A Tale of Purpose, Passion, and the Extraordinary GrantWorks Way from Steve Mataro, Senior Vice President of Community Relations
“It starts with true servant leadership, flowing effortlessly from the top with Bruce setting the example. This culture of genuine care permeates the entire organization, where people look out for each other’s well-being, where fear and hostility have no place, and where the primary goal is to make a positive impact.”
– Steve Mataro
Though my journey with this remarkable company began only in February, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with its dedicated individuals for many years in various programs, primarily as a Disaster Recovery Builder. Over the past 15 years, I was a founding partner at DSW Homes, where I played a part in rebuilding or renovating over 15,000 homes for families struck by storms, tornadoes, fires, and floods. These families, many of whom were elderly, impoverished, or disabled, were not just victims; they were survivors, facing the aftermath of nature’s fury while awaiting assistance.
Throughout this time, I had the opportunity to engage with various prominent project management firms, often becoming acutely aware of the old adage, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” There were undoubtedly good-hearted individuals within these firms, genuinely striving to make a meaningful impact and enhance the lives of the families they served. However, they often found themselves ensnared within the bureaucratic machinery. When families are identified solely by their application numbers rather than their names, when profits overshadow care, and when the quality of the end product takes a backseat, it becomes evident that corporations prioritize feeding shareholders’ interests over personal connection. This was the bad and ugly aspect of the industry.
But please don’t misunderstand me. My 15 years in disaster recovery have introduced me to some of the most extraordinary, hardworking, talented, compassionate, and intelligent people one could ever hope to meet. They were the epitome of excellence in their field, and that was the good part.
In January of this year, I decided to step back from my role at DSW Homes and retire. As an old Golden Glove boxer from New Jersey, I felt that I had fought the good fight, and it was time to hang up my gloves. However, life has a way of surprising us. Within two weeks of my departure from DSW, word spread that I was no longer with the company. I started receiving calls from firms across the country—many of the same firms I had collaborated with in the past. They wanted to discuss the potential of working together, envisioning a brighter future. It was a striking turn of events. Back when I owned my own company, I often struggled to capture their attention and influence decisions. But now, as an employee, I feared becoming just another cog in the machine, with even less say in the direction we took.
During this period of reflection and uncertainty, I met with a dear friend, GrantWorks’ Donna Johnson, over lunch. Donna has always been the kind of friend who tells you the unvarnished truth, no matter how difficult it may be to hear. She said to me, “Steve, you have so much more to give, and you’ve worked alongside Bruce and the GrantWorks family for years. How do you feel about joining us?” It was as if a light had been switched on, just like in the cartoons. Suddenly, all the wonderful things about GrantWorks came rushing to the forefront of my mind.
I shared with Donna how I felt that if I were to reenter the industry, it could only be by contributing to GrantWorks. She responded, “Well, if you want to be on the A-Team, you should give Bruce a call.” I went home, discussed it with my wife, Karmen and reached out to some other old friends at GrantWorks to gauge their opinion on how I could contribute value. Most importantly, I prayed for guidance before picking up the phone to call Bruce.
Here’s where the truly exceptional part of my journey begins. I called Bruce, we set up a lunch meeting, and I laid out my reasons for retiring and my fond memories of working with GrantWorks.
But the burning question I had was, “Bruce, what would you want from me to add value to such an extraordinary team?” Bruce’s response was simple and profound: “Steve Mataro, I want you to continue doing what I’ve witnessed you do for the past 15 years—care. Care deeply for our clients, for the communities we serve, for our relationships, and for our GrantWorks family. That’s who we are at our core. That’s the GrantWorks way.” Before the lunch was over, I felt knighted, honored, and immensely proud to wear the GrantWorks emblem on my chest.
Now that you know how I came to be here, let me share with you some of the magic that sets GrantWorks apart from the rest. My “why.” It starts with true servant leadership, flowing effortlessly from the top, with Bruce setting the example. This culture of genuine care permeates the entire organization, where people genuinely look out for each other’s well-being, where fear and hostility have no place, and where the primary goal is to make a positive impact. In the words of my friend Natalie Gonzalez, “I’ve never worked in a place where people celebrate your victories, share in your triumphs, and help you through your challenges. Removing the boundaries set by fear and hostility in the workplace creates a limitless capacity to produce quality work.”
GrantWorks is indeed a trailblazer among industry giants, where people are empowered to be their best selves, knowing that their colleagues have their backs. We work hard here, but it’s a good kind of exhaustion—the result of going the extra mile, driven by the incredible values that I’ve just shared.
To me, joining GrantWorks feels like finding the glass slipper that fits perfectly, like Cinderella stepping into a world where every step is guided by purpose, passion, and genuine care for those we serve.