As a citizen of one of the poorest states in a country still climbing out of a serious recession, Troy Dodd knows he and his employees are fortunate. Dodd is president and owner of Arkansas Rental & Sales in Little Rock, Ark., a Volvo Rents franchise that supports feeding the hungry via the Arkansas Food Bank Network as part of the Volvo Rents “Color for a Cause” campaign. “I remind myself and my employees that everybody's just about two paychecks behind these people,” says Dodd.

Initially, Dodd painted a Genie S-85 boomlift bright green and yellow with the message “This machine works for food” painted on the boom, and offered the machine for rent to local contractors with 10 percent of the rental revenue going to Operation More Care, an initiative to support the Arkansas Food Bank Network — a sum that will total nearly $5,000 by the end of the year.

“We wanted to give back to the community in a way that will touch people's lives almost immediately,” Dodd explains. “With the downfall of the economy and the unemployment rate as high as it has been in years, I felt that putting food on people's tables was the way our company should give back to the community. We are so blessed to have what we have when others have so little.”

Arkansas Rental & Sales has also encouraged employees to donate time to food drives and food bank events, and the company sends outside sales reps to visit customers — not on formal sales calls, but with food donation bags in hand to increase hunger awareness and bolster community involvement — an effort that results in an average 500-pound food donation each month.

“The whole concept of Color for a Cause and painting equipment is to make the general public aware and remind them of how lucky most of us are, and try to get the public to get more involved by networking together as a whole,” Dodd says.

Volvo Rents' Color for a Cause program originated with a handful of franchisees painting boom equipment pink in support of breast cancer awareness, but the company quickly realized that the program could create support for a wide variety of worthy charities.

“Many of our franchise owners and staff have family members and friends afflicted with various diseases and illnesses, so raising awareness and creating support for causes close to home became a priority for everyone involved,” says Michael Misetic, vice president, Fishman Public Relations for Volvo Rents. “Our franchises have been finding that their customers believe in, and back, the initiative. It's something that they are proud to be a part of. Equipment affiliated with the ‘Color for a Cause’ program is rented quickly. Customers have even paid a little more and/or waited to rent the charity-branded equipment. Why? Not only does the unique piece of machinery bring attention to their work site, but even more important to them is the visual representation of their involvement in support of the affiliated cause.”

Painting rental equipment to support a cause or charity is becoming a full-fledged industry trend with rental companies from coast to coast leading the way. Bud PeCoy, Mark Swedlund, Lucas Peed and Bob Conaway, partners in Fort Dodge, Iowa, construction equipment dealer and rental company Mid Country Machinery, painted their first charity-branded machines — two JLG Model 800s telescoping boomlifts — when they learned the wife of one of their customers suffered from breast cancer. Wanting to give back to the community, and finding breast cancer awareness a worthy cause, the partners purchased the two JLG boomlifts custom-ordered with pink paint and added them to their rental fleet. The Mid Country Machinery team added custom decals with its slogan “Reach High for the Cure” as well as licensed decals promoting Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In addition, the company signed an agreement with the Des Moines chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure to donate 10 percent of all rental revenue from the pink boomlifts for the duration of 54 months — a sum expected to total between $25,000 and $30,000.

“At the end of the year the donations really add up,” says Peed. “The customers look at the fact that you're not just out there making profit for yourself, but out there helping others. They see the community involvement and support.”

Subsequently, MCM ordered a custom-painted pink 70TMV-2 “For the Cure” wheel loader from Kawasaki, which it also outfitted with Susan G. Komen for the Cure decals, and the Iowa-based rental company also has a pink Kobelco SK210 Mark 8 excavator in its charity-branded arsenal.

“It's human nature to want to help others, especially those in need,” says Sam Shelton, marketing administrator for KCMA Corp., Kennesaw, Ga. “If an end-user can rent a required piece of equipment and know that some of the proceeds are going to help in funding breast cancer awareness and ultimately a cure, they feel they are part of the process too. And we all know someone who has been touched by this disease.”

Like breast cancer, autism is a disorder that has touched the lives of a growing number of Americans, including Scott Huggins, the father of a little boy with autism. Huggins is also vice president of AirWorx Construction Equipment & Supply, a rental, sales and service company in Indianapolis, that is renting a specially designed JLG boomlift to raise awareness and funding for autism, which affects one of every 150 children in the United States, according to the Autism Society of America.

After reading about Mid Country Machinery's pink boomlifts, Huggins contacted Tim Morris, vice president, market development and sales for the Americas at JLG Industries, and also the father of a young son diagnosed with autism. Huggins worked with Morris to order a custom-painted lift with unique jigsaw puzzle graphics covering the entire surface of the machine, which symbolize the pieces of the autism puzzle that have yet to be completed. The boomlift is rented to AirWorx customers with 20 percent of the rental revenue going to charity — half to the Autism Society of America and the other half to The Independence Academy, a new school in Indianapolis that specializes in education for middle and high-school students with high-functioning autism. In addition to AirWorx's contribution, rental customers can elect to contribute an additional amount over the rental rate, with 100 percent of that amount going directly to autism-related programs.

AirWorx expects to raise more than $14,000 per year for contributions to be divided between the two organizations, and more than $70,000 over the life of the commitment. Huggins and AirWorx president Dick Kagy say the company could make a greater commitment in the future, and as a “thank you” to customers who rent the boomlift, AirWorx is printing their name, project name and amount of money their rental raised for autism on a label to be placed on top of one of the colored jigsaw piece graphics on the machine to serve as a testament to those who helped increase awareness for autism.

Stephenson's Rental Services in Mississauga, Ontario, was recently inspired when one of its customers, Deltera Inc., a construction arm of the Tridel Group of Companies, which has long shown a strong commitment to social responsibility within the community, generously lent its support to build Ronald McDonald House Toronto. RMH provides housing to families who must travel far from home to get critical medical treatment for a sick child. Stephenson's felt the new house — the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world — was a perfect opportunity to give back and make a contribution to reduce its construction costs. The company rebranded a skid-steer with the RMH Toronto logo and donated the rental for the duration of the construction project.

“There is a real sense of pride demonstrated by the site personnel and trades who are building this facility,” says Marco Tavolieri, marketing manager for Stephenson's Rental Services. “Many have expressed appreciation to Stephenson's for stepping up and helping support this worthy project.”

Outside The Paint

Painting equipment isn't the only way rental companies are getting involved to raise money for charities. SMS Rents in Mississauga, Ontario, is sending a group to participate in the second annual “Ride to Conquer Cancer,” a 200-kilometer bicycle ride through the Quebec countryside over two days. Nicolas Gagnon, SMS Quebec regional manager, is one of eight members of Equipement SMS, many of whom, like Gagnon, have been personally affected by cancer in their families.

The SMS team has committed itself to raise $20,000 for the cause, with each member pledging to collect $2,500 in donations.

Meridian, Idaho-based Western States Equipment Co. participates in several fundraising events for charities including the Idaho Ronald McDonald House, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Idaho Foodbank.

Earlier this year, Western States nearly quadrupled its goal of gathering 150,000 pounds of food for local food banks, ultimately raising 587,861 pounds during its post-holiday Dump Hunger campaign — a partnership between its 13 branch locations and Albertson's supermarkets to support the Idaho Foodbank during the historically slow post-holiday donation months of January and February.

“The success of this campaign rests on the shoulders of our dedicated and caring employees, customers and partners,” says president Tom Harris. “Each branch and community made it their mission to help our local food banks.”

However rental companies are getting involved in support of local and national charities, the benefits are exponential to the efforts and expense put in. Not only does involvement enrich the community, but it enriches the lives of the rental company's employees and customers as well.

“Customers understand the need to give back to the community,” says Stephenson's Tavolieri. “It is easy to focus solely on the bottom line, but by supporting corporations that support others, it allows them to participate in the bigger picture and feel good about the organizations that help their businesses run.”