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“This community and its businesses are so generous,” says Renee Moe, vice president of resource development and marketing of United Way of Dane County. “We value not only the money they give, but the talents of people helping us get better in our execution and strategy. It’s incredible to see how, even in tough economic times, they’ve continued to give.” Moe thinks Dane County has one of the most supportive business constituencies across the country, and it’s not hard to believe when you look at what companies of all types—huge, tiny, old, new and everywhere in between—are doing to help area nonprofits. Here are just a few shining examples.
Family-owned businesses large and small are digging deep into their pockets and contributing money and time. Mortenson Investment Group gave $250,000 this year to help found the Center for Nursing Excellence, a collaboration between Edgewood College, Meriter and St. Mary’s. “It’s a cutting-edge approach to decreasing health care costs and improving care through advanced training of nursing students and current health care providers,” says Mortenson president Bradley Hutter.
The company regularly sponsors and hosts events such as this fall’s Susan G. Komen kickoff for Breast Cancer Awareness month, and it helps sponsor an annual art auction to benefit Middleton Outreach Ministry, which Hutter says nets $10,000 on average. The Mortenson Family Foundation donates roughly $300,000 a year, mostly to benefit children’s education and health care causes.
It’s a tradition begun by company founder Loren Mortenson, Hutter’s wife Joelle’s father, who instilled a culture of giving. “Charity is such a huge part of every division of our business,” Hutter says. “And in tough times it’s more critical than ever to be stewards of the community.”
With her smaller family business, Huma Siddiqui, co-owner with son Samir Karimi of White Jasmine, gives mostly of her time and delicious products. “She’s very active on our board and is so generous with nonmonetary support to many organizations,” says Crystel Anders, executive director of Community Shares. Siddiqui donates gift baskets or private cooking classes to silent auctions to benefit the Rape Crisis Center, Great Lakes Hemophilia Association and Lakeview Cooperative Preschool.
“No matter how busy you are, the art of volunteering is important to your life; it helps create balance. My son has the same philosophy,” she says. “You can have a lot of fun and help those who are less fortunate. It was challenging during the recession, but some things have to be selfless and we didn’t want to forget that balance.”
The list goes on: The Association of Fundraising Professionals awarded Culver’s Restaurants this year’s Philanthropy Day Outstanding Business award for its partnerships with innumerable organizations, including the Prairie du Sac Public library, to which it donated its former building.
Andy Garcia Productions supports education, producing the annual Circle of Friends Luncheon for the Foundation for Madison Public Schools and donating pro bono services such as live streaming of the All City Swim Meet. The company also produces an annual public service announcement for the Thunder Run (motorcycle) Ride to Cure Diabetes.
Von Rutenberg Ventures supports AIDS Network, HospiceCare, the Sheriff’s Lakes Patrol and Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS). Owners Bill Jr., Jack and Robert Von Rutenberg also fund the Betty Von Rutenberg Memorial Scholarship for young women in conjunction with TEMPO and Madison Community Foundation, in memory of their mother. “It’s so exciting to meet these graduating seniors at our annual benefit,” says Robert. “One year a young Hmong woman won and went to massage therapy school; another winner went to the London School of Economics.”
Many longtime city fixtures have a history of corporate philanthropy. Take J.H. Findorff & Son—its president, Rich Lynch, chairs this year’s United Way campaign and the Madison Community Foundation’s grant-making committee. Hundreds of employees volunteer for causes including the American Diabetes Association’s “Tour de Cure,” Boys & Girls Clubs and Project Home’s “Hammer with a Heart.”
New this year is the 120 Challenge. To mark its 120th anniversary, Findorff committed to giving time, talent or treasure to that many nonprofits this year. “I’m happy to report that we reached our goal by the end of September,” says Jeff Tubbs, vice president of business development.
“We’ve been successful here for years and giving back to the community has always been so important to us,” he says. “We preach about it from senior management on down and encourage every employee to get involved.”
National Guardian Life Insurance Company has contributed to scholarships for UW–Madison and Madison College for decades, and celebrated its 100th anniversary this year with a $100,000 endowment to Madison College for a scholarship fund. It also donated funds to Porchlight to establish a residence for homeless veterans.
Among Madison Gas and Electric Company’s myriad efforts, the company has signed on as a lead project partner to develop the Resilience Research Center, a south-side neighborhood initiative set to include community gardens and greenhouses, a commercial kitchen, mixed-use retail and service spaces and a green-focused charter school. MGE also contributed financially to the Aldo Leopold Nature Center’s expanded facility to establish educational exhibits about renewable energy.
Epic Systems makes financial contributions to more than a hundred nonprofits, including Community Shares (which facilitates donations to more than sixty member nonprofits), with employees helping to direct donations. One of president and CEO Judy Faulkner’s goals is to be a good neighbor, so Epic donates older computers to local school districts, supports the Verona Public Library, and hosts Verona Area High School’s graduation in its auditorium.
Nonprofit leaders report that many other traditional corporate citizens, including Alliant Energy, American Family Insurance, Oscar Mayer, Douglas Stewart Company, Promega, Murphy Desmond and Webcrafters, have important and well-established legacies in reaching out to bolster community-building initiatives. And they’ve stuck with it through economic thick and thin.