A Giving Nature: Dealers Tell ProSales They're Principles for Making Donations

Good news makes for boring stories, journalists say. But when you consider the contributions of time and money that this year's ProSales Public Service Leaders ("Community Champions," page 43) have made to their communities, I think you'll agree these are tales worth telling. Our biggest regret was that senior editor Andy Carlo couldn't give the same attention to the many other worthy LBM executives that you nominated for recognition.

Craig Webb Giving is a well-established habit at pro dealers nationwide, we found. But what we didn't see quite as often were standards and procedures for making those donations. At some dealers, it seems as if the charitable cause that gets the donation succeeds primarily because it picked the right moment to coax the yard's owner to open his wallet.

Seeking a better way to give, ProSales editorial intern Anna Hernández asked pro dealers of varying size across the country about their own methods for managing their companies' donations. The processes they use reminded us of the "Five Ws"–Who? What? When? Where? Why?–that journalists sort through to craft a story.

Who decides at a yard to give? Stephens Supply, Fuquay-Varina, N.C., has a committee of employees that figures out which group deserves a contribution. The money comes from a company fund that's based on a certain percentage of sales. "We want the donation to be in the area," Stephens president Wayne Carver says. "We prefer it be for kids, and if any employees are involved, it moves to the top of the list." Bruce Hall, owner of Bruce Hall Corp., Cooperstown, N.Y., makes the decisions himself, and only after he has a face-to-face meeting with the requester.

What to give? At Alpine Lumber, Westminster, Colo., president Bill Miller says the lumberyard donates money but prefers to donate materials "because it sets us apart from other businesses in other industries." Along with Alpine, Budget Build Lumber & Supply, Ferriday, La., often donates materials rather than money, depending on the cause.

When is the best time to give? James King, owner of Budget Builder, says he gives when "someone has a need the Lord leads us to, then we'll meet that need." Spencer says, "Whenever a charity has a drive, then we donate around that time." Mike Marker from Flynn Lumber, Gladwin, Mich., says it donates as requests are received but always "gives with a smile and encouragement, not begrudgingly."

Where should the contributions go? Hancock Lumber, Casco, Maine, concentrates its donations of money and time in its home state's Western Lakes and Mid-Coast regions. In Harcourt, Iowa, Engquist Lumber Co. owner Scott Engquist says his priority is "to give money to do things in our area. ...If it's for the kids, it's a priority." Several others also said they tend to give locally but will open up on occasion, such as after Hurricane Katrina.

Finally, why give? Flan-nery Higgins, until recently the marketing manager at Hancock Lumber, says the main goal is "to be involved in events and charitable efforts that enhance the quality of life in our community. ...We believe that doing good is good for our business."

You'll find more from Hernández's interviews in her special report posted on our Web site , including advice on how to say no to a request. Based on the extent of giving that we've seen lately, that's a skill that not many dealers know.

This issue's profiles of the 2007 Public Service Leaders mark the debut feature by ProSales' new senior editor, Andy Carlo. He's a one-time home builder and veteran journalist who has covered the construction supply industry for many years. This issue also contains the first contributions from Evamarie Socha, our new managing editor. She brings to ProSales more than 15 years' experience leading business-to-business publications that have won some of the most prestigious awards in our business.

–Craig Webb, Editor 202.736.3307 cwebb@hanleywood.com