ELFA - Equipment Leasing and Finance Association - Equipping Business for Success


Equipment Leasing & Finance

Equipment Finance Gives Back

May-June 2022


ELFA members create positive impact through giving and volunteerism

As companies look for opportunities to support employee well-being, mental health and happiness during and after what has been a turbulent couple of years, a recent study may have the answer: volunteering. In a report published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, volunteers reported feeling more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health better. They also reported better mental health than people who volunteered infrequently or not at all. The study is one more in a growing body of evidence that volunteering has a number of benefits for mind and body.  

Some ELFA members already know that. They’re giving back in a number of ways and are encouraging their team members to do the same. Their charitable activities and programs are as varied as the association’s membership, but they have one thing in common: they bring teams together and boost morale while supporting worthwhile causes.

Reflecting company values
At Key Equipment Finance, one of the company’s core values is helping communities thrive. So, when the devastating Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire struck its own communities of Superior and Louisville in Colorado, it was no surprise the company stepped up to help. The fire destroyed numerous businesses and over a thousand homes, some of which belonged to Key employees. Even the Key Equipment Finance office sustained damage and was closed for three months. “Within days, the KeyBank Foundation was making grants to organizations that were helping residents in the community, while dozens of employees were making donations to those who had lost their homes,” says Adam Warner, President of Key Equipment Finance. “It was pretty amazing how fast the Foundation went into action.” 

Key Equipment FinanceKey Equipment Finance employees spent Neighbors Make the Difference Day scraping and painting local walking and biking trails.

In some cases, businesses form long-term relationships with organizations that reflect their values. First American Equipment Finance, an RBC / City National Company, has a 20+-year relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester. Several employees have served on the board of the organization and “we consider that to be one of our strongest relationships,” says Alan Sikora, CEO. In addition, the company is reinforcing its commitment to sustainability by planting a tree for every e-signed contract. “Our business has been successful, and we feel an obligation to share that success with our those in our community,” he says. The company has also had 100 percent employee participation in its United Way giving campaign for the past decade.

First American FinalFirst American Equipment Finance team members assembled 150 encouragement bags for Rochester Regional Health cancer patients.

Toyota Industries Commercial Finance has five key charitable partnerships, including the American Red Cross of North Texas, Junior Achievement of Dallas, Dallas-area Habitat for Humanity, the North Texas Food Bank, and the Dallas and Northeast Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Developing such partnerships is part of the Toyota Way of Working and living the company’s core values. Additionally, the company can have a substantial impact on the community through donations, as well as through employee volunteerism, says Ron Storz, Chief Operating Officer.

ToyotaToyota Industries Commercial Finance associates recently volunteered over two days at the Wall Shop of the Dallas-area Habitat for Humanity chapter to frame up walls and roofs for three complete homes.

Encouraging employees
Western Equipment Finance has a longstanding relationship with the United Way. In addition, the company encourages employees to get involved with both company-aligned causes and those that matter to them, personally. The company gives employees up to eight hours per year of paid time off (PTO) to volunteer and will also match contributions to nonprofit organizations up to $250 per year. “These are self-driven efforts, so team members can choose where they want to get involved and give back,” says Kelsey Smith, Senior Vice President of Human Resources. At First American, employees are granted 16 hours of PTO for volunteering each year.

Western Equipment Finance Food DriveWestern Equipment Finance staff held a food drive in February to support local food banks.

Employees at Western Equipment Finance are also part of an internal recognition program app, where they are awarded points for various reasons. Team members might earn points on their birthday or as kudos from a co-worker. But they can also earn them for participating in volunteer programs. This gives employees a fun incentive to earn points by giving back. The points can be redeemed for gift cards or even pooled with other employees’ points to make a charitable donation. “What’s awesome is that you see that cross-team recognition. It’s in front of everyone, so they see that collaboration and communication happening,” Smith says. The program has been in place since 2019. 

Teambuilding through volunteerism
Another common approach to volunteering is to organize special events that can be effective team-building activities, too. Toyota Industries Commercial Finance has participated in home-building days with Habitat for Humanity and, in October 2021, a fundraising walk for the Alzheimer’s Association. Storz recalls a particularly poignant event that took place during the pandemic. Even though most employees were working from home, they came to the office to assemble personal hygiene bags for the American Red Cross to distribute to people in need. They established a safe way to assemble 150 bags that helped people in the community.

Key Equipment Finance employees participate in Key’s annual Neighbors Make the Difference Day, where employees are strongly encouraged to go into the community and support local charities. Employee committees organize community-based programs and groups of team members participate. They may work with the local Chamber of Commerce to do a park cleanup, sort donations at a local food bank, or make repairs at animal shelters. “It’s geography-based, because the needs of each community are different,” Warner says.

In February, Western Equipment Finance employees participated in North Dakota’s statewide Giving Hearts Day, which raises millions of dollars for charities throughout the state. “We are a big advocate of that day,” says Smith. “We promote it with our team 
members, and we educate them on the organizations that are eligible for giving that day.” Employee donations are matched separately from individual match thresholds.

Equipment Finance Cares 

Jesse Johnson didn’t mean to start a movement. He simply wanted to have meaningful conversations with equipment leasing and finance industry experts during the pandemic through his “Fireside Chats with Jesse” videos. One of his guests was his colleague, Lovern Gordon, who had published her memoir, The Legacy He Left Me, conveying her personal story of being a domestic violence survivor.

After hearing the story, as well as the shocking statistics of how many people experience domestic violence, he knew he wanted to do something more. Gordon was going to be nearby for a conference, so Johnson asked around to see if other organizations wanted to learn more about her story and nonprofit. The response was immediate and enthusiastic, he says. And his colleagues in the region also wanted to showcase the causes that were important to them. 

“I had no idea that the companies that I work with in this industry do so much to give back,” he says. 

So, he organized the first of several events that would be the cornerstone of Equipment Finance Cares. The first event raised roughly $2,000, which was distributed to the charities. Since then, interest, attendance and sponsorships have grown through two subsequent events. In all, 16 foundations have been showcased at these events and more than $7,000 in net proceeds have been donated to the charities. The events have focused on crucial industry topics like diversity and inclusion, mental health and overall industry best practices. Johnson is in the process of turning the event series into a nonprofit organization called Equipment Finance Cares.

In addition to lifting morale by doing something meaningful, Johnson says more companies need to pay attention to their philanthropic and volunteer efforts, especially to attract new talent. “Younger people nowadays think differently. They’re not just about cash—they want to know what else does this organization do?” he says. When you can point to an initiative like Equipment Finance Cares, you’ve got a ready answer.

The company also takes the initiative a few steps further. In February is a month-long event called “Matters of the Heart,” which encourages employees to volunteer, be kind and raise funds for charities. During “Random Acts of Kindness” week, team members get a list of 101 acts of kindness. If they submit a photograph of themselves doing those things, they earn points on the company’s recognition platform. Also, for $5 each, employees can wear jeans on Fridays. Money raised through that program goes to the American Heart Association. 

Leading in the community
In addition to supporting organizations through volunteering and donations, these member companies also encourage their team members to participate in leadership roles. Toyota Industries Commercial Finance’s company leaders hold board positions on the Dallas-area chapters for Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement and the Alzheimer’s Association.

At First American Equipment Finance, a corporate citizenship team helps study the causes that matter to employees and focus corporate resources around those initiatives. A number of employees have become “bigs” to young people through their relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Any time a colleague has an idea, they can email the corporate citizenship team and they manage the corporate budget around giving,” Sikora says. In addition, the company supports area schools, colleges and universities. Around the holidays, clients receive gift cards to DonorsChoose, an organization that supports classroom needs. Clients are encouraged to choose a local school to which they donate their gift cards. The cards are used to buy supplies and fund other needs.

For more on giving back, see “Honoring a Life and a Legacy

KeyBank, as an organization, is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. Warner helps drive those efforts at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. Through grants from Key Equipment Finance and the KeyBank Foundation, the Office of Diversity Affairs at Leeds has created the KeyBank Business Leadership Program, a pre-college outreach effort for the business school, and the KeyBank Summer Bridge Program for EXCEL Scholars, which is a residential experience for pre-college students. Both programs focus on underserved communities. In addition to the fulfillment Warner gets from working with the students during the many hours he spends on campus, he hopes students will look to Key as a potential employer based on their experience with the program and how their diversity is valued at Key.  

Volunteerism and giving back are important to many member companies. By forging strong community relationships and strengthening the nonprofits and causes that matter to those communities, ELFA members are working to make the world a better place.

Celebrating a Decade of Community Service

2010 ConventionAt 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 nearly a quarter of a million dollars, or $245,000, to the following charities over the past decade: 
  • 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
  • 2012 - $12,500 to Habitat for Humanity and $12,500 to the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley
  • 2011 - $12,500 to Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio and $12,500 to Soldiers’ Angels

ELFA Launches “Stilp Days”

When ELFA Chief Financial and Operating Officer Paul Stilp retired at the end of March, he requested a parting gift: He asked that the association offer staffers one day of paid volunteer time off (VTO) per year to work in the local community. Whether volunteering at a local soup kitchen or helping on a local Habitat for Humanity build, staffers will have an opportunity to get out of the office, roll up their sleeves and make a difference.

Offering the staff a day dedicated to giving back—which team members have taken to calling a “Stilp Day”—reflects Stilp’s long-standing commitment to philanthropy. Stilp has served as a Board member of Community Lodgings and Tenants and Workers United. He also has helped coordinate the association’s annual holiday gift drives for needy families in the Washington, DC area.

Stilp served as a valuable member of the ELFA staff for 18 years, overseeing the association’s finances and treasury operations and working closely with the President and CEO and staff to provide for the overall daily administrative and operational requirements of the organization. He also served as Secretary of the ELFA Board of Directors. Although he’s retiring from his ELFA duties, don’t expect Stilp to stop giving back. He plans to continue his charitable work with Community Lodgings and other organizations.

Habitat 2015At a Community Service Project at the 2015 ELFA Annual Convention, Paul Stilp (back row, white baseball cap) helped members revitalize a property for Habitat for Humanity San Antonio.


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