Monica Steigerwald, Director of Major Gifts at Eisenhower Fellowships, discusses the work that she does to support changemakers worldwide. Monica discusses a project funded by Eisenhower that she found particularly inspiring, and which has impacted over 100,000 people so far.
Speaker 1: Alright, well welcome to the space where we reveal our personal humanity to reconnect with our shared humanity. And it is my true pleasure to introduce you to Monica Steigerwald, director of major gifts at Eisenhower Fellowships. Hi, Monica.
So tell me, for those of us that don’t know, what is Eisenhower Fellowships?
Wow. Okay. Yeah, so in your own mind, what does that mean to make the world more peaceful, prosperous and just like in your definition?
Wow. What… in your tenure there so far, which how long have you been with Eisenhower Fellowships as the Director of Major Gifts?
Wow. That’s exciting. That’s really exciting. So in that tenure, has there been a project that’s really kind of touched you in a way the others haven’t? That you’ve been excited to facilitate into the world?
Oh, my God. That’s unbelievable.
Well, I mean they’re very fortunate to have you because obviously you see the passion, and the value in something like this. And Lord knows in the climate that we’re living in, we really do need world changers and people who are maybe not the definition of sane the way we like to think about it. Like they’re crazy enough to find a cab driver to take them to the South side of Chicago. Which is seriously like, if you think about that, that’s not a normal request. Like and, you know, for him to really be brave enough to roll up his sleeves and to get out there because he knew he had a bigger vision is amazing. And the fact that you guys are facilitating people like this is just, for me it’s breathtaking because it just really gives a lot of hope, you know, where there- there hasn’t been a lot, you know lately.
But, yeah so do you mind if we talk about your childhood a little bit? Okay.
So how young were you when you first started facilitating making big changes in the world. And I want you to think back to your childhood. So like between the ages of 8 and 14.
And where do you fall in the pecking order?
I heard about this story. I watched a documentary in Catholic school, all girls Catholic school, about these three nuns. Yes. In El Salvador.
Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean I remember when my mom and dad moved. My sister and I [inaudible 00:08:39] to an all girls Catholic high school and we had… the nun that made an impact on me was Sister Alice Walsh and she was this nun from Massachusetts. And I was terrible at math. I was terrible. I was- it was like I don’t know, I was in 8th grade, and I had a “D” going in. But I left with an “A+” because she just knew that I could do it and just worked with me. But I remember this one time we were standing up at the board, and she was asking us, you know, to do whatever math problem it was. It was… I know it was decimals. And I said- she said, “Ms. Burns, what’s the answer?” And I said, “A hundred and…” And she goes, “Tut, tut, tut, tut. And is not a number.” And I’ll never forget that. So I always say, “A hundred eight.” You know, because she’s in our minds like that. And those people that leave…
Yeah. They leave hand prints on our heart just like, you know, this nun did for you. And that’s so funny that across the country, you know, years later, I’m watching this documentary of a nun that impacted you. It’s- it’s unbelievable how these stories happen.
So- so tell me about mom and dad. What did they do?
Wow. Wow. So, what qualities do you think you get from your mom and what do you get from your dad that you leverage today in your role at Eisenhower Fellowships?
Sounds like her daughter.
So she was… let me just make sure I’m clear on this. So, you’re basically saying that she was taking care of everybody else, but in her fifties she realized she couldn’t pour from an empty cup, so she had to take care of herself.
Love that. What a wise woman.
Oh, I’m so sorry.
Wow! That’s such a cool memory.
Well, and you know what? That kind of sounds like a great lesson in life, you know? When you capsize, how do you pull yourself back up? You know, and I think that’s- that’s a skill lacking in a lot of the next generation because unfortunately they’ve been raised by helicopter parents who haven’t allowed them to fall on their faces. You know? So that is such a valuable lesson because there’s such beauty in the failure. You know, and there are lessons that you can’t learn any other way than to fall on your face and to learn how to pull yourself up.
So, have you- have you had a situation in life where you’ve put those… not exactly the skills of like being in a boat and capsizing it, but knowing how to pull yourself up that you learned from your dad?
Oh my gosh!
No, but it’s- it’s so interesting because, I mean… and you and I haven’t- we’ve known each other for a brief time and I’m hoping we stay in each other’s lives for a really long time. But, when I started out in college, I- I was pre-med biology because I had the full intention of being a large animal vet. I didn’t want, like… being an Executive Leadership Coach for CEOs and high net worth individuals was not in the cards. But, you know, it’s what I was born to do and it took each and every one of those professional experiences to get me here. So, I’m a big believer that those are the building blocks of where you are now and those are the- that’s the foundation you stand on now. So, how- how did you end up… like what… I know it was a circuitous route, but how did you end up with Eisenhower Fellowships?
No, I love it too.
Oh, I love… that’s another great organization.
Yeah. I’ve… Wow! I’ve heard many things about her, but I haven’t… I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mayor Nutter but I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her. And I’m- she’s one of those people I’m just dying to meet. It just hasn’t happened. So, wow. What an honor. Yay! Oh good. Because I’d love to have her on! I’d love to have her on the podcast, so…
Monica don’t- let me interrupt you for one second. When you say authentic… so I know what it means in my mind. When you’re talking about it in the context that you and Lisa were talking about, how do you define that?
Oh my God. Say what you need to say. Yes. Oh my God.
Yeah. Well that’s, I mean, that’s- that’s just incredible. So, you have two beautiful daughters. Let’s say, “Hello,” to them. What are their names?
Okay. So who’s the- who’s the oldest of the two? Who’s the firstborn?
Yes. Okay, so I want you to go back to the day that Claire was actually born. And you- you’ve given birth to her. They put her in your arms for the very first time and you look down in your face- her face, and you realize for the very first time in your life, you’re a mom. What’s that moment like?
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Oh. That’s amazing. Well again, just like her mom, I mean, that was the sense I got when you sat down next to me at that luncheon. Is that- here’s this bright light that I need to know and gravitate towards. So, I’m sure that really really helps you in the work that you do.
So, Monica, for your great, great, great, great grandchildren that may be listening to this interview years from now, what kind of wisdom would you want to share with them?
Yeah. It’s so interesting that we’re talking about this because just yesterday, I let go of something that I had been white-knuckling, holding onto since May. And it was just like as soon as I decided it was over and I walked away, and now… I can’t tell you the details, but it was… let’s just say, it was a former client that was harassing me and there was- there were lawyers involved and all that stuff. And finally I was like, “Enough is enough.” Enough is enough. I’ve been through the ringer. And it was like as soon as I made that decision, as soon as I told my lawyer we’re going to drop it, my whole body relaxed. Which is how I knew… and not just my whole body. That doesn’t- that’s not even fair. Let’s just say my whole being relaxed. And what was interesting was I was so focused on the money aspect of it, I didn’t realize how sick it was making me and how much it was changing my personality. So, you know, I know when my body reacts like that or my being reacts like that, that it’s the right decision.
And then of course the authentic part is just so resonant. That was another conversation that I’ll actually have with you a little bit offline. About a colleague who gave me some feedback that was completely out of alignment with who I am. So, it’s just- it’s just interesting like how you have these conversations and they’re exactly what you need at the exact right time if you’re willing to be open to them. So, I just- I really wanted to… Yeah. I really wanted to thank you for that. I mean, you’re just- you really do make an impact and a positive impression from the moment you interface with Monica. And if you haven’t had a chance to, reach out to her because she’s just an incredible human. And obviously has an amazing story.
So, I like to- to end the podcast with four rapid fire questions. And they’re fun questions, so, I mean, it’s not anything you won’t know the answer to. So, are you ready?
Okay. Okay. So, what is your favorite comfort food?
Yum! I love that! Okay. What is on your playlist right now?
Oh my gosh! I love ACDC. What’s your favorite song by them?
Yes! That’s a great song. Of course, I love “You Shook Me All Night Long,” or “Hells Bells,” too.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh my gosh and ABBA. Of course there’s always room for ABBA.
Okay. What books are on your nightstand?
Wow. Those are great books.
Okay. And what are you most grateful for in this moment right now?
Good. Okay. Is there anything that you would love to communicate to the audience before we wrap up that we haven’t covered?
Yeah. It’s so true. Aww, well thank you. I really appreciate that. It- and not to digress before we wrap up, but there’s a woman and I can’t remember her name, but if you Google it, it’s called the “You Matter Marathon.” And she has these little business cards with the words, “You matter” on them. And her goal is to give them to enough people that a million are given out. And you can go online and… like she’ll send you thirty. And then you can do more if you want to. Every person that I handed one of those out to, it was like I was giving them a million dollars. It just- it made such a huge impact. So something as simple as that can really change the trajectory of somebody’s life. To tail off of what Monica was saying.
But, thank you so much, Monica. I just- I loved having an authentic conversation with you. It’s so great to get real. And to our listening audience, our intention with this podcast, is that this episode will inspire you to get real and have conversations that deepen the connections in your life.
Thank you so much for listening and have a great day.