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From left: Gary Schafer, Erica Smith, David Stotelmyer and Kristen Bright
SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson
From left: Gary Schafer, Erica Smith, David Stotelmyer and Kristen Bright

2020 Economic Impact Awards Philanthropic Business: BKD LLP

Community Booster

Posted online

At BKD LLP, giving back to the community is not a corporate directive to check off a list. It’s engrained in the company and its employees, from the top down, says Managing Partner Gary Schafer.

“It is a part of our culture,” he says, noting he learned to prioritize giving from leaders he’s worked with for two decades at the CPA and advisory firm.

“That showed me what was important, and that showed me why, as a professional, part of our obligation is to give back because we’re in a position to do that,” Schafer says.

In 2019, BKD’s offices in southern Missouri donated $345,000 to various charitable organizations. Across all its offices, the impact was to the tune of $1.25 million.

Donations are made through the BKD Foundation, the firm’s charitable arm. The BKD Southern Missouri Foundation made its first donation in 2000, and since then has contributed $2.24 million to area nonprofits.

“Our corporate giving tends to follow where our people’s passion lies,” Schafer says, but he added United Way is one cause BKD supports systemwide.

In the Springfield office, the firm supports Cents of Pride at Boyd Elementary School. Students earn fake money they can use to spend at the school store to buy basic necessities like clothes and food or toys and games. Schafer says 30 employees regularly volunteer to help the students shop. The office also supports Boyd every year with a back-to-school drive to collect backpacks and school supplies.

Employees also volunteer weekly through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Lunch Buddy program, on-site blood drives are held several times a year through Community Blood Center of the Ozarks, and employees donate gently used professional clothes to the Career Closet at the Missouri Career Center.

BKD also sponsors charitable and community events throughout the year, and for two years has hosted the Southwest Missouri Nonprofit Excellence Awards. Schafer says that event came to the firm through hiring Dan Prater, who started the event while he worked at Drury University. Prater now guides BKD nonprofit clients through strategic planning.

“There is a multitude of worthy causes and needs out there,” Schafer says. “Recognizing those organizations that not only have found a need but they have really demonstrated excellence in fulfilling their mission is something that is obviously a passion of Dan Prater, but it’s something we all celebrate.”

He says a focus on bettering the community is also good for business.

“We have a very vested interest in making this area absolutely the most attractive it can be,” Schafer says. “We’re a people business and, frankly, making our community a wonderful place to live and helping to address the needs in our community makes it more attractive for top talent. That’s what we need to continue to grow and be successful.”

The best part of keeping philanthropy in its core values, he says, is seeing employees engage in their community and making positive change.

“That is by far the most rewarding thing, and it’s really something we try to focus on,” he says.

“We don’t encourage our professionals to just go get on the board and serve as the treasurer to check a box. It really needs to be an organization that they’re passionate about … to really further the growth of that organization.”

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