When Giving Becomes Contagious: The Equipment Finance Industry’s Power to Give Back

by Shawn Smith Mar/Apr 2023
The equipment finance industry can do more than negotiate deals and write checks; it can also drive positive change for all of society. The National Equipment Finance Association is doing its part to lead the charge.

Shawn Smith,
Chairman and CEO,
Dedicated Financial GBC

Equipment finance industry leaders can do more with their companies than merely empower other businesses by providing funding and creating jobs: they can also have a large positive impact on local, national and global communities by partnering with nonprofits that give back to those in need. The National Equipment Finance Association is driving initiatives based on this notion, including hosting a new charity event that takes place at each of the association’s two main conferences. This article was written to provide insight into three important, driving forces within NEFA and to provide information about a new charity event that NEFA has begun hosting twice per year at its two main conferences.

The mission and purpose of the NEFA is to cultivate the growth of its members in the equipment leasing and finance industry by providing networking opportunities and facilitating collaboration and the exchange of impactful knowledge. In pursuing this mission last year, the association expanded member benefits, educational offerings and its own value proposition in multiple ways, including improving NEFA conferences, regional events and educational resources; expanding volunteer opportunities through the creation of committees and regional initiatives; and establishing a member discount program.

Each year, NEFA offers its members a variety of benefits, including the opportunity to network and connect at two annual conferences, eight regional events and other virtual programs. In 2022, the association held its tremendously successful Funding Symposium in Nashville, TN from Nov. 2 to Nov. 4. The conference attracted more than 400 attendees from North America and offered excellent educational opportunities, phenomenal networking activities and an annual meeting to announce NEFA’s board of directors.

During the conference, a group of members passionate about helping those in need organized a charity axe throwing event to benefit Safe Haven, a local organization that supports families facing domestic violence and housing challenges. Sponsors for the event included Dakota Financial, Lovern Gordon and the Love Life Now Foundation, Boston Financial & Equity Corporation and my own company, Dedicated GBC. Through the generosity of NEFA members and the event’s sponsors, the fundraising event raised $21,000.

“It’s amazing to see how generous the NEFA community and those in the equipment finance and leasing industry are when it comes to helping people in need,” Chad Sluss, CEO of NEFA, says. “It’s refreshing to work with so many amazing people every day.”

Making the Choice to Help

The NEFA’s efforts should be commended, but there is always more to be done.

“I am sure that each and every one of you is painfully aware that there is no shortage of worthy causes in need. Homelessness, cancer, abuse, hunger, and the list goes on and on,” Michael Green, chairman of Dakota Financial, says. “And I am sure that each and every one of you has a feeling of wanting to make a difference and give back. But where do you start? It can be paralyzing. There is so much need in the world around us.

I once felt the same way: frozen in the presence of overwhelming need, but 15 years ago, I decided to focus and act on the opportunities placed in front of me that I was fortunate enough to help with right away, much in the same way I do as an entrepreneur. This conscious choice has filled me with hope that I am actually doing something useful and making a difference. Even something as simple as supporting a friend’s child who is participating in an event like Dribble for a Cure with Cancer or attending an event like Allies for Every Child, for which I’ve served on the board for more than 15 years, can make a major difference.

As Green explains, a similar philosophy has ignited Dakota Financial’s participation in the NEFA’s sponsored charitable giving initiatives. “We are inspired by stories of giving and knowing that the organizations we will support will literally transform people’s lives in such a meaningful and deep way each day,” Green says. “If all of us can act upon those opportunities available to us, including volunteering and donating our time or money, we can make a difference in meaningful ways through our collective efforts.”

It is awe-inspiring to see the power that a few individuals can have when, despite everything they already have on their plate, they decide to lean in to sacrifice for those in need, empowering others to give back to those experiencing some of the most painful experiences that a person can endure. Green and Sluss are both such individuals, with Green meaningfully helping those in desperate need and Sluss supporting efforts to give back and help others, such as the Chris Walker Education Fund, despite being in a relatively new position within the NEFA.

These efforts and many others across the equipment finance industry show how businesses have a great opportunity to change the world for the better thanks to their untapped capacity to help. The future is bright, as many in the younger generations now entering the business world are seeking a greater purpose in their work, believing that their life has to be about something more than just a paycheck and that there is no greater joy than helping someone in need.

Events That Help

Part of NEFA’s 2023 Funding Summit includes its Kickoff Charity Event on March 21 in San Diego. The event includes a fashion show, the wildly successful NEFA Karaoke for Charity, as well as indoor and outdoor components overlooking the bay in San Diego. All the funds raised will go to support Operation Open Water, a community of surfers, adventurers and advocates who support struggling first responders and veterans by providing open water experiences to help heal the mind, strengthen the body and raise the spirit. Helping those who have fought for our freedom and our safety and are now suffering is a cause that we can all get behind.

This won’t be the last NEFA charity event, as the association is planning to include such events at every NEFA annual conference, with each one supporting a local charity that corresponds with the event location. And — incredibly — all money raised at these events will be matched by up to $50,000 by a sponsor.

I am grateful for what we have already been able to do together, and I truly can’t wait to see the impact that all of the incredible members of the NEFA will have as all of us use business to change the world for the better.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shawn Smith is chairman and CEO of Dedicated Financial GBC. A pioneer of “relationship-based” commercial collections, Smith founded the company in 2015 with a vision to create a new kind of commercial collections company, with a new model based on connecting on a personal level with those in debt and a new, integrated corporate philanthropy model.

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