Spotlight COlorado  

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As President of the First Data Foundation, Ellen Sandberg puts into action her belief that “rising waters float all boats.” Through the Foundation Ellen oversees matching grants for employees as well as corporate giving for the community.

“We really work out of two buckets,” she said. First Data gives corporate support to Children’s Hospital, Junior Achievement and even relief funds for the Australian fires, among others.

“Then we have employee matching funds.” Sandberg explained that First Data will match financial contributions of their employees up to $5000. “We also have a donations for doers program. When an employee donates 50 or more hours to a charity, First Data will donate $500 to that organization in the employee’s name.

“Gift matching has been around,” said Sandberg, “but it’s one thing we’re committed to for our 30,000 employees world wide.” Sandberg took this one step further when she implemented a giving program for employees based in foreign countries.

Organizations abroad “are governed by other rules. So, we’ve chosen five countries (United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Greece, and Argentina) where First Data is based and asked our employees to select five favorite organizations in each country.” Sandberg researched each carefully so that employees abroad can continue to give just as if they resided in the U.S.

Sandberg’s generous nature flows into her personal life, where she supports non-profits on her own time.

Editors Note: Although it was recently announced that First Data would be moving their corporate headquarters to Atlanta, Ellen indicates that her division will be staying in Denver.

What organizations do you personally support, and why?
I serve on the Board of Jr. Achievement. It gives me a chance to understand from a real direct level how it carries out a mission. I volunteer for a day, spending time with fourth grade students. It’s a completely different experience, to be out of the corporate world and instead to see kids’ faces light up. Jr. Achievement is a top notch program.

Any others?

Yes, since 2006, and currently I serve as a V.P., of the Art Students League of Denver.
I love it. It is a community arts school for all ages and levels. It gives richness to the community, which is so important for children and adults to have this outlet.

We understand you participate in triathlons?

Yes, in fact I just recently completed my second of the summer; my goal is to complete three. It’s like being a kid in the summer; we bike, swim and run all around, except that we’re 30 years older now! This last one benefitted the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I have a friend who is a double cancer survivor and this year she won the triathlon!

What are your other activities?
I ski and have since I was a kid, at South Lake Tahoe in the Sierra’s. And, fly fishing is new to me. I took four lessons with the Colorado Mountain Club; there we were, casting out in the parking lot…I caught my first fish on our honeymoon. It was about five inches long. It’s great if you like water and hiking.

And you speak Spanish?
Yes, I lived in Chile for a year, where I taught English and translated for a news wire. That’s how I became fluent.

Have you visited other Spanish speaking countries?
After college I traveled to Mexico, Nicaragua and Cuba. I’m very interested in politics.

Have you worked in politics?
I graduated in Political Science and then I worked for Peter Kostmayer on his Congressional Campaign in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. From there some friends and I started consulting on local campaigns. I learned that I really liked to work for missions, (or goal oriented campaigns). I moved into non-profit missions. I raised funds for a rape crisis center in Bucks County and later worked for the Red Cross.

Do you consider Colorado home?
Oh, yes. My husband and I love the outdoors; this is mecca.

Does your dog get to go fishing with you?
Not any more; Sam used to tangle the lines and he scares away the fish. He’s a real buzz kill at fishing.