Passion for philanthropy: Northern Nevada companies doing their part to increase corporate giving awareness

RENO, Nev. — Four months from now, on March 30, 2020, Danny DeLaRosa and a bevy of colleagues at Greater Nevada Credit Union will be standing on the shores of South Lake Tahoe.

Mounds of snow will likely surround them. The crisp mountain air will definitely be biting them. The water will be freezing.

Still, DeLaRosa and a host of GNCU members will be jumping into Lake Tahoe's frigid blue waters. This won't be done on a dare or because they lost a bet. No, this won't be done as a new-age form of cryogenic therapy.

DeLaRosa and GNCU will embrace the cold shock of submerging in Tahoe for their annual “polar plunge” fundraiser in support of Special Olympics Nevada (SONV).

“I'm going in — I'm going all the way in,” DeLaRosa, GNCU's chief development officer, said with a hop in his voice. “I know some people just put their feet in. I'm diving in.”

Members of Greater Nevada Credit Union brave the cold for their 2019 Polar Plunge benefit for Special Olympics of Nevada.

In 2019, DeLaRosa said, GNCU raised roughly $23,000 for SONV, which provides year-round sports training and competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. All told, his excitement for the upcoming “polar plunge” epitomizes GNCU's attitude toward philanthropy: They jump in with both feet.

“Our passion statement is to help more people live greater, and philanthropy in the communities that we serve is really key to that passion,” DeLaRosa said. “By helping nonprofits and community organizations throughout Nevada, we're able to support a lot of those key initiatives that help build greater communities.”


Greater Nevada Credit Union — which does everything from awarding dozens of students $2,000 college scholarships to raising funds for the University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack Marching Band — is far from alone.

In fact, corporate giving is continually growing in Northern Nevada and beyond. According to the Giving USA, corporate giving in 2018 increased to $20.05 billion — a 5.4 percent increase from 2017.

Zooming in on the Silver State, companies donated more than 90,000 volunteer hours in various communities in 2018, according to Nevada-based consulting firm Applied Analysis.

And with the holiday season on the horizon, there's no better time for businesses to get in the spirit of giving, said Ryan Dolan, CEO of Reno-based Dolan Auto Group.

“We just know how important it is for the strength of the community and to make it a better place for everybody here,” Dolan said in regards to corporate giving. “And a strong community equals, hopefully, strong business. It's like a cycle; a cycle that you have to keep feeding to keep it going.”


Possessing a philanthropic drive for the past 35 years, Dolan Auto does everything from sponsoring special events to support children's education. The latter is a special point of emphasis for the Reno-based auto group, Ryan Dolan said.

Ryan Dolan and Brady Dolan present a $5,000 check to Riverview Elementary School in Dayton for being a winner in last year's Dolan Class Project.

This is exemplified by the company's annual Dolan Class Project. Each November, the company awards a share of $60,000 to 11 area classrooms — with $10,000 going to the first-place classroom and $5,000 apiece to 10 others — with the best community project ideas. In other words, Dolan Auto Group is aiming to forge future philanthropists to continue the cycle of giving in the community.

For Ryan Dolan, who formed the Dolan Class Project in 2011, traveling around to the winning classrooms and presenting them with giant checks is a highlight each holiday season. This year, the grand-prize winner went to Ms. Johnson's Middle School Robotics Class at St. Albert the Great Catholic School in Reno.

“The best part of the whole program is to see the kids' faces and the teachers who are so excited,” Dolan said. “Five thousand dollars for a classroom, it's monumental what they can do for those kids. And those kids and parents and everybody involved in the project gives us banners and thank yous … it means the world. You can't put a price tag on that.”

Meanwhile, at Renown Health, philanthropy is “part of the culture,” said Annie Zucker, manager of community impact.

Renown Health employees organize school supplies before packing them up to donate. Supplies include notebooks, backpacks, colored pencils, shoes, sticky notes, binders and more.

As Northern Nevada's only nonprofit hospital, philanthropic support and partnership are essential to providing and expanding needed services in the region, she said.

“When you go through new employee orientation, one of the first things that we learn about is how to engage with the community,” Zucker said. “Employees at Renown see a lot of different demographics of people every day that they're caring for. And they get to see what the needs are and that trickles out to those employees getting very emotionally attached to the problems within our community and want to help a little bit more.”

With that in mind, Zucker said the holiday season is an especially important time of year for the Reno-based hospital. Each year, Renown is a part of “adopt a family” efforts in partnership with the Communities In Schools as well as The Children's Cabinet. In 2018, Renown employees' in-kind donations to for “adopt a family” efforts added up to about $20,000, Zucker noted.

“When I put something out (to employees) about our ‘adopt a family' at the holiday time and I get 70 email responses immediately, it shows that everybody takes pride,” she said.

For all of 2018, Renown donated more than $1.76 million to other local nonprofit organizations, Zucker added.


While not all companies have the means to donate millions of dollars, Zucker stressed the importance of getting involved in giving, whether it's money or time.

One way, she pointed out, is by giving employees paid time off to volunteer with an organization. At Renown, full-time employees are given four hours of paid time per quarter for volunteer activities. Moreover, when employees donate more than 25 hours to a nonprofit, that organization receives a $250 donation, Zucker said. She added that employees who serve on a qualified nonprofit may request a matching donation from Renown up to $1,000 annually.

Danny DeLaRosa, chief development officer at Greater Nevada Credit Union, says philanthropy is key to creating a strong community.

Globally, companies increasing their focus on employee volunteerism and giving is a growing trend. According to the 2019 Industry Review report, employees at companies with over 100,000 employees reported volunteering for an average of 20 hours, up 43 percent from the previous report.

“Companies have a very unique opportunity to support their employees to engage with community organizations they are passionate,” Zucker said. “Without much of a financial commitment, they can offer time for their employees to volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to boost employee morale.”

DeLaRosa agreed, noting that GNCU “constantly has volunteers opportunities” out in front of its employees. He said the company, which provides 24 hours of paid community service to all employees each year, racked up 2,900 volunteer hours in 2018.

“The biggest thing is encouraging your people and giving them that opportunity to be able to volunteer,” he said. “It really helps with that employee engagement side and getting them excited about the purpose of your organization.”


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