Ascentra builds a foundation of philanthropy
Every year during the holiday season, Ascentra Credit Union employees are given $50 each—not as a gift, but a small seed of generosity to pass on to others. “We want them to find meaningful things in their community where they can make an impact,” said Dale Owen, CEO and President of Ascentra, which is headquartered in Bettendorf.
It’s one of the many ways Ascentra encourages a culture of generosity, and strives to be an example for other businesses and individuals in the Quad Cities to give. “It is important to do this for the right reasons,” Owen said. “If you’re looking to make a splash, it’s not the right motive. Our tagline on the wall is ‘listening, caring, doing what’s right.’ You can’t have that on the wall and not walk it out.”
Quad Cities Community Foundation President and CEO Sherry Ristau said Ascentra is the model of corporate responsibility and generosity in the Quad Cities. “They are living out their mission—their tagline—in big ways. And we are honored to help them, and so many others, to do that in the best possible way,” she said.
Ascentra’s foundation of philanthropy was built with the leadership of the credit union’s previous leader, Paul Lensmeyer, who was a generous, charismatic leader and died unexpectedly in 2013. The credit union used a $2 million life insurance policy from Lensmeyer to establish an endowment at the Quad Cities Community Foundation and a charitable giving fund to enhance its giving in the areas of education, community needs, and emergencies.
Of the money, $1.75 million was endowed and the remaining $250,000 was left in a non-endowed fund. In 2015, the Ascentra Credit Union Foundation Leadership Grants began impacting the community and have awarded a total of $71,000 to over 74 organizations throughout the region so far.
Owen, who has also served for a decade on the Iowa Credit Union Foundation Board, said instilling values of giving and community has been, and will continue to be, a consistent priority at the credit union. “I’ve seen the challenges that people and organizations have and it oftentimes comes down to resources,” he said. “We want to work to lead people to the right resources.”
It also means purposefully building the next tier of organizational leaders, he added. “The most gratifying thing of my career is doing this in the community I grew up in,” he said. “We are recruiting the next generation of people who will be engaged—people who are hungry, humble and smart, who can lead, roll up their sleeves and get to work helping their community.”
Some of those people are right in the Ascentra office, as so many have invested in the workplace culture of giving back. “There are a lot of neat stories,” Owen said, of how staff members have become engaged in the community. “We’re empowering them to find their way with it.”
The partnership with the Quad Cities Community Foundation has also strengthened their work and provided valuable guidance, Owen added. “The Community Foundation staff are just amazing,” he said. “They’ve been an outstanding partner. We really enjoy the synergy we have with them to make our corporate giving easy.”
Owen said the credit union’s focus on philanthropy has reassured their members they are in it for the long haul, a commitment they will cement this year as they move in to a new four-story building in the heart of Bettendorf. “We want to continue our growth and focus on this community,” he said. “We get a lot of feedback from our members that they are glad to be in it with a partner that is as invested in the community as they are. That resonates with people.”