“The more I give, the more I get back.”
Jim Theisen has a hard time talking about generosity without getting choked up. “Everything I have is a gift,” he says. “The more I give, the more I get back.”
It’s the way he runs his life, he says, as a grandfather, business owner and Quad Cities Community Foundation donor. Theisen is co-owner along with his sons Chris and Tony, of Theisen’s Home, Farm and Auto, a multi-generation family operation that was started in 1927 by his parents and has since grown to 24 stores across Iowa and Wisconsin.
The opportunities to give are endless, he says, and over the years have included contributions to local nonprofits, parishes and the United Way of the Quad Cities. “There’s a lot of need in the Quad Cities and we want to be able to serve the people in the communities we call home—the communities where we have our stores,” Theisen says. “It’s who we are.”
It’s through the Quad Cities Community Foundation that Theisen says he’s found like-minded individuals he trusts to help him stay consistent and purposeful in his giving. “They are such a good resource,” he says. “They help me spread generosity in a way that is creative and meaningful.”
Theisen recently made a gift of $20,000 to the Community Foundation that will be split evenly between the Community Impact Fund and Friends of the Foundation. The Community Impact Fund is the Quad Cities’ largest resource for community philanthropy in the region, supporting programs like Transformation Grants to Nonprofit Capacity Building Grants and Q2030 Grants. Friends of the Foundation provides backbone support for the Community Foundation to operate and provide services to donors interested in transforming the region through their generosity.
In addition to supporting the Quad Cities community through his gifts, Theisen receives support himself—in the form of an Endow Iowa Tax Credit. Endow Iowa was established to encourage building permanent endowments that benefit Iowa. Iowa taxpayers may apply for the tax credit of 25 percent of their gift if they make it to an endowed fund that supports charitable activities in Iowa.
“Working with the Community Foundation to get the Endow Iowa credit is just one of the ways that the they have made giving easy,” he says. “We have so much to keep up with for the business that it is wonderful to rely on the staff of the Community Foundation to give us direction on the needs that we know are there in the community.”
Giving don’t always mean money, Theisen adds. It also means time, ideas, or other resources. This summer, for example, his store looked to the Community Foundation to help him donate 72 box fans to the Quad Cities Center for Active Seniors (CASI) as part of the organization’s “Be a Fan to a Senior” summer campaign. “It gets hot around here and we can take the air conditioning, or something as simple as a fan, for granted,” Theisen says. “We have the ability and the resources and it’s an easy way to make a big impact for people.”
Theisen will never meet most of the people who have been touched by his generosity, and that’s okay. His grandson Peter Theisen, part of the fourth generation of the family business, says his grandfather has built a legacy of giving, and the belief that it can be done without recognition. “He’s always saying, ‘as long as you know, and God knows, who cares?’” Peter says. “He never has the goal of promoting himself. I’m lucky to have a grandfather of his caliber.”
Theisen says his motive is simple—it is better to give than to receive. “I get a lot of joy in giving and being able to do this.”