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Amanda Ponzar
Washington DC metro area
Communications director for largest privately funded nonprofit in the world
Recent Activity
by Amanda Ponzar @LivingUnited Let's talk about Twitter: -- #redefinepower from @ForbesWoman Summit -- #BringBackourGirls which leveraged social media to raise awareness and demand action regarding the abduction of girls in Nigeria. Human trafficking and slavery is one of the greatest moral outrages of our century; an atrocity that affects millions of people, primarily girls and women, in every country including the United States. -- #UWCLC. It was trending on Twitter most of the week. What is it? United Way just finished its annual conference (called CLC) today, and one of the highlights was recognizing "Corporate Champions of Change." Companies that are doing good and making the world a better place for all of us. Just watch this video, and you'll see why I love my job. Full news release below. Normally, all we hear is the bad news. Isn't it time to hear about the good stuff? United Way Celebrates Corporate Champions of Change 11 corporations recognized for innovative use of company assets, employee engagement and results in communities worldwide Alexandria, VA (May 14, 2014) – Yesterday, United Way Worldwide recognized eleven companies as “Outstanding Strategic Partners,” celebrating their long-term commitment, giving, volunteering, leadership and employee engagement which is making a lasting impact to improve lives and communities. “United Way and communities around the world wouldn’t be where we are today without the passion and partnership of these corporate leaders and their employees,” said Brian Gallagher, president and CEO, United Way Worldwide. “They are helping us scale impact around the world and create opportunities for a brighter future and a better life for all people.” 2014 winners: 3M (NYSE: MMM) @3MNews – 3M & its employees encourage innovation through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), by volunteering and supporting students and schools. Globally, 3M supports United Way’s early childhood education effort around the world including Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific. AT&T (NYSE: T) @ATT – AT&T is one of United Way’s top national company campaigns year after year and also supports United Way through an AT&T online auction. AT&T also is leading the way with new technologies, including a mobile optimized web application for employees to pledge during the annual campaign using their mobile phones. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) @BofA_Community -- Bank of America has been a longtime supporter of United Way and its affiliates for decades contributing more than $200 million and engaging employees annually through the company’s United Way Campaign. In 2006, the bank helped launch United Way’s life-changing financial stability work and has contributed $6.5 million towards volunteer income tax assistance and Earned Income Tax Credit education as well as holistic financial programs, which have helped millions of hardworking individuals and families nationwide. Deloitte LLP, @DeloitteUS -- Deloitte is a leader in its efforts to help address our nation’s most pressing societal needs, notably through its more than 30-year commitment to United Way. With one of the nation’s largest United Way employee giving campaigns – and alongside its award-winning pro bono program and community engagement initiatives – Deloitte supports its national focus on education and veterans issues through designated United Way collaborative funds. GE (NYSE: GE) @generalelectric -- GE’s global vision for education, income and health includes a long-term commitment to and investment in United Way and communities from the company, foundation, employees and retirees. GE also donates 2% of all appliance purchases at the GE Outlet Store to help United Way advance the common good. P&G (NYSE: PG) @proctergamble -- P&G touches and improves the lives of millions of children around the world, and made it possible for the entire Latin America region to focus on improving early learning and helping kids get ready for success in school by expanding Born Learning with United Way. Publix Super Markets, @Publix – Publix has made a long-term commitment to kids and Born Learning, United Way’s early childhood education engagement campaign, educating customers with helpful tips on school readiness through multiple channels – in-store experiences, newsletters, shopping bags and more. Target (NYSE: TGT) @Target -- Target’s national education partnership with United Way is helping communities collaborate to improve kindergarten readiness and test scores, and long-term, ensure more young people graduate from high school and college. UPS (NYSE: UPS) @UPS -- UPS and its employees were the first company to raise $1 billion in contributions to United Way, with focused efforts on education and financial stability. UPS also holds an annual eBay auction, leveraging their sports and entertainment connections to raise funds for United Way. The company has also been an early champion for United Way’s global expansion, ensuring more people and communities would be strengthened for generations to come. Walmart (NYSE: WMT) @WalmartGiving – The Walmart Foundation’s national investment in MyFreeTaxes with United Way is increasing access to free tax preparation and filing services and building awareness about the Earned Income Tax Credit. This critical work has helped millions of individuals and families save over $8 billion since 2009, building financially stronger futures and communities. Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) @WellsFargo -- Wells Fargo is working with United Way to create a new Financial Capability Network that will strengthen individuals, families and communities across the country. This work is helping people follow a budget and save for the future so they can buy a home, educate children, build a business and achieve their financial goals. Winning companies also increased employee engagement through mobile, web, videos and social media and leveraged numerous company assets including product donations and skilled volunteering to create sustainable, positive changes in local communities worldwide in the areas of education, income and health. About United Way United Way is a worldwide movement of nearly 1,800 community-based United Ways in 41 countries and territories. It advances the common good by focusing on education, income and health – the building blocks for a good quality life. The United Way movement mobilizes millions to action – to give, advocate and volunteer – to improve conditions in their local community. For more information about United Way, please... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda J. Ponzar @LivingUnited Happy snow day. #Snowpocalypse. #Snowmaggedon. It's time to relax, recharge, re-evaluate. I even started re-reading George Orwell's 1984, chuckling about how similar “Big brother is watching you” seems to the NSA today. Students and teachers cheered; school is closed. Many kids played in the snow (including mine). Sledding, snow angels, snowball fights -- followed by hot cocoa with mini marshmallows. Federal government employees got the day off. Single people (or those without kids) probably slept in and watched TV –- maybe the Olympics. Go Team USA! Ah, I remember those carefree days before kids. Parents are still drinking coffee and struggling to occupy the little ones. This long, cold winter has kept us all indoors, and spring can't come soon enough. Punxsutawney Phil, pull yourself together and out of that hole. You can't be afraid of your own shadow. Some of you may have lost power, got in a fender bender (hopefully not) or are sprawled on the couch with a heating pad after shoveling the driveway (our family's brave shoveler is napping right now). Whatever you meant for this day to be, it's probably different than you planned. Yet, it's a great chance to stop and take special time for yourself. To be thankful. To be together with those you love. And love brings us to tomorrow: Valentine's Day. A day when we're supposed to be in love, to view love as cupids and cupcakes, chocolates and cookies, kisses and candies, roses and restaurants. (Sounds fattening?) But rather than wish for love, can't we just start by loving those around us? The people we already have in our lives? Everyone wants to be loved, and dreams about that one perfect romantic relationship that will fill everything empty inside and make life a wild rollercoaster of wonder, but rarely do we stop to think about loving others first. Loving our family. Friends. Neighbors. Coworkers. Church/synagogue members. Clients. Acquaintances. Starbucks barista. Postal carrier. Hair dresser. “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It's the only thing there's just too little of.” Listen: People are the most important “things” -- and the only thing that lasts after the snow and chocolates melt. Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda J. Ponzar @LivingUnited Let’s talk about women -- with a capital "W". Because there's a lot we need to say, and do, to make changes around the world. And it's more than just leaning in. Women represent: 11% of heads of state less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs only 12% of large nonprofit CEOs only 15% –- or 1 in 7 -- World Economic Forum attendees Read more of “The Hard Facts on Gender” post by World Economic Forum. Then after the facts sink in, do yourself a favor -- take action. Follow great women leaders and organizations on Twitter –- and make your voice heard by joining the conversation. Consider running for office. Get on your local school board. Mentor a younger woman. Join a women's group. Sign up to fight human trafficking (which mostly affects women & girls). Consider supporting an increase in the minimum wage (60% of minimum wage workers are women, most supporting a family) -- though that's a controversial issue & I don't have all the facts. But we have to start somewhere. Here are a few of my other posts on women: What's up with women, CSR & the environment Hey, Santa, have you seen these stats? Women making a power play Women give more. Period. Social media matters (with stats on women) Related articles Social Media Matters: 10 reasons to get on Twitter Women give more. Period. Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar @LivingUnited Coworkers or clients often say, “Why should I waste my time on social media?” Here are 10 reasons why social media, Twitter especially, is definitely worth your time: 1.) Get breaking news fast. I knew about the Boston marathon bombings and Navy Yard shootings before my coworkers. A client called me today to ask me to tweet about her news; I had already read it on Twitter & retweeted. In comms/PR, this is important. 2.) Take part in global conversations – whether it's Social Good Summit, Clinton Global Initiative, GivingTuesday, Golden Globes, SuperBowl, Fundchat or World Economic Forum in Davos (which is going on this week – follow #WEF14), you can learn what's happening and share your perspective. Today I heard only 11% of heads of state, less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs & only 12% of large nonprofit CEOs are women. Plus, only ~15% – or 1 in 7 WEF attendees – are women. We must know this and work to change it. You better believe I've tweeted those stats a few times! More facts here: 3.) Follow the leader. You can follow and engage with presidents, celebrities, comedians, authors, world leaders, CEOs, even the Pope, all on Twitter. It's a great way to learn, laugh and be inspired. 4.) Get a job. Recruiters often use LinkedIn for hiring so if you're not on LinkedIn, you almost don't exist. Hiring managers often check Twitter & Facebook plus conduct Google searches to learn about you and see if you know how to use social media, blogging, etc. Don't tell me you're a social media expert if you have 5 Twitter followers. Your online reputation is important – which also means you shouldn't post anything you don't want the world to see. 5.) Connect with clients. Some of my best Twitter conversations are with clients at the many Fortune 500 companies I work with. It's great to see what they are talking about, whether CSR, coffee, SuperBowl or an award their company won, and they often reach out to engage me so I can promote it on Twitter. Starbucks, UPS, General Electric and many other major brands follow me on Twitter. 6.) Engage media. Whether it's traditional media like The New York Times, CNN, CNBC or The Guardian, or a Millennial Talk Show Host who has a regular Tuesday Twitter chat like Chelsea Krost, they are almost all on social media and you can get them to cover your story if you take interest in their work, follow the individual reporters and intelligently respond to their posts and particpate in their Twitter chats, Google + hangouts, etc. 7.) Amplify the message. It's great to use your website, blog, newsletter, etc. to promote your product or raise awareness of your great cause, but to really get the word out, you also need to use social media, with the appropriate hashtags and Twitter handles, whether #WEF14, #Shutdown or #SuperBowl. 8.) Complain. Social media has given consumers great power. Now, if you have a problem with a mega brand, you can often tweet or contact them through social media for immediate responses and quick resolution. Pizza Hut responded within three minutes and gave me a free pizza. Same with Fresh Express when I found a praying mantis in my spinach bag. (Yuck!) Be sure to thank brands online when they do a good job. I love @Starbucks & @Frappuccino and they know it. @Amazon is great too & always resolves any concerns. 9.) Maintain a living rolodex. When I can't find someone's phone number or email address, I often send a direct message through Twitter or a note through LinkedIn. It's a great way to stay in touch and have access to your connections quickly. 10.) Have fun. Whether goofing with friends or by following celebrities, you'll laugh out loud by some of the funny photos & posts on Twitter & Facebook. You'll definitely smile more. As I've said before, I'm not a celebrity or CEO, but I have more than 1k business connections on LinkedIn plus more than 800 Twitter followers and a Klout score that was 61 today. If you're not part of the social media conversation, your voice isn't being heard. So join in. Get started by following @LivingUnited on Twitter! Read my other posts: LinkedIn: Social networking to get noticed: How to double your twitter followers: Related articles How to Double your Twitter Followers in 6 Months: Top Twitter Tips for 2014 Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar @LivingUnited It's 2014. Time for a new year. Time to stop making excuses and time to just do it. You don't have to quit your day job to live your dream (though it could lead to that). Here's proof. Peter Dudley is a CSR leader by day, but by night (and early mornings at Starbucks), he writes young adult novels, available on Amazon. Many people fantasize about being a published author. Peter has done it. So I asked Peter a few questions about how he balances a full-time job, parenting and writing, plus his top tips for breaking into the business. Bonus: Peter will mail a FREE, autographed copy of one of his books to the 10th person that tweets: .@dudleypj, I want a #free copy of your book. Q: Peter, you’ve followed your passion to write in your spare time resulting in two books on Amazon; how did you get started, motivate yourself and find time? A: I’ve loved to write since I was a little kid. My fifth grade teacher taught us how to make books, and I wrote about a dozen that year (blog post: But I kind of dropped writing when I found myself with a job, a wife, a house, and two kids. Then, about 2002, I decided to pick it back up again, and in 2004 I discovered National Novel Writing Month, The idea is to complete a 50,000 word story in the month of November—just 30 days. I managed my 50,000 words, and a few months later I completed my first 68,000 word manuscript, which wasn’t half as bad as I expected. The next couple of years I did it again, completing four manuscripts—the last of which was actually pretty good. Along the way, I wrote and published several short stories and won some small online fiction contests, essentially putting in my “ten thousand hours” becoming expert in my craft. In 2010, I set out to write Semper. It was hard finding time with all my other commitments, but I got up early and wrote three days a week before work, and sometimes late at night. It took about eight months to draft the manuscript and another four or so in revisions. It turned out pretty well, and now I get a lot of my motivation from the positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and from the supportive comments and emails I get from people I’ve never even met. Q: What would you recommend to someone who wants to self-publish? What are the 3 things someone needs to know? A: The most important thing is to understand why you want to self-publish. The traditional publishing process is insanely frustrating, but self-publishing is not a shortcut to success. As the self-publisher, you need to handle everything from editing to formatting to cover design to marketing. There are contractors and tools that will help you with all of that, but the more you hire out, the more you pay out of pocket to make your book real. If you’re set on self-publishing a novel, though, my three top tips are these: 1. Hire a good cover designer. I did Semper's first cover myself, and it wasn’t awful, but after a few months it really hampered sales potential. People looking at my book did not think, “teen post-apocalyptic science fiction.” When I was preparing to publish Forsada, I hired a cover designer for both books, and I’m much happier. A good cover (including print version) really shouldn’t cost much more than $200 or $250, and a good cover ends up paying for itself. 2. There’s no need to be everywhere right out the gate. My ebooks are only available for Kindle, but not because I don’t believe in the other formats (my family owns a Nook but not a Kindle). I focused on Amazon because they are the undisputed market share leader and have a lot of very easy to use, author-friendly tools. Writing is my moonlighting job after my day job, my family, my home, my volunteer work, etc. So I don’t have time to manage multiple products on multiple platforms. I’m guessing you don’t either. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select is a good program in my experience. 3. I would recommend publishing in print as well as ebook. The trend today is to push ebooks out as quickly as possible, and maybe that’s a good idea if revenue is your driver. Then again, if revenue is your driver, you should probably do something other than write novels. Creating a print version of Semper was only a matter of creating a print cover, reformatting the manuscript slightly, and getting an ISBN through my publisher CreateSpace (an Amazon property). It’s simple and almost free, and there are very few things more satisfying than signing a copy of your printed novel for someone who loves it. You can’t sign ebooks. For me, the emotional rewards of publishing were my top objectives; the revenue is really pointless to me, at least in the short run. 4. Okay, another tip: Don’t get caught up in the traditional publishing definition of success. Traditionally published books have three to six months to prove themselves before the publishers lose interest and move on to the next one. If you self-publish, you own your rights forever, so there is no artificial timeline you need to follow. Relax, don’t sweat the sales numbers. Celebrate every sale, but don’t bite your nails to the nubs if your book isn’t performing like you want it to. Keep writing and keep publishing because the top two ways people decide to read a new book are (1) recommendations from friends or trusted sources, and (2) familiarity with the author’s work. Q: What is the biggest challenge to being an author? What is the best thing about it? A: Without a doubt, the best thing is hearing glowing comments from readers who loved your book. The first month or two Semper was out, I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar @LivingUnited First, a disclaimer. I am not Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber. I don't have millions of Twitter followers. Just 747 (sounds like a jet plane...). However, that still places me in the top 10% of Twitter users according to Peter Kafka (@pkafka). Major brands like @Starbucks, @frappuccino, @UPS, @generalelectric, @UnitedWay, @SalvationArmyUS and more follow me. I've gotten replies from @AnnCurry and @Microsoft, plus retweets from @OneCampaign. If I can do it, so can you! So, here are a few Twitter tips from a real person -- not a celebrity, not a social media manager for a mega company – on how to increase your Twitter followers. I had 368 followers in May 2013; now, about six months later in December, I have nearly 750. Here's how I did it. CREATE a profile with a real picture, not the Twitter egg. FOLLOW coworkers, friends, clients, news outlets, celebrities, etc.; take Twitter's suggestions for who to follow; you can always unfollow later. TWEET stats and links to interesting news, blog posts, press releases, YouTube videos, photos, etc. Share inspirational quotes and humor. No one will follow you if you aren't sharing anything interesting. SHORTEN links by sending through LinkedIn or using or owly. THANK and mention others using their Twitter handle – “Thanks @LivingUnited for the interesting #Twitter tips article”. ENGAGE: Reply, retweet, favorite, mention! Always cite the source “via @LivingUnited” or “by @NYTimes”. It never hurts to favorite someone else's tweets to show you liked/read it. Also, instead of retweeting, you can quote someone else's tweet with quotes or RT and their Twitter handle. USE hashtags: #LiveUnited, #shutdown, #coffee, #GivingTuesday – see what hashtags are trending & take part in the conversation around holidays, events, sports, news or subjects: #Christmas, #HTTR, #kids, #TheVoice, etc. Use the “Discover” button on Twitter to see what your network is talking about. JOIN Twitter chats/Tweet-ups like #fundchat, #ragansocial, #MillennialTalk, #CGI, etc. – whatever your interest area. If you see others using a certain hashtag, look it up in Twitter and see what the conversation is about. When you attend an event or conference, use the organization's Twitter handle (like @IJM) and hashtag (#freedom) in your tweets. TRACK your Klout score: sign up for a Klout account, link to Twitter, and track what engages others and increases your social influence score. My Klout score is currently 60, but waffles between 57 and 61. I've gotten free McDonald's gift certificates and other incentives and gifts due to my influence on Twitter. DOWNLOAD the Twitter app for your phone and check often! Sending one tweet a month just isn't going to cut it. Good luck, and let me know how it goes or share your best #Twitter tips – just tweet to @LivingUnited! Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar @LivingUnited As we approach Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday, Hanukkah, Christmas and the general holiday season (no matter what you celebrate), it's time to start thinking about giving –- and giving back. So, here's a list to get you started. 1.) Tweet: After Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, stop buying stuff for a second and take part in #GivingTuesday on Tuesday, December 3. It's as simple as sending a tweet supporting your favorite cause. 2.) Make something: Grandpa built a storage cube with my son this past weekend. They had a great time pounding nails and getting organized. Why not make holiday gifts using a special skill (baking, painting, sewing, carpentry, graphic design, cleaning for someone else, babysitting, etc.). 3.) Spend time together: Build a gingerbread house or make popcorn balls; visit Hershey Candy Lane, attend a local play or pageant; take a family walk; go sledding; rake leaves. Go caroling at your local nursing home. Just be together! 4.) Be the hostess with the most-est: Invite someone over for a meal, especially on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many individuals, couples or families don't travel home for the holidays and may be looking for a place to go for food, fun and fellowship. Order takeout to avoid stress. Guess what? I switched to INSTANT mashed potatoes and no one noticed. 5.) Make a difference: “Turn Christmas Upside Down” with the Advent Conspiracy from IJM –- spend less on gifts, give more presence. Watch the inspiring video or check out the toolkit. 6.) Consider nonprofit gift catalogs –- many organizations encourage you to “buy” a goat for a family and then send a card in someone's honor. World Vision, Heifer International and International Justice Mission (IJM) offer these catalogs. 7.) Donate your unused stuff –- if it hasn't been used/worn for a year, you don't need it. If you moved and never took it out of the box, ditto. If you're renting a storage shed to keep your extra stuff, stop the madness and stop wasting money! Drop off your gently used clothes, appliances, electronics, etc. at your local Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity Restore or Goodwill. You can also schedule a pick-up. Best to ensure your donation goes a reputable nonprofit such as these since many organizations call or send postcards “we've got a truck in your neighborhood” or have drop-boxes in parking lots –- read the fine print; sometimes they take a large percentage of what's received, or it's actually a for-profit company selling the items. 8.) Volunteer –- cook a meal at your local homeless shelter; volunteer at your child's school or your house of worship. Check out or VolunteerMatch to find volunteer opportunities near you. 9.) Raise your voice -– giving back is also about giving your influence, so promote your favorite cause on social media, send a letter to the editor and call your elected officials. Sojourners is a great organization focused on social justice for the poor; you can find ways to take action there. Or, help end human trafficking on IJM's Freedom Commons by taking simple steps. 10.) Shop –- sure, we all want to support the economy. Don't forget small businesses –- even individual sellers on Amazon, eBay or etsy (I got a great pair of Scrabble cufflinks!). My friend Kerri started her own confection business ( and sells delectable desserts, chocolates, cakes and candies. Or, find a local store in your community. Why not shop with a friend to spend time together? Sometimes it's better to get one really special gift (doesn’t have to be expensive) versus buying tons of stuff that no one wants or needs. Consider donating the same amount of items you buy –- kids can help by picking a few old toys to donate. Would love to hear your ideas -- tweet @LivingUnited. Here's to more peace, joy and love for all of us. See related posts such as: Forget Black Friday; Momma's Shopping Online What do you have and what can you do? Related articles Forget Black Friday madness. Momma's shopping online! Salvation Army kicks off Red Kettle Campaign Advent Conspiracy Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar @LivingUnited Many organizations publish top 100, top 50, top 10 lists. So here are my top 7. United Way Worldwide –- the largest privately funded nonprofit in the U.S. and the world –- just announced its highest national awards for philanthropy, volunteer engagement and community impact. Companies that are #1 when it comes to corporate citizenship. The awards process is very competitive with corporate judges and local United Ways pouring over detailed applications, reviewing financial numbers and volunteer hours, analyzing the education, income and health impact of the company's partnerships and programs, etc. so this is the real deal. Check out the 2013 winners -- 7 top corporate citizens: 3M (NASDAQ: MMM): 3M’s focus is encouraging innovation through STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). In 2012, 3M donated $56.6M in cash and in-kind to education, health and human services, arts and the environment. Education programs supported by 3M reach over 7.6 million young people each year; programs include science fairs and Generation Next that are closing the achievement gap of low-income and minority students. More than 1,700 3M employees volunteer to support education, including 500 employees serving as mentors in the company’s headquarters of St. Paul, increasing graduation rates in focus schools. 3M is the first company to earn an Excellence in Mentoring in America Corporate Leadership Award. Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA, CMCSK) invested more than $334 million in programs and partnerships in 39 states and Washington, DC in 2012, including $9.5 million of cash and in-kind support to United Way agencies around the country, with $2.5 million in value of in-kind support airing public service announcements. Last year, Comcast employees volunteered more than 454,000 hours, unleashing another $1.5 million in Comcast Foundation matching funds for nonprofits. One of Comcast’s signature programs is Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program, which provides low-cost Internet access, computers and free digital literacy training to struggling families to help close the digital divide. More than 60 United Ways across the country support this program. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and its employees celebrated a major milestone in 2012: $1 billion in employee giving and matching funds to more than 31,000 nonprofit organizations around the world since the employee giving program began in 1983. In 2012, Microsoft donated more than $900 million in cash and software to more than 62,000 nonprofits worldwide. Microsoft also provides a $17/hour match for employee volunteer hours –- 450,000 hours logged in 2012 -- generating more than $7.5 million in volunteer matching funds to U.S. nonprofits last year alone. Microsoft’s citizenship focus is creating opportunities for youth through innovative programs that leverage Microsoft’s software and skilled employees. Microsoft YouthSpark is a company-wide global initiative, which aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth in more than 100 countries during the next three years, and includes programs such as Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS), Partners in Learning, Imagine Cup and more. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and its employees raised more than $30.5 million through the United Way campaign, once again as a top 10 national partner. In addition, bank employees volunteered 1.5 million hours globally, including 1,500 employees leveraging their financial expertise at volunteer tax assistance sites. Since 2006, Bank of America has invested $8 million in Financial Stability grants with United Way, especially around free tax preparation and assistance, and was the first financial institution to nationally support this important work. In 2012, the bank donated $200 million to nonprofit organizations serving community needs as part of its 10-year $2 billion philanthropic goal. General Motors (NASDAQ: GM) -- The GM Foundation in December 2010 pledged $27.1 million to United Way of Southeastern Michigan to create a “Network of Excellence” within seven metro Detroit high schools and increase graduation rates from 50% to 80% over five years. Attendance rates at all seven schools improved last year -- an early indicator for improved graduation rates. Last year, GM employees contributed more than $5.8 million through the company’s United Way campaign, plus teamGM Cares Volunteers provided nearly 1,200 hours of service to the Network of Excellence schools. The Mosaic Company (NYSE: MOS), its employees and The Mosaic Company Foundation contributed $25.4 million in community investments worldwide in 2012 -- including in-kind gifts totaling $3.7 million and $4 million raised through the company’s annual United Way campaign. Mosaic employees contributed expertise and volunteer time to execute campaigns across its North American operations. To achieve its mission to help the world grow the food it needs, Mosaic helps farmers worldwide produce more food through crop nutrients and science-based agronomy. Its unique The Mosaic Villages Project also helps smallholder farmers move beyond subsistence farming and improve their livelihoods through increased crop production and sustainable agricultural practices. Wells Fargo (NASDAQ: WFC) is United Way’s #1 national campaign for four years in a row. Team members raised $60.7 million in 2012 — a 23% increase over 2011—resulting in over $75.3 million with the corporate gift. Wells Fargo team members volunteered 1.5 million hours in 2012, plus the company offers a unique Volunteer Leave Program; it awarded fully paid leave to more than 21 team members in 2012 to work on a significant project for up to four months. Wells Fargo also announced a new $5 million national partnership with United Way to provide financial counseling for low-moderate income households. Wells Fargo promotes significant skilled volunteering, through its free Hands on Banking® program, focused on money management. Last year, Wells Fargo invested $315.8 million in 19,500 nonprofits. The Spirit of America and Summit Awards program is United Way’s highest national honor for a corporation, recognizing outstanding United Way Global Corporate Leaders. Join @UnitedWay and congratulate the winners on Twitter: @3Mgiving & @3MNews, @BofA_Community, @Comcastdreambig, @GM, @Microsoft & @msftcitizenship, @MosaicCompany and @WellsFargo. Related articles Microsoft wins top national awards for volunteering and community impact Comcast recognized nationally for corporate giving, employee volunteering and focus on digital literacy Microsoft wins top national awards for volunteering and community impact Microsoft wins top national awards... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
by Amanda Ponzar (@LivingUnited) The Boston Marathon tragedy showed us once again how strong we really are, how we can pull together and encourage each other during the darkest times. It showed us that there is good in the world; something worth fighting for (see Lord of the Rings video clip). After 26 miles, Boston Marathon runners kept running to donate blood. Medical professionals, fire fighters, police, EMTs and more came to the rescue. People tore off their own clothes for tourniquets. This is the kind of country I'm proud to live in. We may not agree on every political issue, but we are united when it comes to helping others. Although it's often buried and barely covered, there's more good news and good people who deserve recognition for helping others: 1.) This week, United Ways from around the world are meeting to get energized, work better together for collective impact and scale change. Plus, United Way will be awarding our highest honors -- Spirit of America awards -- to seven incredible companies tomorrow. Check it out. 2.) Peter Dudley (@dudleyPJ), young adult fiction author and CSR leader at Wells Fargo, writes some great posts on employee volunteer programs and workplace campaigns for Charities at Work. One of his recent posts discussed how to get company managers on board with volunteering. America -- and the world -- needs volunteers. We can't respond to tragedies, help all the people who need help, or make communities a better place without them. Money alone can't do it. We need people. Dudley proves volunteering isn't a "nice to have" but a "must-have" for companies, with data: more engaged employees are more productive. Wells Fargo has an outstanding, award-winning employee volunteer program, with up to four months paid leave to work on significant nonprofit projects. And Wells Fargo is doing well. This company gets it, and Dudley gets it too. No matter what size your company (sole proprietor or multinational), if you don't have a volunteer program, see what you can do to create one. Everyone has something to give back, and the more we give, the better things are going to get. More good news: Sometimes the good guys really do win Volunteering takes a village Best companies and best practices in volunteering Real News, real good: Spirit of America Related articles Girlfriend, file your taxes free. Microsoft lights a fire for youth Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar (@LivingUnited) We all know women possess the power of the purse, commanding consumer spending decisions (85% of purchases). But what about when it comes to taxes? Are women empowered? Are you? (Check out interesting tables on gender and tax return data from the IRS.) One way you can take charge of your financial future is through your taxes –- making sure you don’t pay too much (or anything) to prepare and file, plus getting the full refund you deserve. One of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on for the past few years is –- this nonprofit partnership provides free federal and state tax preparation and filing services for individuals and families who earned $57,000 or less in 2012. MyFreeTaxes offers a toll-free phone line or chat pod so you can get help to file online, or you can get help in-person at a community-based tax site -– still free. Why does this matter for women? Because truly free tax preparation and filing (some providers offer a free federal return but make you pay for state) means you don’t have to use a paid tax preparer (saves you about $200), plus ensures you receive the maximum refund, including all the credits you qualify for –- earned income tax credit (EITC), child tax credit and more. Plus, ensures you're getting good advice from trusted nonprofit partners who can help you find other programs and services too. It doesn’t matter if you’re single or married, head of household or not, a grandmother or a college student. If you made less than $57,000 and haven’t filed your taxes, you probably qualify. Last year, more than 1.4 million taxpayers used MyFreeTaxes either online or in person to file their taxes free and got back an average of nearly $1,300 each. With the $200 saved on tax prep costs, that could be $1,500 more in your pocket -- or your friend’s -- so spread the word. When women have more money, they pay bills, take care of basic needs, help their families and make the world a better place. is powered by the Walmart Foundation, in cooperation with Goodwill Industries International, National Disability Institute and United Way Worldwide. Check out videos. Check out media coverage in Forbes, Fox Business, MSN Money and more. Do yourself a favor and check out or @MyFreeTaxes on Twitter. Related articles United Way Free Tax Prep Site Open at Burien Goodwill until April 13 Goodwill Offers Free Tax Services If You Qualify, File Your Taxes For Free Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar @LivingUnited (Check out the end of this post for FREE Microsoft tools.) Let’s be clear, I’m a BIG fan of Microsoft. Why? Their corporate citizenship team (whom I’ve worked with for five years) is great. These talented tech experts are committed to changing the world by leveraging Microsoft’s significant resources. I recently attended two Microsoft store grand openings plus their innovative Imagine Cup where students dream up crazy apps or solve major medical mysteries using Microsoft technology. On February 13, I attended Microsoft’s YouthSpark event, their newest powerhouse initiative designed to “close the youth achievement gap in education, employment, and entrepreneurship” (Twitter: @msftcitizenship & @MicrosoftIPC, #YouthSpark). Microsoft convened nearly 100 Washington, DC government officials, nonprofits, students and more to focus on empowering youth through education and technology. Here’s what you should know and why you should care: Fred Humphries, VP Microsoft US Government Affairs, talked about the opportunity divide. There’s an obvious skills mismatch -- kids don’t have the skills needed for current jobs and can’t compete in today’s global economy. Microsoft announced a commitment to reach 300 million youth worldwide to provide opportunities and technology. Victor Hoskins, Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development in DC talked about making DC the largest tech center on the Eastern Seaboard. He mentioned DC is the only city with universal pre-K (Obama’s encouraging it for the country now) and that we have more jobs than people to fill them. He talked about the privilege of wearing a tie: “These guys don't realize what a privilege it is to wear a tie; that means you probably have car keys and a briefcase" Martha Ross from Brookings Institution shared compelling stats with the core message that “the more you learn, the more you earn". Nationally, a Master's degree provides an 87% earnings premium; PhD provides 117% earnings premium. It’s not just about advanced degrees; it’s about credentials and certifications that provide job training. One-third of DC area jobs are STEM-focused fields (science, technology, engineering, math). DC has 54,000 young people (16-25 years old) who aren’t working or in school. When it comes to degrees, who has a BA? 63% of Asians, 59% of Whites, 31% of Blacks, 23% Latinos. This correlates with poverty levels – education is critical to breaking inter-generational poverty. Ross also discussed the gender gap – women are half of the US workforce but only 38% are in math & science areas. Brookings Institution also said 44% of DC adults have BA (#1 in country) vs. 29% in US. Andrea Taylor, Microsoft’s Director of Citizenship and Public Affairs, said we have 1.4 billion youth on earth, and 75M youth ages 15-24 are unemployed; one in four are considered "working poor". Our goal should be “helping people and communities realize their full potential.” “If you talk to families anywhere,” said Taylor, “they all want a better life for their children.” Microsoft’s committed to help all students, especially young women, with innovative tools, free software, training, education partnerships, tech volunteerism and more. “We need to see young people as assets, not liabilities.” Jim Dinegar, President and CEO of Greater Washington Board of Trade, bragged about DC as the strongest region in the country (good news: we have more Starbucks than anywhere else!) and talked about the need for transportation and education. Jim praised schools for evolving with the times, such as focusing on Chinese language training versus cursive writing to give students a competitive advantage. Michelle Didero, Corps Member of City Year, serves on the Microsoft Team at Cardozo High School and talked about mentoring students, focusing on those who are off-track in attendance, behavior and course performance. It’s about relationships and getting to know kids so they feel like someone cares. Emily Durso, Office of the State Superintendent of Education, talked about working together with DC public and charter schools and others to create a plan to prepare students for where jobs will be in the next 10-15 years. They’ve already started working in 12 schools with Microsoft. Early career awareness is essential so Middle School students understand the real-world application of learning. Schools will start providing industry certifications too. Plus, literacy isn’t just about reading, it’s digital literacy. Irasema Salcido, CEO of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools & Founder of the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative, talked about poverty rates of 40% in her Kenilworth Ward 7 in DC and her efforts to focus on cradle to college/career. It’s not enough to teach kids; we need to teach parents too – two-generation model. Salcido’s family came to the US as Mexican immigrant farm workers without knowing English; she has since gotten an MA from Harvard and moved mountains to help students in some of the toughest areas in the US. Andrew Ko, General Manager, U.S. Partners in Learning, Education, talked about Microsoft’s DreamSpark site with free software and tools for students and teachers, plus the ability to get global industry certification in software the world uses. Ko mentioned US college students represent only 4% of engineering grads; China represents 30-40%. What does it all mean? It means everyone – companies, schools, nonprofits, government and more – realize we can’t prepare tomorrow’s students unless we work together. Thankfully, Microsoft’s stepped up to the challenge, putting their significant mind and muscle toward a solution. Get free Microsoft software Check out YouthSpark Hub with tools for all ages Check out more YouthSpark event photos My past blogs on Microsoft: First Microsoft Store Hits East Coast and Helps Community A Dinner Table Lesson from Bill Gates PHOTOS: -- Donna Woodall, Microsoft Corporate Citizenship Director & Amanda Ponzar -- Students using the interactive wall computer -- Victor Hoskins -- Jim Dinegar -- Donna Woodall, charter school student, Irasema Salcido -- Panel & key Microsoft citizenship team members Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar (@LivingUnited) Motivation is everything. It's what drives athletes to train, compete & win; it's what keeps our brain churning in the middle of the night with flashes of brilliant insight when we're excited about a new project; it's what causes us to sacrifice time, money and more for a great cause. It's the difference between ordinary and extraordinary, between mediocrity and the "movers and shakers" who change the world. I've posted on this before "How to improve your motivation & performance." So today, stop for a second and ask yourself -- what motivates you? Meaningful/important work Making a real impact, helping someone Using your gifts/talents Making money (and getting raises, bonuses, etc.) Getting promoted, being on the fast track, climbing corporate ladder, etc. Being recognized publicly, winning awards, etc. Earning respect, achieving status as an expert in your field Solving problems, resolving issues, completing projects Learning new skills Tackling new challenges Working with energized, fun, committed people (great team) Inspirational leadership Flexible work schedules/good work life balance Something else? Once you figure out what motivates you, determine how best to tap it to keep yourself going strong. We are all capable of great things -- I was reminded of that again when our office of 200+ people blew our goal out of the water and raised more than $437,000 in our United Way campaign last month -- we just need to determine what drives us and use it to achieve our goals. Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar Have you ever heard the quote: “Tell me who you love, and I will tell you who you are?” There’s some truth to that, but it’s more WHAT you love to do that tells you who you are. Side note: you are more than your job or even all the hats you wear (mother, wife, daughter, friend, sister, employee, volunteer, etc.). I noticed this the other day when someone asked me what my hobbies were. HOBBIES?! I found myself saying “Well, I used to…[fill in the blank].” I USED to be a singer, artist, jogger, poet, creative writer, volunteer, beauty queen, academic scholar, great reader, etc., etc. So what does that make me now? Hollow like those disappointing chocolate Easter bunnies with nothing inside? Yes, I am a nonprofit director and communications professional, I love what I do, and I’m good at it. However, that's not everything. What I used to love to do is also who I am. Those gifts and talents and passions are not dead, they’re just buried because I’m busy. So, I dug out some old poems and artwork and began my own Renaissance –- started sketching again, even got out the watercolors & paint brushes. And then yesterday, this Wordsworth poem I’d memorized in college came back to me: “The world is too much with us, late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers. Little we see in nature that is ours. We have given our hearts away...” Yes, family and work are important, but so are the gifts we’ve been given that bring us (and often others too) joy. Let's not get lost in the hustle and bustle and harried shuffle of everyday life, living that same Ground Hog day over and over and over again. So, who are YOU? Remember what you love to do -– gardening, cooking, traveling, drawing, hiking, writing, sailing, fixing cars, scrapbooking, working with animals, advocating for a great cause, volunteering for your favorite charity –- and do more of it! (Photos of my artwork, copyright Amanda Ponzar) Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
This week I (Amanda Ponzar) am giving a voice to my friend & colleague, Tracey Holmes to share about Team NFL (I wrote about Riley Cooper a few weeks ago). Take it away, Tracey! ********* By Tracey Holmes Director, NFL Partnership United Way Worldwide It is human nature to generalize, stereotype, define people based on our own experiences to date. But every once in a while, people surprise you in ways that blow your expectations out the window and your aspirations to the moon. Some thought it was too much to ask of an NFL player. Three days of their vacation time to hang out at American University with students from challenged high schools from across the country...eating college food, hanging out in college dorms. Wake up calls at 6:00 a.m. followed by long days of learning, sharing, brainstorming and interviews. Not just present in their attendance but present in their participation. Actively taking notes, sharing their perspectives, leading discussions, developing presentations. An earnest effort to learn and develop ways to engage more people as volunteer readers, tutors and mentors so more of our kids graduate high school on time and prepared for success. So if your definition of NFL players is based solely on salacious news clips, the actions of a few loud voices or reality TV, I encourage you to add this perspective to the mix. And when you think of them as heroes on the field of play, know that they are heroes off the field as well because they are making a difference in the lives of our kids. You can too by pledging to become a volunteer reader, tutor or mentor. Join the team! Big SHOUT OUTS to the following TEAM NFL players who made the 2012 United Way Youth Empowerment Summit a GREAT success: National Team Captain, NNAMDI ASOMUGHA, Philadelphia Eagles; CALAIS CAMPBELL, Arizona Cardinals; VONTA LEACH, Baltimore Ravens; CAM NEWTON, Carolina Panthers; VINCENT REY, Cincinnati Bengals; JOSHUA CRIBBS, Cleveland Browns;BRANDON CARR, Dallas Cowboys; VIRGIL GREEN, Denver Broncos; CLIFF AVRIL, Detroit Lions; GREG JENNINGS, Green Bay Packers; GLOVER QUIN, Houston Texans; ANTOINE BETHEA, Indianapolis Colts; EBEN BRITTON, Jacksonville Jaguars;CHRIS CANTY, New York Giants; D’BRICKASHAW FERGUSON, New York Jets; MICHAEL HUFF, Oakland Raiders; RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles; and CHARLIE BATCH, Pittsburgh Steelers. Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar Callouses -– three on my left palm, rough from carrying the baby’s car seat all over creation. Scars –- c-section and more, marring a previously unblemished body. Bruises –- from rocking baby and carrying kids, car seats and bags galore every time I leave the house (book bag, diaper bag, bottle bag, work bag, purse, lunch, etc.). Fine wrinkles and occasional puffy eyes –- from waking in the night and early morning to care for two of the most precious little people on the planet; from working hard, from laughing, smiling, even a little worrying. Gray hairs -– only a few to date, thank God, but they indicate I’m aging, and with that, presumably, comes wisdom, but definitely experience and expanded bandwidth. I can do more, bear more, be more. Would I go back to the glory days of my teens and twenties? Never. Not unless I could take what I know now, who I am now, back with me. For all the wonder and physical perfection of youth, there’s something missing when we are young –- naïve, immature, inexperienced, easily infatuated, occasionally arrogant, unbroken, untested, uncontrolled. With trials, with suffering, with children, with time, come a deeper joy, a sense of knowing, inner truth about who you are and confidence in the experiences you’ve had and what you’re capable of. As the days become weeks, months and years, true strength is found in constancy, who you are for the long haul. “Love…is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken…love alters not with his brief hours and weeks but bears it out even to the edge of doom.” Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 And although this body is in some ways showing wear, by Hollywood’s standards perhaps now less beautiful, my soul and spirit are eternal, and through continual sacrifice, service and love, can become stronger and more magnificent every day. Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar One of the best parts of my job is working with some of the world’s top corporate citizens, including UPS. For the fourth year in a row, UPS is partnering with United Way on a charitable auction with new items available every week through September 3. As part of its corporate social responsibility and philanthropy, UPS is leveraging its celebrity connections by providing a round of golf with world champ Lee Westwood, NCAA® tickets, sports collectibles including race-worn items from NASCAR driver of the No. 99 UPS Ford Carl Edwards as well as other items from Roush Fenway Racing, and a variety of products from UPS partner LIVE NATION, including Ticketmaster gift cards and unique photographs of artists who have toured sustainably with UPS, including Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. All this –- more than 80 total items -– will be available on eBay, with all funds raised benefiting United Way Worldwide. UPS even donates free item shipping to winning bidders. UPS knows celebrity athletes, stars and politicians (the auction includes autographed George Bush & Condoleezza Rice books) can raise more awareness and more funds to improve lives and communities. It’s one thing to auction a football; it’s another to auction a football autographed by a star. (Similar to my post last week “Riley Cooper rocks congress -– for kids.") Multinational corporations and celebrities have a responsibility to do more good with the incredible resources and talents they’ve been blessed with. And many do. But that doesn’t get any of us off the hook. Each of us can do something with what we have -- give your time, money, influence, goods, help, etc. Over 30 years, UPS and its employees have donated more than $1 billion to improve lives in partnership with United Way. This auction is just one small piece of their incredible commitment to building sustainable communities. Go UPS! Read the press release. NCAA® is a registered trademark of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar @LivingUnited If you think all Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receiver Riley Cooper (#14) does is catch footballs, then you missed him in action on Capitol Hill this week. Riley volunteered with United Way in the sweltering, oppressive 100-degree heat and humidity –- during his “off season” vacation –- participating in United Way's first Youth Empowerment Summit with National Football League (NFL) players from across the country and then advocating before members of congress during United Way’s annual Day of Action on June 21. Riley recently joined TEAM NFL —a core group of college-educated, civic-minded NFL players committed to helping United Way recruit one million volunteer readers, tutors and mentors. (NFL is a long-term United Way partner.) It’s all about caring adults who can help students hang in there and graduate, creating a brighter future for all of us. We met with Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Representative Chaka Fattah, and Senator Toomey’s office. Pittsburgh Steelers’ Charlie Batch and his beautiful wife (check out their Best of the Batch Foundation focused on education) joined our team for the senate visits. While in Florida, Riley mentored three young guys and helped increase their GPAs from 2.0 to As & Bs. He invested a ton of quality time and shared that real-life mentoring experience with members of congress, encouraging them to recruit volunteer mentors from their constituents, as well as volunteer themselves. And Riley hung out with and encouraged the students who participated. Now that's keeping it real. “Team Riley” also included two high-performing high school students from Philadelphia’s most challenged schools. Both were mentored and are mentors now -– paying it forward. One was his high school’s last salutatorian before it closed due to lack of funding (he graduated and will be attending Lincoln University) and another, through a mentor program at her school, is going to Harvard this summer! Touch down! It’s ALWAYS good to see celebrity athletes using their star power to help others. Riley Cooper took action. Now you can too. Get involved with Team Riley –- check out, take the volunteer pledge, recruit your network to volunteer, spread the word and give Riley a shout-out on Twitter @RileyCooper_14! Riley Lives United. Now how are you going to? Go Eagles! Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar Had the most amazing night last night at the United Way Community Leaders Conference in Nashville, celebrating 125 years of the United Way movement: Dr. Tommy F. Frist Jr. received the first Lifetime Achievement award from his grand kids (so cute) and was honored by Elaine Chao and a host of others. Josh Turner rocked out some country tunes with his incredible deep voice while the audience went wild (I got to shake his hand!) Plus we awarded the 2012 Spirit of America and Summit awards –- United Way’s highest national honor for corporate citizenship and community impact –- to P&G, Publix Super Markets, Inc., Bank of America, Deloitte, Microsoft Corporation, General Motors, Wells Fargo and ITW. Woo hoo! It was amazing. You can read more about these top corporate citizens and their innovative practices at PR Newswire or on United Way’s Spirit of America page. These companies are stepping up –- volunteering millions of hours, giving millions of dollars, improving millions of lives. And they are doing it all around the world. They are helping address the most crucial issues –- high school dropout rates, hunger, family financial stability and housing, clean water. You name it; these companies and their employees are out there doing it. Yes, a lot isn’t going right in the world and things aren’t always good. But it's not all bad. There really are a lot of good people doing good things and making an incredible difference. Sometimes it's hard to get media coverage about this, because it's not scandalous or outrageous. Apparently, people would rather read about a celebrity who got arrested, a CEO who misappropriated funds, the latest crazy thing some overpaid athlete did, silly animal stories, or some kind of tragedy/shooting/natural disaster/blooper. Nothing wrong with those things, but it's important to realize that there's more untold stories out there. And in my opinion, these "good" stories are the real news. PR Newswire links to Spirit of America and Summit Press Releases: P&G Bank of America GM ITW Microsoft Publix Wells Fargo Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar It's Friday, and I'm supposed to post on Thursday, so once again, like usual, it's been that kind of week...month...year...couple of years. All I want to say today on Friday is TGIF -- and talk about being thankful. Yes, I've posted on "The Power of Giving Thanks" before. It really works. Yesterday, my husband and I emailed back and forth what we are thankful for. Just start with three things. Everyone can think of three, no matter how tough your life is right now. Do it right now with your spouse, friend, coworker, partner, or just by yourself. Ours were simple things: the kids, jobs that pay our bills, sunshine, friends, house, good memories, good health, God -- then we got into things like coffee, favorite movies, etc. Heck, even chocolate. We can either focus on what's wrong (and there's always plenty of that if you look, especially if you read any news) or focus on what's RIGHT. Not to say we play Pollyanna's glad game, but rather strive to be joyful and find peace right where we are. And if you can't do that, maybe it's time for change. Change is not usually easy but change is often good. Sometimes we need to move, switch things up, try something new, start something. Sometimes the restlessness means something is wrong or we're stagnating. But that's the point of this post and being thankful, rather than dwell on it and gripe, whine and moan, take action. Update your resume and apply for a new job. Begin networking. Start a new volunteer activity. Start exercising or eating healthier meals. Get together with a favorite friend. Make a new friend. One dollar at a time, pay down your debt. Whatever the issue is, tackle it headfirst, even if it means only taking one bite of the elephant at a time. Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar How would you like to get paid to volunteer? Impossible? If you worked for Wells Fargo, you could. The company has an absolutely amazing volunteer program. For 36 years, Wells Fargo has provided fully paid volunteer leave for team members –- for up to four months -– to work on a significant project impacting a nonprofit organization or school. In 2011, Wells Fargo awarded more than 26 team members representing more than 32.5 months of paid leave. I’ve never heard any company that does this. Have you? That’s putting your money where your mouth is, or at least recognizing that it helps to get your employees out into the community. (Plus, it doesn’t hurt employee morale either; people feel better about themselves and their company when they can give back & volunteer, etc.). Many of the companies I work with have strong volunteer programs and understand how crucial this is on a number of levels. When I think of top companies that lead the way in volunteering, it’s giants like Wells Fargo, AT&T, IBM, UPS, Intel, Bank of America, Microsoft and Deloitte. Plus, let’s be honest, nonprofits, schools, churches, etc. here in the U.S. and around the world need a lot of help these days, and with budgets being what they are, volunteers are more valuable than ever. Companies and individuals can help even more by providing skilled volunteerism or pro bono work –- that nonprofits would otherwise have to pay for. I’ve talked about this before. Financial expertise/accounting, writing/marketing, design/web, social media, business planning, landscaping, painting, cooking –- everything you know how to do, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, can help someone else. For example, quite a few of the corporate partners I work with (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, etc.) have skilled employees who help provide free tax preparation for lower-income workers –- returning thousands of dollars in returns and tax credits to hardworking individuals and families, plus providing billions in revenue across the country that is re-invested in communities. Plus, calculated at the Independent Sector rate of $20.85 an hour, volunteer hours can really add up in actual value. So, even if you can’t give a ton of money, you can give your time. And donate your goods to Salvation Army, Goodwill, Gifts in Kind, etc. (And don’t get me wrong, nonprofits need money too). And on the topic of money, United Way just named Wells Fargo the top national campaign for the third consecutive year. So the company isn’t just about volunteering, it’s about giving as well. Check out the press release on PR Newswire. Plus, I’m in the middle of recognizing the past 25 years of #SpiritofAmerica winners (on Twitter & –- 25 top companies and their employees that have stepped up to give, volunteer and make a positive impact in communities around the world –- leading up to the big reveal of the 2012 Spirit of America winner this May. I know it's sometimes controversial, but really, corporate America isn't all "bad";there are a lot of great companies and absolutely, unbelievably great people out there who are committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR), creating shared value, and investing in the communities where the company and its employees live, work and do business. So, what's the takeaway? No matter what you do as a company or individual, find a way to give more –- more money, more time, more donated goods, more love, more encouragement, more hope. That’s what makes the world go round. See some of my previous posts: -- Volunteering takes a village -- What do you have and what can you do? -- How to get a nonprofit job: get experience (mentions volunteering & ways to do it) Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar For a few years now, I've been working on a partnership with the Walmart Foundation, United Way, One Economy and the National Disability Institute's Real Economic Impact Tour. The partnership offers eligible tax payers free online tax filing through plus free, in-person tax preparation services through volunteer tax assistance sites across the country. To help raise awareness, in recent years, we've really played up social media (@MyFreeTaxes, @Live_United & @unitedway) as part of the integrated marketing plan that includes everything from press releases to TV & radio. And we're seeing a 40% increase in filers! Here are the details from this year. Since April 17, the last day to file taxes, is around the corner, here are five ways to maximize your refund, or minimize your payment, if you owe taxes. 1. Get all the tax credits and deductions that you deserve. You may be due money back even if you don't owe any taxes. One in five Americans fail to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) each year. Calculate your EITC benefits by visiting For a helpful list of tax credits and deductions that you may be eligible for visit 2. Skip paying the tax preparer and file online or onsite, in-person for free. You'll have to gather all relevant documents and receipts whether you do your taxes yourself or pay a preparer. If you earned below $57,000 in 2011, use to file both your federal and state taxes. provides easy-to-follow directions and saves your work at every step. If you earned less than $50,000 in 2011, you can take advantage of free, in-person Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites through United Way in more than 100 communities nationwide. Enter your zip code on to locate the nearest free filing center. 3. Avoid late payment penalties. If you owe taxes, you're probably waiting till the last minute. This is when you're much more likely to make a mistake and may miss out on your highest possible deductions. With only 2 weeks left, prepare your documents now. Check out for a handy checklist to help get your taxes in order. 4. Keep your receipts. In particular, those having to do with your vehicle (gas, parking, repairs, auto registration), medical expenses, charity donations, and business expenses, especially if you are self-employed or have incomes outside your full time job. These expenses may reduce your self-employment income, which means you pay less in taxes. 5. Save your refund for rainy days. Your refund is not a gift from the IRS -- it is part of what you earned. Use it wisely. Get your refund directly deposited into your savings account or use it to order paper bonds. One in four people in the US are unbanked or underbanked and savings bonds can make an ideal refund option. Series I Savings Bonds have a current 3.06% rate that's better than most savings accounts. Good luck! Find out more at or feel free to join the conversation using #EITC or #FreeTaxes. (More on social media in the next few posts – as we’re counting down 25 tweets for 25 years of winners @Live_United or @unitedway #SpiritofAmerica; plus, I’m fascinated by what American Express is doing linking social media to sales! Let's hear it for ROI.) Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar This week I attended a memorial service for a colleague, only 47 years old when she passed away unexpectedly. What does it mean? Why does this happen? How do we respond? What are we supposed to learn? How do we come away wiser, deeper, better? At times like these, it is as though a fog temporarily lifts and we have a fleeting glimpse of Avalon. For a moment we find clarity, it’s all so beautiful and we see plainly what life is about. Then suddenly, soon after, somehow we sink back into what we don’t have, how stressed we are, everything that is wrong, bad traffic, bad housing market, bad economy, and other daily disappointments that sap our energy and enthusiasm. Let’s pretend we don’t lose that mountaintop moment of lucidity. What do we know in our heads to be true, real, important? We always say faith and family/friends, community and country. We know we should appreciate each other, value people, be thankful for life and all the blessings. That we should work hard, strive to find/do/be good, focus on the positive, share the joy. Use what we have to help others. Etc. In a new year, we make resolutions, but mine tend to be mostly personal (translation: mostly selfish) –- tone up, get a promotion, do something brilliant at work, be a better parent, obtain another degree/certification, learn new skills. What about trying to be a better human being? Slowing down and being thankful every day? Asking for open eyes to really see others and care about them? Finding new ways to serve, give, volunteer? Searching for a life mission that will leave a real impact? Maybe those questions are too big and out of reach. Nevertheless, they should be explored. We must resist the urge to fall into mundane resolutions this New Year -- fight to stay focused on what really matters and see where it takes you. Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2012 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar A new study, “Gender and Corporate Responsibility: It’s a Matter of Sustainability” by Catalyst and Harvard Business School finds companies with more women board members and leaders outperform financially but also give significantly more to philanthropy. For example, “the average donations of companies with three or more women directors were 28 times higher than those of companies with no women directors.” Check out the press release. I’ve written a few posts about women in business and philanthropy, such as: Hey, Santa, have you seen these stats? Women make up only 2.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs, but nearly half the labor force. Women making a power play. Women give twice as much to philanthropy as men. What I don’t know is WHY –- why do women give more? When they work for a company, why does the company give more? Why are more women drawn to nonprofits and religion? The nonprofit workforce tends to have more women than men (though top leadership tends to be male). More church goers are women, according to a Gallup poll. No answers today; just questions. Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2011 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar Now more than ever, during this joyous holiday season with all the hustle and bustle, it's a good time to think about what really matters. Like patience -- not giving other drivers the finger during bad traffic (I can't tell you how often this happens to me in the DC area!). Not yelling at your family in the car all the way to the Christmas Eve service where you sing about peace and love. Saying thank you and giving good tips/gifts -- like with the hair stylist this morning or my school's teachers. Integrity. I bought something at Target this week, and what was remarkable was not that I bought it, but that I waited to buy it in customer service while some lady returned a box of fuchsia glitter tutus -- because I'd gotten to the car and realized that amidst all my bags, I had something small ($2.69) in the bottom of my cart that I hadn't paid for. I actually was running late and had to leave at the time, so made a special trip to Target with the item to explain I'd left without paying for it. The cashier couldn't believe it. The same thing happened at Starbucks last month; when I looked at my receipt, I saw they hadn't charged me for all the drinks I ordered, so I went back, told them, and paid for it. Throughout my life I've done this -- Express once forgot to charge me for a $45 pair of jeans, and I pointed it out and paid, even when I was a poor college student and that much money took me many hours to earn. Believe me, I don't always do the right thing -- to my shame. But it's my goal to try. It's kind of like the Grinch, when he gleefully steals all the Who's stuff (even their last can of Who hash!) but Christmas comes anyway: "How could it be so? It came without ribbons!... it came without tags!... it came without packages, boxes, or bags!" And he finally realizes what Christmas is all about. It's not about the number of presents under the tree. If you need inspiration, visit The Foundation for a Better Life ( and their great TV commercials and billboards. Check out the "classroom" spot as an example of honesty. I don't know much about the organization so am not endorsing it, but it's pretty impressive to watch a TV commercial (which is usually trying to sell me something I don't need) that demonstrates positive values like love or courage and says "pass it on." We could all use the reminder. So this Christmas, live it out. Even if it costs you. Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2011 at Lip-Sticking
By Amanda Ponzar Remember it’s not about you or snagging the latest must-have gadget. It’s about peace, joy and love, giving to others, taking time to relax and the real story of Christmas. Here are some of the season’s best to enjoy. 1.) Visit Hershey Candy Lane or any other lights/Christmas display to help you feel more festive. 2.) Attend holiday pageants, church Christmas Eve candlelight services (nothing like singing Silent Night in the dark all holding candles!) & other events which lift your spirits even (or especially) when the kids sing off key or that one dorky kid in the front is always dancing out of sync (or not at all). 3.) Go caroling in the neighborhood or with a group; we used to carol at the nursing home, and it’s a tradition I hope to continue when my kids are older; “O, Holy Night” is my absolute favorite Christmas carol. Crank up the Christmas music at home or in the car; you’ll feel cheerier in no time. 4.) Turn on the Christmas lights –- drive around and look at them; definitely put up your own. And don’t forget the tree! 5.) Drink hot chocolate –- always use milk, not water, and add a little vanilla, gingerbread or peppermint creamer! Or add pumpkin spice ice cream to your coffee. Mmm. Don't have time? Stop at Starbucks and grab a special holiday beverage. 6.) Burn, baby, burn. Light the fireplace –- a crackling fire whether gas or wood burning makes the room extra cozy. Just don’t burn anything you shouldn’t and avoid smoke. 7.) Give –- yes, it’s fun to give gifts to loved ones so go ahead (just don’t go overboard or into debt), but please don’t forget to choose a worthy nonprofit like International Justice Mission, Salvation Army or your local homeless shelter/food pantry and donate money or other resources (plus many of these offer gift catalogs). Remember, it’s your last chance to get a tax donation this year. Some places need volunteers to cook meals right around the holidays so take your family and go. It's a great way to give back. 8.) Stop and smell the snow –- make a snowman, have a snowball fight, build a fort, or just watch the snowflakes fall. Kids love snow and snow days. Take a walk. Get outside. (You'll need the exercise after all the holiday food.) 9.) Enjoy friends and family. Invite people over even if the house isn’t clean and the kids misbehave. Get together. Drive or fly distances if you have to. And try not to yell or argue. Consider inviting single friends or those who may not have a place to go. We've done this a few years when we didn't go out of town to spend the holiday with family and it was great to have a house bustling with people, laughter, food and games. 10.) Wear warm, fluffy socks and cuddly sweaters. 11.) Watch Shrek the Halls, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life and all those other holiday favorites that remind us what really matters. 12.) Eat lots of cookies –- gingerbread men, frosted sugar cookies and whatever tickles your fancy. We make and decorate a gingerbread house every year. The frosting doesn’t even harden before we’re tearing into it. If you don’t have time to make cookies, BUY them. Forget Martha Stewart and Paula Dean and trying to make everything perfect. For crying out loud, buy all the Christmas/holiday food (I love Trader Joe’s) or get takeout Chinese or pizza; just don’t stress yourself and everybody else out! Whatever you celebrate and wherever you are, it’s all about giving to others and being thankful for what you have. (Photo: my neighborhood) Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2011 at Lip-Sticking