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Equipment Leasing & Finance

The Positive Power of Equipment Finance

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ELFA members are making a difference in myriad ways

Throughout the world, nonprofit organizations rely on volunteers and charitable donations to get things done. One report by Philanthropy Roundtable, a nonprofit that advises philanthropists, estimates that as much as one-third of the nonprofit workforce in the U.S. is made up of volunteers. And more than half (53%) of nonprofits rely on charitable contributions for the majority of their revenue, according to a report by Issue Lab.

In a troubling development, both volunteering and charitable giving have dropped in recent years, creating new challenges for organizations that serve some of the greatest needs.

However, ELFA members are a bright spot in this narrative. Member organizations and their employees are hard at work—both in the U.S. and abroad—finding creative and effective ways to give back to their communities and beyond. The result is not only lifting up organizations and regions. Members with robust programs are finding that employees are happier and more engaged when they’re giving back.


“You can put people first while still making a profit.”
— Shawn Smith, Dedicated Financial GBC

Creating a culture of giving

One universal aspect among the ELFA member companies we talked to about their charitable activities is that they go beyond just writing a check now and then. They have made giving back a part of their organizational culture. Dedicated Financial GBC, a Shoreview, Minnesota commercial loan portfolio management company, has created a culture of giving that starts with the company’s mission statement: “We believe business has the greatest opportunity to change the world, and we are taking steps to prove it.”

“It’s not your typical corporate mission statement,” says Founder and CEO Shawn Smith. “But we want to model that what you put in the ground grows. You can put people first while still making a profit.”

Dedicated Financial Volunteers A team at Dedicated Financial GBC volunteered at Feed My Starving Children. They packed 133 boxes with 28,728 meals, resulting in 78 kids being fed a daily meal for an entire year.

Smith acknowledges that this might not be aligned with what people typically think of when they think of a company that does portfolio servicing, collections, repossessions and nationwide legal and bankruptcy management services, but that’s part of what sets Dedicated apart. The company partners with a number of nonprofit organizations that help fight childhood hunger, combat child sex trafficking, support Gold Star families and help inner-city children, among other causes. Corporate giving at Dedicated—which now has roughly 80 team members—has grown to the point where the company donated 31.7% of its profits to charity last year.

“That’s sacrificial giving. That’s when the owner has to take a big gulp, while he remembers what is truly important,” Smith says with a chuckle.

US Bank_Habitat for Humanity A team from U.S. Bank Equipment Finance volunteered with Habitat for Humanity at a home construction project in Marshall, Minn.

In addition to creating a framework within which employees can give, it’s also important to create an emphasis on giving in other ways. U.S. Bank Equipment Finance, a financial services company based in Marshall, Minnesota, gives members paid time off to volunteer. In addition, they have a matching donation program, so when employees give, the companies will match the donation—and double the impact—up to specific thresholds. “That really does a great service to all of the people in the community,” says U.S. Bank Vice President Kevin Reese, who is based in the Marshall location, where the equipment finance team focuses much of its community-based giving. “So, we’re able to take all of those people who are working for U.S. Bank Equipment Finance and really create some meaningful time within the community from a volunteer perspective.”

“Our vision is to enable a greener, more social and healthier future for all.”
— Nidhi Navadia, DLL

Finding the right opportunities

Even when a company has guidelines for the causes it supports, there are still many different opportunities to give back. And ELFA member companies choose volunteer and giving options in different ways. Most initiatives at Dedicated Financial GBC were chosen because of a personal connection to the cause and because it aligned with the company’s Christianity-based values.  

At DLL, a multinational financial services company based in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, corporate giving and volunteerism are chosen based on their alignment with three thematic areas: environmental stewardship, opportunity for all, and health and well-being (including financial well-being). “Our vision is to enable a greener, more social and healthier future for all,” says Nidhi Navadia, DLL’s Global Social Impact Consultant.

 

Within those categories, employees decide on the opportunities the team will support periodically. Navadia points to an initiative undertaken by employees in Poland, where a team of employees built beehives to try to increase the pollinator population. The project was under the umbrella of DLL’s environmental stewardship theme. “They did all the carpentry, painting and installed the hives in a nearby forest,” she recalls. “Everybody was really happy because bees are very important for biodiversity.”

“When our employees are getting involved, they are usually asking their neighbor or friend to join them… extending the reach of getting people involved in the community.”
— Kevin Reese, U.S. Bank Equipment Finance

Some of DLL’s other projects in various areas of the world have included organizing and participating in food and blood drives and helping out at beach cleanups. One group in Spain committed alternate Fridays at a nonprofit that connects people with neurological disabilities with animals. The volunteers helped the people with disabilities pet and interact with the animals. “It was a transformative experience for our members in Spain,” Navadia says. Another team in the U.S. hosted a “Bears and Blankets” event where members created no-sew blankets and used Build-a-Bear materials to stuff and build teddy bears, all of which were donated for children in need. The company collects volunteer opportunities and lists them on an internal portal. Employees are encouraged to check out the options and volunteer for what moves them.

DLL ImagesAt left, team members from DLL's Eindhoven office assisted guests from the Nationale Vereniging de Zonnebloem charity to experience #Inclusive Zumba. At right, DLL employees in Poland built beehives to increase the pollinator population.

Onset Financial, an equipment leasing and finance company based in Draper, Utah, created a foundation called Onset Gives to organize its giving, including choosing and organizing the company’s monthly service projects. Onset Founder and CEO Justin Nielsen says employees routinely ask about the new service project for the month and are excited to participate. “We send employees during the workday—on paid time—to go and volunteer everywhere from a domestic violence shelter to the Utah Food Bank and others,” he says. The goal of the company’s giving is twofold: “Number one, to give back to those that need. And then number two, to fulfill that internal desire of our team to serve others,” he says. In one initiative, the Onset team packed a dozen palettes of food for the Utah Food Bank—enough food to feed 400 people in the community for a month.

 

Because of the frequency of Onset’s initiatives, the company is able to be responsive to immediate needs. Nielsen points to an effort at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, as citizens of the country were trying to evacuate. “We turned the entire lobby of our building into a staging area for supplies—from toiletries to food to coats and jackets—we were shipping over to Ukraine,” he recalls. “It was so cool to see the enthusiasm of our team as they rolled up their sleeves to help people.”

Onset ImagesA team from Onset Financial volunteered at the Utah Food Bank, packing 12 pallets of food that will help feed over 400 individuals in their local community for a month.

Measuring impact

In addition to planning and organizing their corporate philanthropic efforts, ELFA member companies are also measuring their impact in a variety of ways. In 2023, more than 2,800 DLL employees—the company calls them “members”—collectively gave more than 16,000 volunteer hours. Navadia points out that roughly half of the company’s workforce is represented in volunteer efforts. The company also aspires to contribute 1% of its non-interest income annually to local and global community development projects and volunteering initiatives creating social impact. Onset’s team measures donations and volunteer hours, as well. “We love to write checks, but employees donate about 250 hours of their time each year,” Nielsen says.

Dedicated Financial GBC also looks at the impact its team’s efforts have. The company ties giving to production in many ways, so its charitable giving becomes a motivational force. For example, the company started supporting the nonprofit Feed My Starving Children after Smith took a life-changing trip to Haiti and learned about the food insecurity among children there. Dedicated started underwriting one meal for every deal his company collected. “That didn’t feel like enough, so we kept increasing it,” he says. Today, the company has fed nearly 2 million children since it began supporting the program. Dedicated also supports Cookies for Kids Cancer, Thorn (an anti-sex trafficking nonprofit) and Gold Star Mothers, among others.   

And while the benefits of volunteering and giving back are well-documented—helping others has been linked to everything from better physical and mental health to greater longevity—there are other payoffs, too. First is the real impact volunteerism and giving have on the organizations that benefit from these efforts.

“[Volunteering together] does create more of a team environment and cohesiveness among our employees and departments.”
— Justin Nielsen, Onset Financial

The initiatives make employees feel good, too. Reese says that in the small community in which his office is located, U.S. Bank Equipment Finance is the third largest employer. When team members do good things in the community, it has an impact on friends and neighbors, which has a positive effect on engagement and morale.  

Nielsen agrees. “[Volunteering together] does create so much more of a team environment and cohesiveness among our employees and departments, because sales and documentation and accounting and legal—everybody’s in a line working on food packaging together. It allows them to focus on something more important than just our day-to-day work tasks,” he says.

Often, volunteering becomes a group activity, Reese adds. “When our employees are getting involved, they are usually asking their neighbor or friend to join them,” he says. “We see that impact as well, extending the reach of getting people involved in the community.”

 

So, while the prevailing trend may be away from volunteering and other ways of giving back, ELFA members and their employees are finding meaningful and impact-driven ways to make a difference, while inspiring others to do the same.

ELFA_Community Garden 2023 Annual Convention attendees installed a garden at a local school.

ELFA Community Gives Back

At the ELFA Annual Convention, industry leaders have contributed their sweat and dollars to community service projects for a number of years. Thanks to the generosity of member sponsors and hard-working volunteers at these special events, ELFA has donated more than a quarter of a million dollars, or $261,000, to the following charities over the past decade:

  • 2023 - $13,000 to Urban Farming Education and $13,000 to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
  • 2022 - $15,000 to the Sea Turtle Conservancy and $25,000 to the American Red Cross Hurricane Ian Relief Fund.
  • 2021 - $11,000 to Community Lodgings
  • 2019 - $25,000 to Community Lodgings plus $10,000 worth of supplies
  • 2018 - $25,000 to Arizona Helping Hands
  • 2017 - $11,000 to Give Kids the World Village and $11,000 to the Feeding Children Everywhere Puerto Rican hurricane relief effort
  • 2016 - $15,000 to Habitat for Humanity of the Coachella Valley and $15,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of the Coachella Valley
  • 2015 - $15,000 to Habitat for Humanity and $15,000 to Soldiers’ Angels
  • 2014 - $10,500 to I Love a Clean San Diego and $10,500 to Disabled American Veterans
  • 2013 - $10,500 to Give Kids the World Village and $10,500 to the Children’s Advocacy Center for Osceola County
Foundation Day of Giving
Give back to the equipment finance industry by making a tax-deductible donation to the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation on March 14! See details at www.leasefoundation.org/giving/.



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