As president and chief executive of Long Island's United Way since 2009, Theresa Regnante engages high-impact board members and develops strong community partnerships that support its 110 organizations. It isn't easy, she says, with payroll donations down, county resources strapped and an "explosive growth in need." (From 2007 to 2011, Food Stamp recipients in Nassau and Suffolk increased by approximately 148 percent, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.)Three years ago, Regnante, 49, began competing for state and federal grants and county partnerships. Now, despite the recession, she has increased revenue by more than 43 percent. And, with $350,000 collected and commitments for another $100,000, United Way's Wednesday luncheon is due to raise $450,000, up by $200,000 from 2010.
What is a new program you've added since the recession?We were not an organization training people for jobs four years ago. Today we have a Green Training Division, for veterans who are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan and people on public assistance, providing green training to become energy auditors, crew chiefs and installers. . . . We are able to generate, in essence, $2 million dollars a year. We are writing grants, we have contracts with the Department of Social Service and direct grants from private foundations to take these individuals through the training.
How did you tweak your pitch to raise your revenue by 43 percent?We started to do a lot of grant writing. And honestly, thank God I and the United Way have a lot of friends . . . The best thing an organization can do is surround itself with people with great reputations. People often don't necessarily just buy the mission in the organization. They're really investing in the whothat's asking. We need to talk to people, not email people. We need to get in front of people. We need to have coffee with people . . . I go to people and I say, "The region needs your help; I need your help."
How do you recruit influential board members?
I sit with the [potential] board member and with a board development committee individual, and we go through the menu of the United Way . . . our network of 110 agencies [that] share around $3 million of support from us. And people sort of get it, they're like, "Wow, you support the Red Cross . . . you support military families." I think that every human being has a passion to help and to do something. It's our job to sort of unearth that in everybody.
What is your favorite guilty workplace pleasure?Eating the glazed doughnuts after meetings. I'm a glazed doughnut junkie.
NAME: Theresa A. Regnante, president and chief executive of United Way of Long Island in Deer Park
WHAT THEY DO: "Invest in and develop programs that address Long Islanders' critical needs in education, income/financial stability and health"
EMPLOYEES: 40 full time, 5 part time
ROLES THEY PLAY: Business development, fundraising, accounting, green construction training, program development and administration, marketing and communications, contract administration, grant administration
REVENUE: $21.6 million