Gracious Givers: Why RDO Supports Non-Profits

Written by: Fargo Inc Staff
Jean Zimmerman, Executive Director at Offutt Family Foundation

For Jean Zimmerman, the entryway to compassion at the workplace is pride. She believes having pride in our work, who we work for, and the community in which we live in is the key to driving business and personal success. 

“At RDO Equipment Co., we have values that we live by,” said Zimmerman. “These are not just words on a wall poster but is a philosophy that drives our decisions so that we know what we can expect from each other, and the community knows what they can expect from us. Our values drive all decision-making.”

Philanthropy plays a vital role at RDO – Ron Offutt, who founded RDO Equipment Co. back in 1968, along with his children, sit on the Offutt Family Foundation, serving the Midwest. And more importantly, Ron and the Offutt family’s commitment to community has been instilled in each of the RDO locations around the country. 

And as important as giving back is to RDO’s leadership team and ownership group, they’re the first to credit that the best ideas come from their team members. For example, RDO Caters Taters — an annual potato luncheon held each fall that donates all proceeds to a local charity (that has raised more than $675k in the past 20 years) — is well-known in the community and is an event team members take great pride in. 

“It’s amazing how many needs there are in our communities,” she said. “I’m really proud of being from Fargo because we show up in times of crisis and show up for times where there are big needs. We also show up for the little things and needs that may not get a whole lot of press. And that’s where team members come in and make a huge difference.”

Whether it’s a diaper drive for Great Plains Food Bank or gathering school supplies for area children, RDO’s team members come forward whenever they recognize a need in the community. 

Commitment to Community 

One way that RDO Equipment Co. has made giving a priority is to build it right into the budget. Stores will also have a committee of team members that decide how the money is dispersed. Each committee has a mission statement they’ve devised that speaks to how, why and where they are giving will have community impact. 

“We support community giving in three ways – paid time off to volunteer, giving of our talent and, of course, monetarily.  All three came in to play with the Blitz Build for Habitat and Humanity. I found out that one of my talents wasn’t building scaffolding in the rain. But it sure felt good when I was done knowing I came together with other team members and made a difference.”

For Zimmerman, it’s fun to contribute to the things that employees are passionate about, like the company match for Giving Hearts Day. “We say, ‘What is it that you’d like to give to?’ Dakota Medical Foundation, for example, is great at vetting those nonprofits, and whatever nonprofit the team member wanted to give to, we provided a monetary match.”

What sparked their idea in wanting to support nonprofits?

With a philanthropic ownership group, they boast great pride in where they do business. Per Zimmerman, the ownership group has been great role models for everyone in terms of compassion and caring.

“There’s an underlying belief that when people have supported us, we get to support the community because we’re all in this together. We measure community time and community giving not because it’s a policy, but because we encourage supporting our communities.  It makes us all stronger.”

Prior to serving as the Executive Director of the Offutt Family Foundation, Zimmerman spent more than a dozen years as executive vice president of organizational development at RDO Equipment Co., but what she called herself was chief cheerleader. 

“I was involved in developing a culture based on pride of place and comradeship,” she said. “There’s nothing better (for) building camaraderie than all of us coming together to do something for someone else.”

For the Offutt Family Foundation, Zimmerman has turned her past history of “cheerleading” into a charitable endeavor. 

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