We are profiling just some of the Regions associates who make a difference by giving so much to their communities in our United Way Volunteers series. We hope these stories will inspire others to reach out and make a difference.
For most Regions associates, the United Way campaign is a month-long effort to bring attention to the impact nonprofits make in their community.
But for Susan Clowdus, the annual campaign is a nine-month-long passion project.
Clowdus is the Birmingham-based Community Affairs charitable program administrator and United Way project manager who has been the behind-the-scenes wizard helping run record-setting United Way campaigns at Regions from North Carolina to Louisiana.
While she would prefer to stay behind the scenes, her hard work has been noticed by everyone.
“Susan is probably the most dedicated person I have ever worked with,” said Rachel Letcher, United Way of Central Alabama relationship manager. “Not only is she super dedicated in making sure the United Way campaign is successful, she truly cares about the partner agencies we work with and makes sure they are spotlighted in a different way. She’s passionate and very detail oriented.”
And she shows that determination to help every market she works with.
In Charlotte, Regions associates surpassed a fundraising goal of $80,000 by nearly $70,000, said Juan Cazorla, campaign chair. The key: agility.
“Rather than focusing on a traditional campaign, our central theme was how the pandemic had widened the gap between the haves and have-nots, creating an acute need for basic necessities,” Cazorla said. “We also made it clear that contributions to the United Way stay local. In fact, 89 percent of the funds raised in the United Way of the Central Carolinas campaign stay within Mecklenburg and Union counties.”
The message resonated with Charlotte-area associates, who donated at a 74 percent clip and increased giving from previous years by 400 percent.
Back in Birmingham, that’s music to the United Way campaign’s project manager.
“Campaigns across the footprint are staggered,” Clowdus said. “In Nashville, for example, our United Way campaign launched Aug. 11. To prepare, we began pulling files in June and adding associates to our database each week.”
For Clowdus, who works in the Corporate Philanthropy wing of Community Affairs, this isn’t just a matter of getting the job done.
It’s far more personal.
She first began volunteering with United Way organizations after losing a child in utero. As she discovered the various needs in the community through more than 80 nonprofits, she became keenly aware of how personal the help could be.
When she adopted her son, who was born with a club foot, she didn’t hesitate to bring him home from his California birthplace.
“I told the agency that we didn’t foresee any problems because we lived in one of the best medical communities in the world,” Clowdus said. “And that includes the crown jewel, Children’s of Alabama. What many people don’t know is that years ago, when Children’s had trouble meeting payroll, the United Way of Central Alabama stepped in with help.”
At age 5, her son saw a United Way commercial on TV. As the spot concluded, he looked up and said, “Mom, I’m so glad you work with United Way,” Clowdus remembered. “And when he got his first full-time job, the next thing he did was sign up with United Way.”
This campaign has seen her work with campaign chairs in so many areas – Lee Blank in Nashville, Robin Striblin in Panama City, Florida, and Kevin Smith in Monroe, Louisiana.
But back home in the Magic City, the United Way of Central Alabama carries considerable weight. Regions President and CEO John Turner is the United Way chairman. Paula Drake, head of Corporate Communications, is on the board.
And Regions associates are among the agency’s top contributors every year. The Birmingham campaign raised a record $4 million in 2020, only to surpass that this year.
“Growing the campaign is where Susan shines,” said Letcher, who began planning 2021 efforts with Clowdus in April. “Throughout the campaign, she’s taking notes on how we can improve a year from now. She also set up volunteer opportunities with the community food bank, set up a video to promote the Birmingham campaign, where she visited three partner agencies. The key to growing is listening to what the associates care most about and that’s where Susan has an innate ability to connect people and needs.”
That’s just part of Clowdus’ DNA.
“I see my job really as the help desk with United Way,” Clowdus said one recent morning, after working till midnight the evening before. “I love every minute of working with our teams across the footprint, providing them with details and troubleshooting problems.
“I’m the liaison between Regions and the United Way, and the reward is seeing how our associates respond with record giving. We live our mission every day by trying to make the world a better place.”