In this year’s surveys, Monitor posed a new question about philanthropic activity. Guest editor Tawnya Stone checks in with three of the top equipment finance companies that have created a purposeful strategy to serve their communities.
What inspires you? I bet the first thing you didn’t say was finance companies. To be honest, I would’ve felt the same way if you asked me that question a month ago, but after having the privilege of talking with three Monitor 100 companies about their philanthropy efforts, my outlook has changed.
Arvest Equipment Finance, DLL and Volvo Financial Services have demonstrated their dedication to making a difference in the communities where they work and live. All three companies embed their core values as guideposts for determining where to focus their efforts. They all agreed that their contributions benefit not only the organization they are helping, but also their employees and their own company — creating a winning combination for all.
Choosing a Focus
DLL has a formulated strategy. The company seeks to understand societal challenges and discover where it can make an impact. Following direction provided by its stakeholders, DLL aligns the interests and expertise of its members (its name for employees) to find a point of intersection, where the organizations it chooses to support live.
Marije Rhebergen, DLL’s global head of sustainability, says, “We can only be successful when we know where to be impactful and is in line with where our members have passion and want to contribute.”
Allison Long, senior vice president of marketing, brand and communications at Volvo Financial, says, “Our community service approach is based on four key areas: supporting poverty alleviation, health and welfare, education, and civic and community activities. These principles, along with our employees’ input on the activities that are the most meaningful to them, are VFS’ roadmap to where and how we devote our community efforts.”
Arvest Equipment Finance takes a more grassroots approach — it lets each associate find what they are passionate about and how they want to be involved. “We want a strong tie between our associates and their communities to make them excited to give back,” Eric Bunnell, president of Arvest Equipment Finance, says.
Societal needs drive the direction of each of these finance companies. Tiffany Shelton, one of the many volunteer coordinators for DLL, spoke about a recent experience. One of DLL’s members, who had personally lost a family member to COVID-19, raised funds through Local Heroes to provide iPads to patients so they could communicate with their families and physicians while safely social distancing. Once DLL found out, it expanded the program to nearly 500 iPads at 10 different care facilities.
“It was so nice to see DLL step up and boost the efforts of an issue so personal to one of our members. It just makes you feel good about a company that cares that much,” Shelton says.
Arvest Equipment Finance assisted an organization that had a direct correlation with the industry it serves. Women With a Mission is a group that provides medical equipment to a local hospital. Katie Crawford, an Arvest Equipment Finance specialist, says, “Volunteering for an organization that provides neonatal intensive care fetal monitors not only supports a very good cause, but also ties directly into our world of equipment finance.”
Serving the Community
These Monitor 100 companies have found that by creating an environment for philanthropy, it has made a difference to more than just the communities they serve. One consistent message from each company was the need to tap into the passion of employees and the resulting positive impacts on the organizations.
DLL found an opportunity to link an individual’s personal development to volunteerism. “For example, if someone wants to improve their coaching or presentation skills, this allows them an opportunity to practice the skills and competencies that translate back to their professional development,” Rhebergen says.
Crawford says individuals will volunteer or make donations as part of their team, but many times, they will end up serving on the organization’s board. “This creates a positive message for the community and creates connections, which are good for everyone. It makes us better by being in tune with the community,” she says.
Volvo Financial has found a direct correlation with employee satisfaction by giving its employees an opportunity to be part of something bigger. Long says, “Our employees gain tremendous energy and fulfillment from working together to give back to our community. Their overall happiness in their jobs as well as their loyalty to VFS increases, and we see higher productivity and employee retention as a result.”
Volvo Financial received accreditation from Great Place to Work Institute in many of the markets in which it operates. Based on anonymous employee surveys, GPTW recognizes companies with high-performance cultures and dedicated employees. “We see in the survey scores that one of the reasons our employees like working for VFS is the ability to support societal needs,” Long says.
Each company matches employee donations; however, in-kind donations have a similarly significant emphasis. Volvo Financial tries to extend volunteer opportunities to its employees and their families. “Our employees tell us that when they include their families and loved ones, the experience is always meaningful and that their children learn a lot from the experiences,” Long says.
DLL gives members two days a year to volunteer at the organization of their choice. They can sign up for predetermined activities or add their own. “This shows the commitment of our company. It also makes it easier for those that couldn’t do it on their own time,” Rob Ceribelli, head of U.S. Operations for DLL, says. “We have found that once people participate, they have a unique experience and also start volunteering in their private lives.”
For Arvest, it is not just about donating money. In 2019, a total of 1,900 associates volunteered their time, totaling 35,424 hours. That level of service speaks volumes to the investment in their communities.
Creating a Culture of Giving
According to these companies, a philanthropic mindset does not just happen. It starts at the top of the organization. DLL’s CEO and executive board are extremely supportive in creating a culture of giving. One organization the Philadelphia-based team supports is the Make-a-Wish Foundation, having granted more than 500 wishes in the past 17 years. It is not just a financial donation for DLL; its members are involved in granting the wishes.
VFS has found that community engagement aids recruitment efforts. “Candidates come in and they want to be a part of what we are doing both in and outside the office. Our emphasis on these types of activities has played an integral role during both the hiring and onboarding process,” Long says.
Arvest’s managers encourage their associates to get involved by supporting activities that help the communities where they work and live. Arvest also tracks philanthropic participation and has found that each division competes to have the highest participation. The company allows and encourages volunteer efforts inside and outside of working hours, recognizing those individuals who go above and beyond as culture ambassadors.
Many equipment finance companies constantly focus on technology initiatives. DLL addresses not only its day-to-day technological operations but also has created a digital experience for its members to gather their input as well as encourage participation in philanthropic causes. The portal allows members to suggest activities that are important to them. One example is The Philly Goat Project, which provides service animals that work with disabled children. This organization would not have been identified without the suggestion of a DLL member.
Volvo utilizes social media to further encourage employee engagement. “We share community-related posts almost every week, and employees like and share these almost twice as much as other content,” Emily Fouche, strategic communications specialist at VFS, says. “This shows that our employees are proud of the work we are doing and want to share that within their own networks.”
The most impactful takeaway for our industry is that each of these companies have a purposeful strategy. The leaders of these companies realized that everyone benefits when a focus on philanthropy is a part of the culture. Bunnell says, “Our company mission is people helping people find financial solutions for life. This is just another way we strive to do this every day.” •