If you were foolish enough, it would be easy to miscast Bill Lowery, a well-dressed, fresh-faced Realtor whose office is tucked away in Fairlawn between West Market and Sand Run. It would be easy to think he’s just a working Joe playing it safe in the suburbs, living in relative isolation.
But there is a fire in the way he speaks that instantly wipes those assumptions away. You can hear in his voice how much he cares about what he does, which is exactly why he was the chair of United Way’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) in 2012 and 2013.
YLS is unique because it offers two step-up programs, allowing donors to start with a $500 gift and incrementally increase to a $1,000 gift while still being recognized as a member from the get-go. As Bill sees it, this is gateway giving.
“It’s just as important, in my mind, to get a 25-year-old to give $500 as an 80-year-old to give $10,000 because that 25-year-old is going to give a lot more than $10,000 when it’s all said and done.”
Bill is a good example of someone who started giving young and found it impossible to stop. After leaving Ohio State University, the Copley High graduate headed to Costa Rica with the Peace Corps, serving for a couple of years in a small business development program. “I do it because I like it,” he says, describing his passion for service.
“I get a lot of energy out of it.”
Today, Bill’s business is selling real estate through Stouffer Realty. And, he coordinates the annual United Way campaign in his office. There are challenges in hosting a campaign in a real estate company—agents can make their own hours and they get commission checks instead of regular paychecks so payroll deductions can’t be offered. Regardless, Bill uses his creativity to make the campaign successful.
“Pretty much every dollar we make is from this community. I’m not selling stuff to Germany. If it wasn’t for this community, we wouldn’t have jobs and people recognize that. I don’t get much pushback.”
While he certainly understands that the better the community gets the more his career improves, there’s more to it than that. Since Bill’s time in Costa Rica, he has seen the urgency of the need for the work the United Way does, and he’s been recharged by the impact well-run programs can have. The further those gifts go, the more likely he is to give.
“My generation wants to see what our money is doing, so the more people we can affect, the longer that donor’s commitment is going to last.”
Summit County also offers young professionals ways to do more than just give money. Recently, Bill met for lunch with a transplant from New York who, after just a few months, had found ways to get involved in the community because “it’s easy.” Those personal connections are what makes this place special and part of the reason Bill is so passionate about the opportunities the YLS has to offer.
“You can give only so much money,” Bill says, “but if you can get other people excited about giving, you can have a much bigger impact.”
When the impact is bigger on the donor side, the programs are better equipped to make an impact. The more Bill has learned about the good United Way programs do to combat poverty, strengthen education and improve community health, the more motivated he has become to get others of his generation to donate too.
“I’ve made it my business to get more of them on board.”
Now, Bill’s taken that get ‘em going young approach another step. When his daughter Kennedy was just three days old he made her the tiny spokesgirl of his office’s campaign, printing out a “LIVE UNITED” graphic and taping it to her wee chest then sending out the message in a video for his staff.