Give Back Iowa Challenge Featured Participant: Lessing Flynn

By: Matt Horihan, Volunteer

The corporate culture of Lessing Flynn, a thriving marketing and advertising agency, is exemplified by the 2,000 meals packaged by the company for those in need in one day.  However, the giving hearts of employees at Lessing Flynn are operating every day, not just one day a year.  The company serves as an example to other companies, and was awarded the Runner-Up / Honorable Mention in 2018 for the Micro Employer Category in the Give Back Iowa Challenge by logging 555 volunteer hours for the year, or 18 hours per employee.  Winners in each category in 2019 will again be recognized with a visit from Governor Reynolds.  Could your company be a winner of this competition and receive a visit by the Governor for your participation in the Challenge this year?

The annual Challenge occurs from April 1st through May 31st, and was created to engage Iowans in employer-supported volunteering.  Employer-supported volunteering helps businesses with their bottom lines by strengthening employee engagement, organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and employee retention.  In 2018, more than 83,000 hours were completed by 56 employers in Iowa.  This year is the fifth year of the Challenge.

Lessing Flynn credits its company culture and organizing volunteer events for its success in the Challenge.  The Director of Culture, Jeremy Jones, explains, “Part of having a successful company is having a great culture. Not only talking about it but taking the steps necessary to ensure we practice what we preach when it comes to culture. Much of what makes our culture unique here at Lessing Flynn is giving back to our communities and taking part in charitable efforts.  Lessing Flynn’s involvement in the Give Back Iowa Challenge is a big part of that. Not only on an individual basis but with group efforts.”

As part of the Challenge at Lessing Flynn, all employees are encouraged to volunteer.  Employees at Lessing Flynn largely choose how they volunteer on their own, but also participate in one event each year in a joint effort to volunteer in their community.  Enabling employees to volunteer in group events organized by the company has helped bolster Lessing Flynn’s philanthropy by combining multiple approaches.  When discussing group volunteer efforts Jones stated, “One example of that was last year in May, a group from the Lessing Flynn team volunteered at Meals from the Heartland. This non-profit organization helps package and deliver meals to those in need in Iowa and around the world. Our team helped assemble and package over 2,000 meals.”

Further, Lessing Flynn implements multiple policies to increase the volunteer hours of its employees.  Lessing Flynn has its employees track their volunteer hours.  Tracking hours allows for indviduals within companies to compete to increase hours volunteered.  The company has utilized Track it Forward in the past to track volunteer hours, but as its volunteer efforts have grown it has decided to utilize Google and Excel spreadsheets.  Additionally, Lessing Flynn allows employees to utilize paid-time-off to volunteer, thus increasing volunteer hours.

Lessing Flynn_Meals on Wheels

Lessing Flynn employees volunteering together to package meals for Meals on Wheels during the Give Back Challenge. 


Profile for Giving Back: Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson is a caring Office Manager at Lessing Flynn who has the ability to complete any task needed of her at the company, and the in the community. She positively improves the lives of others by serving on the Polk County Food Pantry Board.  Additionally, Amy volunteers in leadership capacities for the Band Boosters of Dowling High School as well as for the Center for Social Ministry.  Her son participating in the Dowling High School band fuels her desire to volunteer in that capacity and she notes that both of their contributions to the band has had a positive impact on each of their lives; showing that volunteering is a rewarding experience.

Amy enjoys educating people about volunteering and the Challenge.  She says the Challenge increases awareness about the need to volunteer by “giving us a natural opening to talk with each other about our different volunteer activities. Our annual group activity during the Challenge introduces us to different volunteer opportunities within our community.” Also, she says it is fun to spend time with her coworkers and that the group volunteer opportunity is a large part of Lessing Flynn’s success in the Challenge.  She also notes that Lessing Flynn having employees track their own hours increases the amount of volunteer hours completed.

Amy believes that Lessing Flynn is successful in the Challenge because it promotes policies that enable employees to volunteer and because the company employs people who have the “teammate” mentality that care about making a difference in the community.  She says, “When you work with people like that every day, their enthusiasm is contagious. Lessing Flynn is also a company that recognizes the importance of work-life balance… allowing for flexible schedules and encouraging us to utilize our paid-time-off (PTO) so we can make time to do the things that are important to us.”

Lessing Flynn_Social Ministry fundraiser

Lessing Flynn employee Amy Johnson volunteering at a Center for Social Ministry fundraiser with guest speaker and best-selling author Greg Boyle. 


Profile for Giving Back: Joel Swifton

Joel Swifton is the Senior Art Director at Lessing Flynn and lights up the lives of his community through substantially contributing to theatrical productions and enabling youth to participate in theatre. Joel explains that his devotion to his family drives his volunteer efforts by saying, “My volunteer efforts center around supporting activities my kids are involved in…My kids are into music and theatre, so I participate in set, prop design, t-shirt design and even poster design.” 

Joel enjoys organizing group volunteer efforts and his favorite part of volunteering is “watching the reaction of kids when the set and costumes are finally complete… In some ways it becomes a collective effort to achieve something all of us never knew we could do.”

Joel agrees that the company culture is a significant part of Lessing Flynn’s success in the Challenge.  He explains, Lessing Flynn is a creative culture, we are always generating ideas… Volunteering is a way to take that knowledge and experience and give it back to the community.” 

Joel believes that participants of the Challenge learn throughout the process that the need for volunteers extends beyond the event itself.  He says that both volunteer efforts being organized and defined jobs for volunteers increases recruitment of volunteers.  Additionally, Joel notes the Challenge increases volunteer efforts even when the period of the Challenge is complete –  he says, “After the Challenge, I was able to find my group of volunteers again to help on the next project.”    



Registration for the Give Back Iowa Challenge is open through the end of the Challenge on May 31st.  More information about the Give Back Iowa Challenge can be found at

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