While the Fargo INC! business events calendar is a great overview of each month’s must-attend events in the area, we’re occasionally going to take a deeper dive. This month, we’re featuring the 17th annual RDO Equipment Co.’s Caters Taters for Charity potato luncheon taking place in November. We sat down with team members from both RDO and the YWCA—this year’s beneficiary of Caters Taters proceeds—to talk about why for-profit/nonprofit relationships are so beneficial to both sides.
Alright, so first question’s first: Why giant potatoes?
RDO: Our founder, Ron Offutt, is one of the largest potato growers in the country, and 17 years ago, when RDO employees were challenged to come up with an event to give back to the community, they thought, ‘We grow potatoes. Why not do a potato luncheon?’
A lot of our history at RDO revolves around equipment and potatoes, and so it was a great way to provide potatoes to the community that would translate to something great for charities.
Unlike some charity events, the beneficiary of Caters Taters changes each year. Why did you as a company decide to do that?
RDO: I think that one of the really unique things for us as employees is that working with a different charity every year brings an awareness about the work that these different organizations are doing in Fargo-Moorhead and beyond. We work so closely with the charity and really get a feel for what they’re doing, and that helps give us more passion to do everything we can to make sure we pull off a great event for them.
YWCA: It inspires their employees and team members to give back to charities that maybe they wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise, and the employees get to learn more about what we do and the needs that we have as an organization.
RDO: Over the last few years, one thing that I’ve found to be really valuable is that we have multiple touch points with the charity throughout the year. For example, we’re going to have Erin come in and speak to our entire building so that we can really be the front lines helping drive this event and the mission of the YWCA. It’s kind of to help inspire and get the team ramped up with the event. We partner with them for one year, but my hope is that it extends beyond that. It’s just a one-day event, but we hope that the impact for not only the charity but also our employees goes beyond that.
How is a charity chosen to become that year’s Caters Taters beneficiary?
RDO: Every three years, we ask charities to apply and be a part of Caters Taters. It’s not a difficult application, but we want to know things about the work they’re doing, what the need is, where they’re getting their support from. Then, we make a decision every three years about who we’ll support for the next three years.
Besides the obvious financial benefit, why did the YWCA apply?
YWCA: We wrote to support our emergency shelter operations down on South University Drive. Just last year, we served more women and children than ever before in our history at nearly 1,500. So it couldn’t come at a better time.
Last week, I was literally crawling around on the floor looking for paper products to serve chili out of. So to receive the support of this amazing stakeholder company—with all of their volunteer support—we have a small administrative staff so to have the support of an organization like RDO. The volume of volunteers and passion that they bring really does make a tremendous difference in helping us do the work that’s so important: caring for children in our childcare center or talking with women about their housing plans and educational goals.
RDO: We know that, as nonprofits, often times their teams are small and they wear many, many hats. And so one of our goals with the event is that we don’t want them on the floor looking for plates. We want to do that for them. Their level of involvement is really to just be recipients and to really soak it in and have fun and not have to do all the nitty-gritty details they do every day.
These kinds of events are obviously a boon to the charitable organization, but the reality is that there is a price to putting them on, no?
RDO: We try to do as much as we can with as little as we can, and so what we do and have gotten really good at is finding great partners to help provide both products and services. This event truly would not be possible without some really great community businesses that have supported us over the years.
We’re a very large organization and so we’re able to reach out to a lot of our larger partners. And the support they give always blows me away. A company like John Deere, they have a local presence but are also a very large organization. The fact that they continue to support us with our needs for the event, I think it speaks to the partnership that RDO has with so many companies across the world.
What do you all see as the larger importance of these kinds of ongoing relationships between charitable organizations and private businesses?
RDO: It’s a really hands-on way for our employees to get involved and give back, and that’s a pillar (at RDO). As employees, we’re constantly encouraged and inspired and given opportunities to get involved. Each RDO employee has eight hours to volunteer in their communities.
YWCA: There’s no question that our events—because of our limited staff—would not happen without volunteer committees. So it takes all of those folks from different businesses and those businesses being willing to give up some of that employee’s time. Whether they’re the accountant who serves on our finance committee or someone who helps plan events or someone who gets silent auction items, it takes all sorts of talents.
If there is someone out there wanting to get involved, our message would be that this is a great way to get your feet wet and find something you’re passionate about. Reach out and find a way to volunteer and get involved. Because that’s part of the message of the event, too, is giving back. There are a lot of ways in our communities that folks are able to do that, whether it’s this event or some other organization.
To learn more about Caters Taters, visit rdocaterstaters.com
If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor and want to see the various sponsorship opportunities, visit rdocaterstaters.com/support.cfm