Academic scholarships are the centerpiece of MFA’s funding efforts
At MFA Incorporated, we try to be participants in the communities in which we have locations and affiliates. As a cooperative dedicated to our farmer/owners, it makes sense for us to invest in our communities to the best of our ability.
In late August, MFA Incorporated, MFA local affiliates and MFA Oil Company announced a $200,000 contribution to the Missouri State Fair to fund construction of a building on the fairgrounds.
MFA has a long, valued tradition of charitable giving. The focus of our Foundation is ag education. This donation fits the bill exceptionally well.
Over the years, we’ve developed a systematic way of charitable giving. To best understand our chosen direction and purpose, please take the time to read this issue’s scholarship article and peruse the student listing. The totals are impressive. MFA, this year, is providing academic scholarships to 335 young people.
The amount we’re providing just this year exceeds $650,000, an amount far surpassing anyone of similar size in our trade territory, and in many cases much more than national businesses contribute nationwide.
We’ve done this for well over 50 years to the tune of more than $11 million and more than 10,000 students who have used these funds to pursue their academic dreams. In fact, MFA created and funded two foundations dedicated to charitable giving. The largest of those is MFA Foundation, a non-profit, philanthropic corporation developed in 1958. Today, MFA Incorporated, MFA Oil Company and affiliated MFA organizations participate in MFA Foundation.
We are always happy to provide available charitable funds to the best of our ability because we believe in advancing U.S. agriculture and we believe in our farmer/owners and their communities.
I make this point for two reasons: first, to show you our commitment to our membership and rural youth. The second is to illustrate MFA’s stated priorities in terms of charitable giving.
Many times each week, someone asks MFA to fund a worthwhile project. The requests come to the corporate headquarters as well as our individual locations.
Don’t misunderstand. This is not a complaint. We take it as a compliment on our stability and viability. It’s also an accurate description of the volume. We’re honored to be a top-of-the-mind choice. We’d love to be able to help make these projects succeed.
The volume, however, causes us to pick and choose carefully. Please understand we simply do not have sufficient monies to help fund all of the requests we receive.
Like you, we must deal with fiscal reality. While we may be sympathetic to an individual’s or organization’s request, we simply do not have unlimited capital to invest in all projects and ideas, no matter how worthy.
Please also keep in mind, when we do pass on funding something, it’s not because we oppose the new enterprise or local project. We hope individual projects succeed and worthy causes get funded, even when we regretfully pass.
MFA is a cooperative. Access to capital is the Achilles’ heel of cooperatives. Unlike investor-owned firms, cooperatives cannot raise cash through stock offerings. We have only two ways to raise capital: borrowing and profitability.
People know us to be a profitable enterprise. We are profitable because we focus on providing quality products and services, and we are fiscally conservative. As a cooperative, the majority of our profit goes back to our customers and is also used for capital expenditures that enhance service and performance and strengthen the balance sheet.
To fulfill our mission, we first invest our monies in facilities and rolling stock before one dime goes into the profit column. To replace just one piece of fertilizer application equipment at each of our facilities requires expenditures in excess of $20 million.
We also believe in giving back to those who make MFA possible. That’s one reason we are the largest provider of scholarships in our trade territory. Education is our priority in terms of giving. Our charitable foundation is another means of reasonable giving.
Providing funding for different enterprises is always a tough call. We must remain realistic and conservative, even with charitable giving. At the same time, we’ll continue to keep our main focus on educating rural youth. At more than $650,000 a year, that focus is crystal clear.
Bill Streeter is President and CEO of MFA Incorporated.