Steve Fowler, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania
Steve Fowler is the Research Specialist for the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. A Washington D.C. native turned proud Pittsburgher, he shifted away from politics to work in non-profit development.
1. Tell us about your cool job as Research Specialist at the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
This position evolved from a small prospect research gig. What started as a minor support role a couple of hours a week soon turned into an organization-wide resource. In the simplest terms, I find things. In the beginning, it was about locating a missing contact or a briefing on corporate donor history. Now it’s about building profiles of those engaged in our work –from a large corporation down to the individual volunteer. Often requests like, “Is there a list of…” or “we want to find people that…” will arise without a clear path from A to B. That middle step is where the research comes in. It’s like a professional scavenger hunt, internet style.
2. Describe your daily responsibilities and your larger strategic objectives.
One of the things I like I about my job is that no two days are alike. I will often get last minute, time-sensitive requests because a meeting was changed or there are new executives coming into the organization. There’s some predictability though, like monitoring traditional and social media outlets for industry trends and interests. It helps to stay ahead of the news cycle, especially with the comings and goings of executives, corporate and social responsibility reports, and the community we serve.
Strategically, this research is helping to move us beyond an inbox culture. Its’ not just gathering information, it’s how you deploy and utilize it that counts. We’re developing a newsfeed that keeps donor relations staff informed. Not only is the feed relevant, but it’s easily accessible and current. Now, rather than treat data requests on an as-needed basis, team members can tune in and scroll through the goings on, comment, and share much as they would in social media. If a cross-collaborative model works in providing services, why can’t it do so for project and data management as well.
3. What do you enjoy most about your position?
I enjoy being the connecting piece between identifying the problem and engaging those that can help. It’s a real thrill to find things that are buried deep in the web too. Think back to when you used to play hide and seek or, a more modern example, the infectious curiosity people have when they’re “creeping” on someone’s Facebook page. It’s very easy to go down rabbit holes when you’re investigating, but you find some amazing connections that way.
4. What accomplishment in your current role gives you the greatest sense of pride, and why?
Recently, I was asked by United Way Worldwide if I would present at the Fundraising for Impact Summit. It’s a proud moment knowing that your name comes up when the United Way Worldwide asks, “Who’s one of the best we can get?” It shows how much this position has evolved and the impact it’s had in a very short amount of time.
5. You’re personally passionate about creating a more inclusive workplace where all can participate equally. What advice do you have for employers looking to attract, create, and retain a more inclusive workforce?
There’s a lot to be said about workplace culture and its impact on a person’s ability to even get in the door. Take a look at your fellow colleagues, the board, its leadership: does your organization’s workforce represent a cross-section of the population it serves? Sometimes it’s “the way things have always been done” and that’s a problem. Take the wording of a job posting: employers may be turning away talent because of boiler plate language in a job description. Things like requiring a driver’s license or using labor standards for an office support role could be turning away diverse talent.
6. How does the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania specifically support you so that you can be successful in your role?
Our organization’s leaders have faith in my ability to adapt to changing needs and deliver on things not yet possible. Professional confidence empowers great potential on all levels—that’s the best support any supervisor can give.
7. What do you do in your free time to unwind and recharge your battery?
I like to turn on the radio and cook after a long day. To quote Julia Child, “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food.” I have a green thumb, and when the weather is nice I keep a pretty sizeable garden. When I was a kid I’d come home from a hard day and play in the dirt. Now that I’m a grown-up though, I come home and play in the dirt.
8. Tell us something few people know about you…
I love shopping. We’re talking full-blown, Carrie-Bradshaw-loving-shopping.
As often as possible we feature a talented individual who found their cool social impact job through Nonprofit Talent. Did you find your job thanks to Nonprofit Talent’s job board or social media posts? Tell us your story and you could be featured in an upcoming blog post and newsletter!