Giving Interests: helping people in need
When Paul White and his business partner, Earl Rasmussen, started their metal stamping and fabrication business, BTD Manufacturing, Inc., in 1979, they wanted to create a company unlike most they had worked for in the past. "Our goal was to start a company that would always remember its most important asset: its people," White says.
White and Rasmussen created a "sharing pyramid" to guide them in how to use the net profits of their fledgling company, based in Detroit Lakes. At the top of the pyramid is the reinvestment of a percentage of profits back into the company, so that it can continue to grow. On the second level is charitable contributions to help people in need. Next comes employee profit-sharing, followed on the fourth and final level by performance incentives for the company’s management team.
It wasn’t long before BTD was profitable enough to reach the pyramid’s second level and begin giving to charitable causes. By 1988, the company’s giving program had grown to the point where White and Rasmussen decided to establish the BTD Manufacturing Foundation at a local community foundation, so that BTD could provide a more stable source of charitable funds from year to year.
"The challenge for Earl and I was the company’s day-to-day operations, and the money was like baggage: it just came along with it," says White, who has now retired from the company. "Our goal in life is not to say ‘we have to make X number of dollars.’ Our goal has been to keep our employees as our number one asset, create opportunities for them, and be able to share some of the profits of BTD with others who are in need. Our sharing of dollars with others is one of the most rewarding experiences that a person can have."
White has also established his own donor advised family fund, the White Family Foundation, at the same community foundation where BTD’s corporate fund is located. He says he started the fund so that his family could "work together and communicate with each other, and gain a better understanding of ourselves and our Christian values."
White’s philanthropic interests are driven in large part by his belief that people with wealth are merely stewards of those dollars on behalf of God. "God gave each of us specific gifts and talents," he says. "If we use these talents in earning dollars, then we need to share those dollars with others."