John Carr | NTDA
Bill Schaffer

Foundation for the future

Dec. 29, 2023

I’m not sure what it is about the trailer business that makes it special—but there’s something. I always leave the annual gatherings of the various and closely related alphabet soup of trade associations (TTMA, NATM, NTDA, NATDA) pondering the matter.

The obvious answer is people. Except, of course, trailer people aren’t inherently different than the people in trucking or the other equipment markets I cover. In fact, there’s quite a bit of overlap. But something about getting trailer folks together makes an naturally cynical journalist think, however briefly, there’s hope.

Case in point: Just ahead of the closing banquet for the National Trailer Dealers Association’s 33rd Annual Convention (see Page 14), I got a tip. Well, not so much a tip as “hold my beverage and watch this.”

“We’re going to raise $100,000 for the foundation tonight,” said Bill Schaffer, an allied director for the association (and V.P. of sales for Overseas Hardwood Co.).

He referred to the brand new the National Trailer Dealers Foundation, a 501c3 announced at the opening general session by 2023 NTDA Board Chairman Mark Hall.

For some context, NTDA has long raised college scholarship money for the kids of member employees, mostly through proceeds from the annual golf tournament. But those were “small numbers,” as Schaffer would explain to me later. (Although, for the record, he noted that those small numbers have added up over the years, touching some 100 recipients with more than $275,000 in awards over 25 years or so.)

But $100k in one night is a level of magnitude above and beyond. Schaffer, however, proved to be persuasive: In some seven minutes after he stepped to the stage in the banquet hall, the new foundation had $125,000 in commitments.

(Schaffer’s more than just persuasive, however: He knows what he’s doing. The Hammond for Hope Foundation, established by managing members of Great Dane more than 35 years ago, recently honored him with the 2023 Champion for Hope Award.)

Speaking with Hall and NTDA President Gwen Brown earlier in the convention, Schaeffer suggested the banquet would be a great place to do some serious fundraising.

“I insisted that if we did this, we could raise a lot of money,” he said. “All we’ve got to do is really ask.”

So he did. Schaffer admitted he’d chatted with more than a few folks ahead of that official ask, so he expected plenty of early action.

“Anytime you’re trying to raise money, if you can have 25%, 30%, or even 40% of what you want already in your hands, then it's easy to get the others going,” he said. “If we do this right, we hopefully will be creating a way that we can give away well over $100,000 a year.”

And the goal of the new Foundation is to continue to provide the college scholarships and, perhaps even more importantly, to help trailer industry professionals and others who wish to further develop their technical skills by attending training programs and trade schools.

Indeed, helping the industry help itself by supporting a skilled workforce is the big difference on the awards side, Schaffer explained. And the tax-deductible designation is what’s going to drive the expected surge in contributions.

He noted that a formal foundation will entail some structure, with some outside leadership and overhead costs—but the upside is enormous with marketing efforts and new partnerships.

“My personal goal for this is to quietly amass a foundation that will be there in perpetuity,” Schaffer said.

He then asked for a donation.

(As this issue of TBB goes to press, the NTDA executive board was scheduled to meet to finalize the Foundation structure and plans. Those wishing to contribute in the meantime should contact Gwen Brown: [email protected].)