit, what are you doing to get others involved.

And to me that's kind of becoming a passion for me of saying hey how do we get more people involved on the ground level, I've been able to go to events and do the auctions and do those things which is nice, but at the end of the day, could I have better spent my Saturday versus going to the golf course, could I've actually volunteered my time we made more of a difference than what that check made, whenever I want something at an auction.

So you know and I think that's also coming with age a little bit, is putting your time out there, putting yourself out there, volunteering, find where those holes are at in your community. And there may not even be any holes in your community, but just find an organization and get involved, it doesn't have to be ten hours a month they don't have to be, but maybe an hour a month, an hour every quarter, anything makes a difference.

And I want to encourage, any of our listeners but really the leaders and the managers out there, you're the one who set the tone for your people and the people in your organization. So in our number six value here is spirit for charity and community service, that's a part of who we are and as our organization we encourage volunteers in our company.

I'm telling you someone came in from our office or our shop and said hey, I really need to be off tomorrow, I have this organization I help out with, we're probably going to ask them how can we help too, that's just the nature of who we are in this company. And I know not every company runs their business like that, but it doesn't matter what position you're in or if you're CEO, you need to be encouraging especially if you're in a leadership role in your company.

Donna Sharp: Well exactly and like you say leading by example certainly sets the tone for your organization, and I admire what you do with your employees and just that response to that request for a day to go take care of an organization. You know we have some buzzwords that United Way give, advocate and volunteer, and so that just kind of encompasses what you're saying.

Give certainly we need those funds to help give back to the community, but advocate if you can't give that's okay tell our story, tell people you're having lunch with, visiting with, do that United Way and what they do and then volunteer, volunteer your time and efforts. I was having a conversation with fellow, oh he was probably in his early 30s I suppose mid-30s, and he said our age group is no different than your age group was when you were our age.

He said so separating us out and calling us something different, he said we're all still facing the same things. We're paying off student loans, we're getting married, we're having children, we're doing all of those things so we may not be able to give our money right now. So that's okay, there are lots of ways to give and get involved.

Michael C.: Yes ma'am there are. And to me you learn a lot for volunteering and what you get out of it, you know inside its just wonderful. And I'm telling you if you've ever volunteered for a good cause and you didn't get that good feeling, something's wrong with you. I mean many times you're a part of something that's bigger than you, and you just know I was able to make a difference by collaborating with all these other individuals here, it makes it that much better, it really does.

You know I don't want to discourage other people out there from saying well I do this on my own, or I send my money in monthly by credit card to this organization, I'm not discouraging that by any means. I'm just saying find ways to get involved with people in your community, find your local United Way, and find your local organization that's trying to make a difference.

I mean it could be something as a school booster club, that's one way to make a difference. There are so many different avenues, but I really believe an individual, a person can be made whole by donating their time. And if you're not giving your time away in a manner that's helping others, you're missing out.

Donna Sharp: Well on our website we've got a listing of all of the agencies whose programs we fund, and kind of a brief description of their programs. So for instance one that comes to mind is doors which is a youth transition Center, and it's not just a housing transition, it's just getting a transition from a situation to improve their life.

But they serve the population of fifteen to twenty five, some of the youngsters are homeless some are not. But if that's your passion then go volunteer there, or look at some of the other organizations that we work with because we run the whole gamut of serving individuals in our community. So they need volunteers all of them always, so find your niche.

Michael C.: I believe it was doors was the may have been one of the organizations we went to on our agency trip, and one of the stories that was shared with me it was it was so good. It was about a girl that was living behind it was the Sam's Walmart in a homeless community, and it turned out the girl I think was around maybe 18 or 19 years old and had been homeless for about a year.

Well she had went to them, she had found them and she was very shy at first and it's not like it's just like the person walks in and all of a sudden they walk out a new person, I mean this is a process and these people are pouring their lives into them. And it was neat because this girl it was like she kind of came and went came and went came and went and finally decided yes these folks can help me and she decided to trust them.

Well as she decided to trust them and they helped her, she had no identification, no social security card, no birth certificate, no parents, didn't really know where she had come from, she wasn't local if I remember right and they helped her get an identification card, hard to get a job if you don't have an ID.

Donna Sharp: It's hard to get an ID if you don't have a social and other forms of ID.

Michael C.: So I remember them telling me if a couple of the things that they had to do to make this happen, which is another reason why I love volunteers, because when you're helping somebody out you're not going to let something stop you, you just overcome these little small hills. And I won't share all the hills, but there were a few of them that they had become across that they got through.

And I think the story end up leading to she was able to get her GED, and I think they said there was something about her moving to Utah and training in Job Corps, and training for a while and then now she's been I think it was with FedEx or somebody in New Jersey now for over a year working a job, she has a GED and this was someone that most of us would have just left out.

And to think how many 18 or 19 years year old people out there that they don't see the opportunity they have in front of them, here this girl she took a leap of faith from others who were taking a leap of faith every day to be a volunteer, and they changed her life.

Donna Sharp: Absolutely, they saved her life

Michael C.: Yes and that story I mean we're telling it right now, she probably tells that story, they tell that story, that story just in itself will change life. And so get on the ground floor, go help, go do these things because it will make a difference, and you'll find that your passion will just grow and grow and grow.

And that's how I said early on you're saying you kind of had that in the back of your mind, that bug was getting you, once that passion for philanthropy and passion to be a volunteer gets you, I don't know if you could shake it.

Donna Sharp: I don't think so, it changes you.

Michael C.: Well how important do you think it is for leaders to be involved in philanthropy and charity work and those types of things?

Donna Sharp: I think it helps to keep you grounded, I think it helps to certainly I mentioned earlier leading by example, most companies have their core values and the things that are developed. And when you walk the walk and you talk the talk and you stand behind what you say, it says a lot and it means a lot because people want to help, they want to get involved, but I think leadership just getting involved in your community.

And many leaders are involved in civic organizations and those sorts of things, but when you can kind of get in there and get your hands dirty and work with organizations and really see the struggles, and see the young ladies like that are needing the assistance, it just changes you and you can't help but it just exude from you.

Michael C.: What advice do you just have for leaders out there as far as staying motivated, working in teams, importance of collaboration, I mean you can go any direction you'd like to go here, but just what advice do you have for other leaders?

Donna Sharp: Well find your passion.

Michael C.: I really like that, find your passion.

Donna Sharp: Yes, find your passion, develop that passion, share your passion and bring your team together with that passion, whatever that may be. And that connects you with your team really well, and it shows your genuine interest. I think we can get so busy sometimes just running the rat race that we do in our everyday career and everyday work, that sometimes we don't stop and think as much to do that as we should, myself included.

So share your passions, be involved in your community, get to know about collaborations you know our partner agencies collaborate all the time with each other. How could you as a leader collaborate with other leaders in the community and get together and share your strengths, your weaknesses and that sort of thing. And then find the time to celebrate your wins, like I said losses are going to be there, weaknesses are going to be there, but there are a lot of wins.

And so celebrate those wins, reward yourself, my team doesn't know it yet but this is something I read recently and we're going to do a wins wall. And so we've just got a wall that's going to be your wins, and when you have a win you just write it on a sticky note and you stick it on the wall and then in our next team meeting we're going to celebrate the wins.

Michael C.: I really like that.

Donna Sharp: So celebrate your wins and celebrate each other, because you're in it together, you're in it for a common purpose and a common goal, so celebrate those things. Communication, respect, integrity and passion.

Michael C.: That the passion, I think that's wonderful, that's a wonderful word because if you're passionate about it. I mean Miss Donna I could fill it whenever you were talking to me about the United Way last year I mean I got excited hearing about it, and every time we get to discuss it I think it's easy to get motivated and fill a bit of a passion for it.

Donna Sharp: Oh absolutely.

Michael C.: That's wonderful. And as you're motivating your team, as you're motivating others, I heard something interesting the other day is it's easier to sell an idea than it is to sell a product, and it's easier to motivate a team by an idea than it is to motivate them by a goal. Now goals are definitely important and small wins, but it's the idea that we're working towards something.

And whenever you celebrate those small wins, it's not necessarily about that end goal, it's not about winning the Super Bowl, I really believe the prize is about the journey to get there and those small wins are the journey, those are the things that really make it worth accomplishing. I mean what's the goals accomplished I mean you're done, I mean that was wonderful but I don't know to me I find those small wins even more motivating than knowing that hey we could do this themselves this year, or if we could reduce this by this much or whatever the percentages are, yes that's wonderful.

But what are we doing today that's going to lead to this tomorrow? And what is the journey, how do we get from point A to point B and it's what's in between A and B that actually I think is the fun portion.

Donna Sharp: That's the candy.

Michael C.: Well another thing I've seen, I've seen these pictures of these icebergs and they're like success and above the water it shows that little bit of an iceberg there, and it's like that's all everybody sees happen, but the work is all everything that's down below there. I think that's definitely true, especially for some of the topics we've covered today and the values of leaders and leadership that we've discussed.

So I do envy your journey a little bit knowing that every I mean you probably get a lot of small wins within your organization, but at times those small wins have to fill massive. I mean is there any story or anything you could relate to that really just shifted the way maybe your processes were going, or a way that was very motivating to continue pushing?

Donna Sharp: Well as we've discussed being there and visiting the agencies and talking to the folks is tremendous, but I've had the pleasure of getting to visit with some recipients of services and I could tell stories all day long. But one that comes to mind most often to me is Julie, and Julie was a young mother and she was facing some financial challenges, and she was in the red all the time. She just didn't know where the money was going to come from to pay the rent, and she made a very hard decision to go into a shelter at Longview interfaith hospitality networks, that's one of our programs.

And it's a wonderful program, it's a 90-day program where the family is housed at churches at night and it's all structured on a rotating basis. But anyway the family gets a Sunday-school room that's their home that night, and then during the day they come back to the day facility. And so through this program they're helping them develop financial management skills all kinds of things, put away a little nest egg if they're not working they need to get a job.

And so anyway Julie went through the program, and she's a ray of sunshine, she's just so happy, I mean even in her lowest point she just shone. Anyway she went through the program, and then when she was looking to get out on her own and she had enough for her deposit in her first month's rent, and she had gotten a job, then she went to Long Beach Community Ministries for assistance getting her apartment set up. Well the job that Julie got was with the city of Long Beach in the Sanitation Department, and Julie drives a waste pick up, the big truck.

And I see her regularly she drives the truck in my neighborhood, she nearly scares me to death whenever she drives by because she honks the horn of that big old truck hey miss Donna, but to see where Julie was at such a low point in her life, and to still be so happy or just shine and be happy for her children and make that very tough experience, the shelter is a great shelter but I mean it's still a tough decision to have to make.

And to see the different steps that she went through to rebuild her life and now she's successful and she tells me when I do a presentation at the city of Longview public works every year. She raises her hand and she says Miss Donna I just want everybody to know that I benefited from United Way's services, and I couldn't have given back then but I give now and I will forever, and she's a ray of sunshine.

Michael C.: Well and like you said those stories are probably everywhere, and from what I've seen with the United Way and your organization and with your passion it's only going to continue, so that's a wonderful story to hear. And what events do you all have going on this year; they're going to lead to even more stories like that?

Donna Sharp: Well you know I tell you it's all about public awareness, so we're doing a couple of new things but a couple of standard things that we do. After the campaign Ian’s march 31st, we will hold a celebration in April, mid-April or so of our successes and our wins and all of that wonderful stuff, so that's an annual event that we do. And then our kickoff for next year's campaign will be in mid-September, so those are the annual events that we do every year.

But this year we had a fun idea, we have an Events Committee all volunteers some board members some not, but we're doing a cooking at the Creek, which is a barbecue competition it's not sanctioned it's for fun, maybe next year it will be sanctioned. But Rabi at Bear Creek smokehouse has volunteered to host the event, it's going to be the evening of March 23rd and then the day will be March 24th; the 23rd will be six to ten.

I have tastings of barbecue, live music; it's for 21 and over only on Friday night, but just a fun time for fellowship and eating a little barbecue. And then Saturday is the competition, it's family fun day 10 to 2 we'll have corn hole tournaments, washer tournaments, the judging for the barbecue will be at 11:30 that day, so we still got some openings for some teams so contact us if you're interested in having a team. And then also we have tickets $20 for adults get you in both nights, and then $10 for children 6 to 12 and the kids under 5 are free, so it's going to be a lot of fun.

Michael C.: Okay, and who do individuals need to get in touch with?

Donna Sharp: They can just call us at United Way or check our website or our Facebook page, we're all over Facebook with it.

Michael C.: Wonderful, well that's terrific. And if you want to follow the greater United Way Longview, you can look at them on Facebook @GreaterLongviewUnitedWay you all are also on twitter @GLUW2009 or you can just simply search Longview United Way on Twitter and you all will come right up. And say you're listening to this and you're saying oh my gosh that was months ago that all this came out, listen there's no better time than the time you're listening to the show.

So if you're listening to shown its six months of the day we recorded it, still contact the United Way, there's a way for you to get involved with the organization. And I promise you if you're looking for a way to get involved, if it's not directly with United Way they have plenty of agencies they can direct you towards and ways to get involved in the community. Also say you're not from Longview or East Texas and you're listening to our show, maybe you're in Nashville, find your United Way there, reach out and get involved.

And maybe United Way you're saying I don't know if the United Way's for me or not, but I bet there's been something in the past that you've thought about doing. Go ahead and take that leap of faith, be passionate and just go and do it and be a part of that organization, go see what it's about and I promise if you just let that passion and that determination just overcome you, you're going to be successful at it and you'll be wonderful at it.

Now I do want to encourage leaders out there push your folks to be in philanthropy, push your folks to be a non-profit, push them to be volunteers, there's no greater benefit. Whenever you think about how long life is, for the for the luckiest you're looking at 70, 80 years, what is a couple of hours of going and donate your time to change someone's possible next 40 years of their life.

Donna Sharp: Absolutely.

Michael C.: An hour or two out of your life may change someone's completely, and don't undervalue your value because you can make a difference and you can change people's lives. You may be saying well I don't know if I can do this, I don't know if I could do that, I promise you if you get connected with the right folks you will make a difference, and you will be able to see that and I guarantee you will start leading others in that direction as well.

Donna Sharp: And Michael speaking of making a difference, let me just really quickly mention we do a free income tax preparation service through United Way it's called Vita, and it's going on right now. We're Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings at Broughton Recreation Center and Saturday morning. So give us a call for more information, spread the word, we love to do taxes for free.

Michael C.: That's wonderful Miss Donna; I may have to call you. So the phone number for the United Way Longview is going to be 903-758-0191 and you can call and ask about events, you can call and ask about the tax service, all these things can be reached there. And on that tax service is that for all income levels?

Donna Sharp: It's actually for households of sixty eight thousand dollars or less, and there is no residency requirement we have people coming from all over, so call us for more information on that if you've got some questions.

Michael C.: Wonderful. And if you want to check out the United Way's website it's they have their events and their things scheduled on there, you can see it there as mentioned @GreaterLongviewUnitedWay for Facebook and at @GOUW2009 on Twitter, and also you can send them an email

Miss Donna this has been a tremendous show, I've thoroughly enjoyed having you on, I'm hoping that we're going to get to have you back on for another show later on.

Donna Sharp: That'll be great.

Michael C.: And we've had a great time. And if you have any questions for myself or for Donna about this topic or about this show, you can reach out to us You can also find other podcasts and other things on our different outlets, as well as our website and also on all the social media channels we're @EnergyWeldFab.

So seek us out, ask questions, if you got a question for me, if you got a question for Donna, send it in to us we'll ensure that Miss Donna gets it or you can send her a question at But either way get involved, and if you're contemplating it or maybe you just need somebody to talk to, reach out to us I'd love to have a phone conversation with you about how you can get involved in your area.

Donna Sharp: Me too.

Michael C.: Yes, it’s okay, I don't care if you're an Anchorage Alaska give us a call, let's talk about it. More and more people need to be getting involved in their communities, you don't have to be President of the United States to change the world, you can be yourself in your community and you can make a difference.

Donna Sharp: Absolutely.

Michael C.: Well Miss Donna thank you again for coming on the show, this has been a wonderful opportunity to chat with you and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day.

Donna Sharp: Thank you, and thanks for having me, it was an honor and a pleasure, I had a great time.

Michael C.: Yes ma'am, thank you.

Donna Sharp: Thank you.