Ameren Missouri employees play with children at Little Explorers Discovery Center (formerly Jeff erson City Day Care Center) for United Way’s annual Days of Caring.
Since 2000, Ameren co-workers have contributed over $27 million to United Way chapters across the company’s service area; $1.5 million has gone to support the United Way of Central Missouri which serves the Jeff erson City and surrounding communities. But if you ask someone at Ameren when the tradition of giving to the United Way began there, they will say something like, “eons ago, maybe in the ‘40s.” Today’s campaigns trace their roots to the days when the company was known as Union Electric and the campaign was called the United Way Community Fund. Even though the precise origin of the campaign is lost in the mist, two things are clear: Ameren co-workers still embrace the spirit of giving today; and local assistance is at the heart of the campaign.
Helping Our Communities
The 2017 national Ameren campaign theme was “Helping Our Communities,” a nod to how giving to the United Way benefi ts the local communities where Ameren co-workers live, work and play. The effort exceeded its $1.75 million goal; the 2017 campaign resulted in $119,137 of contributions to the United Way of Central Missouri, one of 52 chapters supported by Ameren co-workers. The ability to direct contributions to a particular service area is part of the campaign’s appeal. Donors can
send their donation to a chapter that serves their hometown, or a different community where they have family members. Donating to the annual campaign is not the only way Ameren co-workers support the United Way. Some volunteer to help run the campaign or participate in “Days of Caring” events, performing tasks such as moving furniture and trimming trees for United Way partner agencies such as the local Boys and Girls Club and the Salvation Army. Others serve on the United Way Board of Directors or the panels that help assess annual funding applications for partner agencies. And then there are the Torchlighters, Ameren co-workers who share personal stories that are key components of every kickoff rally. Each Torchlighter attends 10-12 rallies, speaking about their personal involvement with the United Way or one of its agencies. Sometimes they discuss what it’s meant to them to volunteer for a United Way partner agency, or how one of those agencies played a role in their life – often during times of deep personal difficulty. The stories educate their co-workers about the reach of the United Way, and often inspire them to make a contribution.
The Role of Technology
In keeping with Ameren’s spirit of innovation, the campaign is constantly evolving to keep up with the changing times. The online ePledge donation system, introduced in 2010, has cut the number of pledge cards that must be input manually by half. There’s also a concerted effort to appeal to millennials as this new generation begins to form a greater percentage of Ameren’s workforce. One pilot program encourages membership in the Leadership Society with a subsidized entry fee that gradually increases for the donor – and in turn allows young donors access to valuable networking opportunities.
More than Money
Outside of the United Way campaign, Ameren has a strong tradition of helping out during times of need, even when the call comes from outside of the company’s service area. After Hurricane Irma knocked out power to millions of people in Florida, Ameren sent crews to help restore service as quickly as possible. 29 local Ameren Missouri line workers joined a force of 1,000 Ameren co-workers to assist in the Hurricane Irma restoration. That effort, and others like it that happen every year, is part of a policy known as “mutual assistance” – a spirit of collaboration between utility companies that is another longstanding tradition. If you ask why Ameren co-workers give to the United Way campaign or volunteer with partner agencies, the answer will likely be “because it’s the right thing to do.” That answer, and Ameren’s involvement with the United Way, aligns with the company’s values of integrity, respect, accountability, stewardship, teamwork and commitment to excellence. That alignment, along with the campaign’s longstanding tradition at Ameren, is expected to power the continued success of the partnership for decades to come.