It belongs to you… it will work for you
Anyone who has made a career of the equipment industry is passionate about what they do. It’s commendable, it’s noticeable and it’s unavoidable. To be in this industry and lack passion would likely result in an early exit to a new career.
For hundreds of years, creating and contributing to a foundation is how many people cemented their legacy by providing funding for the benefit of others. Benjamin Franklin is one such person. The Philadelphia businessman, statesman, inventor, and Founding Father created a foundation that continues to function today.
As noted on the website of The Philadelphia Foundation, “In his 1790 will, Benjamin Franklin left 1,000 pounds sterling to the city of Philadelphia. He instructed city leaders to hold part of it for 200 years and then use it to train ‘artificers’ – a Colonial term for craftsmen and tradesmen.”
Money from the Benjamin Franklin Trust Funds are still at work today. A large sum was awarded to The Philadelphia Foundation in 1993 and 1994 and the funds are used to support vocational training as Franklin intended.
As Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Franklin’s thoughts about knowledge and training are in stride with the association’s reasons for creating the WED Foundation in 2015. When established by the association’s board of directors, the mission was clearly defined, according to John Schmeiser, CEO, Western Equipment Dealers Association.
“Building on the success of the Canada Equipment Dealers Foundation, which WEDA created for Canadian dealers, the WED Foundation was established with an identical mandate,” says Schmeiser.
That mandate includes:
- promoting the industry,
- providing scholarships to current and future employees,
- offsetting training costs dealers have in raising the level of professionalism and skills,
- establishing equipment dealership training programs at colleges, and
- giving retiring dealers a path to give back to the industry through a planned donor program.
In the short-term, the basic goals of the WED Foundation are within reach, especially the goal to raise the profile of the foundation. If you’re reading this, the profile is being raised.
Another goal of the foundation is to give back through scholarships to current and future dealership employees – and to raise enough funds to support the technician training program at the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee.
The shortage of technicians in the industry and the willingness of OSUIT to work with the association and its members has closed the gap for some dealers who have funded student scholarships. But more technicians are needed today and will be needed in the future as equipment becomes more complex. Schmeiser hopes the need for technicians will encourage more dealers to invest in their people and their training.
Olivia Holcombe, office manager at the association, says donations are needed to continue the foundation’s work. “With more donations, we could expand the scholarship program and continue to improve the program at OSUIT. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Every donation, even $10, can make a difference.”
Holcombe, who also coordinates foundation events, says fundraising includes private donations and special events, such as association auctions and golf tournaments.
In the long-term, Schmeiser hopes the foundation becomes a sustainable endowment that meets its overall objective “to provide more training tools to dealer members so they can enhance their profitability.”
How to contribute
Donating to the foundation is simple, says Schmeiser. Members can donate by contacting the association office, participating in a fundraising event or buying an auction item at an association meeting. He says even donating an auction item is an option.
But Schmeiser would also like Western members to think long-term and consider making annual donations to the foundation or name the foundation as a beneficiary in their estate planning.
“Equipment dealers are part of a great industry and it’s provided many dealers a great lifestyle for them and their families,” says Schmeiser. “The foundation allows them to give something back to the industry. Donations have been made and scholarships have been established on behalf of employees or former owners.”
Schmeiser also adds that a foundation wall of fame is being developed that will recognize major contributors and donations will be recognized on the soon-to-be launched WEDF website.
As Holcombe notes, even a small amount makes a difference. Looking back at Benjamin Franklin’s vision proves her point. His contribution of 1,000 pounds of sterling, which he earned but never spent while serving as governor of Pennsylvania, was worth between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on whose currency exchange is used to measure the amount.
But today, the money he provided, which Franklin wanted invested and not touched for 200 years, is worth between $6 and $7 million and it continues to serve “artificers.”
Maybe the next time you look at a $100 bill, you’ll see more than Ben Franklin’s face. You’ll see an opportunity to help your association’s foundation move a step closer to training more technicians to serve the industry.
The WED Foundation at a glance
The WEDF is a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation established to benefit equipment dealers, their current employees and the next generation of employees. All donations are tax deductible.
The work of the WED Foundation is done through volunteers and association staff donating their time to the foundation. Administrative costs and bank fees account for approximately 1 percent of foundation expenses. This ensures the maximum benefit to dealers for the funds raised.
The purpose of the WED Foundation is:
- To create educational programs for dealers and their employees, including the association’s technician training program at OSUIT.
- To establish scholarship programs at post-secondary educational institutions.
- For public awareness campaigns to promote the industry to the general public.
- To conduct research on related topics within the industry.
The dealers who serve on the foundation’s advisory board are:
- Bruce Coleman, Coleman Equipment, Inc.
- Scott Eisenhauer, P&K Equipment, Inc.
- Jeff Flora, retired, Western Equipment Dealers Association
- Jack Radke, Ag-Power, Inc.
If you have questions about the foundation, please contact Olivia Holcombe at 800-762-5616.
To learn more about the WED Foundation Scholarship Program, visit www.westerneda.com/foundation/scholarships.