The 2013 United Way campaign chair and 2014 Ambassador Program chair Melissa Dammeier thanks Jon Hopkins for joining the Ambassador Program during the United Way campaign in September.

Empowering Employees as Ambassadors

Three words define United Way's mission: give, volunteer, advocate. These same three words also are the foundation for the new United Way Ambassador Program at The Principal.

The program, implemented in September during the 2013-14 United Way campaign, was designed to bring together like-minded employees who share a commitment to volunteerism and United Way's mission to "improve lives by uniting the caring power of our community." As an ambassador at The Principal, employees are empowered to build a greater passion for volunteerism and charitable giving in their workplaces than ever before.

Dan Houston, president of Retirement, Investor and Financial Services at The Principal, acknowledges Melissa Reeves for becoming a United Way Ambassador during the 2013-14 United Way campaign.

Three steps to becoming an ambassador

Only three steps are required for employees to become ambassadors. The employees must:

  1. Make a first-time pledge or increase their pledge to United Way from the previous year
  2. Pledge to use their entire annual allotment of Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
  3. Pledge to tell others about their involvement with the company United Way campaign, whether through face-to-face conversations or social media

"We were looking for a way to engage employees with United Way at a deeper level," says Andrew Allen, director of community relations. "Our ambassador program allows employees to show their passion and support for United Way year-round through giving, volunteering and advocating at the office and in their communities."

More than 700 employees joined the program in 2013. Ambassadors receive a branded badge and email signature to help others recognize them as leaders for the United Way campaign.

Participation was about much more than recognition, however. Below, three employees share why they joined the program:

Jon Hopkins, an IT help desk specialist at The Principal says, "I joined the ambassador program because I believe in the United Way. I like what they do for the community, and I am extremely passionate about education." Hopkins' mother and wife were both former teachers, and his father placed extreme value on education. "I believe that educating people, and helping them have a safe and comfortable environment in order to be educated in, is the key to solving a lot of problems in the world today," he says.

Barb Groepper, assistant manager with The Principal says, she's supported United Way since she first started with the company 33 years ago. "I feel supporting United Way is part of The Principal culture, which I am proud of, and I consider the company match to be a perk. It's easy to pledge through work and when the money is taken out of your paycheck, you don't really miss it. If you had one less pop per week at $1.25 or $5 per month, that pledge then becomes $10 per month with the company match, or $120 a year. You would be surprised at what services that can provide," she says.

Groepper has been involved with the campaign through volunteering, assisting with campaigns and has served on the United Way of Story County Board. She says through her involvement, she's seen how the dollars help the community and how appreciative those receiving the services are.

Jim Elmer, a senior regional equity controller at the company says, "My desire to become an ambassador ties directly to my involvement with United Way. I'm an accountant, and I figured there was a way to use those skills to benefit people in need. That's why I volunteer with VITA. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program helps those who have jobs but are below the poverty line."

Elmer says through this program, volunteers receive annual training and updates on tax law and prepare returns at no cost to qualifying, low-income taxpayers. While the program was created by the IRS, they require local organizations to run sites and supervise the volunteers, and that's where United Way comes in. They recruit and train volunteers, work with local organizations to provide locations and equipment, advertise sites and provide administrative support.

"I've been doing this just under 10 years and have made many friends with other volunteers and those who come in to get their taxes done," he says "This year, we prepared more than 4,600 returns, claiming millions in refunds. It's a valuable service, and the smiles I get with each completed return make it every bit worth the time, volunteer time off and money I give in support."

The United Way Ambassador Program at The Principal is just one of the ways our employees embody our culture of corporate giving and stay involved with their communities.

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