For Derek and Molly Altorfer, philanthropy is an essential way of life. The couple credits their parents’ example and early experiences at service-oriented colleges for giving them the perspective and motivation to pursue volunteerism and charity.
“Giving back wasn’t exactly something that our family talked about, but it was something that I witnessed my parents do,” recalls Derek. “My mom was a stay-at-home mom and volunteered her time. Both my parents were able to give financial gifts to their favorite organizations over the years.” Similarly, Molly says, “My grandpa instilled in me the importance of the golden rule. When I think of philanthropy, I think of my grandpa and that intention.”
The couple attended separate private liberal arts colleges that emphasized service. Derek explains, “The school I attended practiced and preached getting out and helping the community and helping others, especially those who aren’t as fortunate.”
Those lessons stuck, and when Derek and Molly reunited later in the Minneapolis area, Derek served as a volunteer firefighter, while Molly established a career in the nonprofit sector.
In 2006, Derek and Molly moved back to their hometown of Cedar Rapids, and Derek was able to take a position within the family business. The couple wanted to settle in their hometown because of the close-knit community and access to family.
In 2016, Derek became the President of Altorfer Inc. Derek’s grandfather had established the business in 1957. Today, Altorfer Inc. has expanded its territory and grown to 750 employees. “It’s a great joy and responsibility,” says Derek, “to be able to lead and produce and maintain jobs while serving customers.”
Both the family and company’s philanthropy are integral to the Altorfer legacy. “We have a great customer base and to be able to give back to the community that supports us so much means a lot,” says Derek. “We understand how important it is.”
Derek and Molly plan to continue giving – both through their personal funds as well as through Altorfer Inc.’s Competitive Donor-Advised Fund at the Community Foundation. While they consider options for putting their personal philanthropic values into future giving strategies, they plan to build on what past generations have done.
“In this transition, we’ve continued to do what we’ve been doing,” Derek explains. “Once the dust settles in my role and our transition calms down a bit, we’ll be able to have more of those conversations about if we want to continue giving in the same spirit and same direction as we always have or if we maneuver around a bit.”
“As we receive grant requests and evaluate those, there’s always the idea of the legacy of what has already been given,” agrees Molly. “The opportunity we have to put our unique mark on how we’re giving, and to whom we are giving, and for what reasons. That’s incredibly exciting.”
Regardless of the strategy behind their giving, the Altorfers are confident philanthropy will continue to be a part of their family and the company’s future. “Giving back is something that’s so prevalent in our community, and something Altorfer Inc. has been doing for quite some time. These days we have been a bit more open around the dinner table talking about giving back, and it’s something that we look to continue to do.”
The Altorfers are already introducing the upcoming generation, their daughters, to the same tradition of philanthropy and service. “Our girls are 7 and 4,” explains Molly. “Talking about philanthropy and service is very basic, but we do try to show them that it’s important – whether it is recycling at home or picking up garbage in the community. I think given who our girls are and who they’re starting to be, we’ll probably be a little more direct with them about philanthropy – that even if we’re giving a dollar or five dollars – that can make a difference.”
They are excited to inspire the next generation of Altorfers, but in the meantime, they are happy to see the impact of their personal and corporate philanthropy.
“When we get grant requests it is almost like Christmas,” says Molly. “You get to see all these places where you could give and know they’ll put those funds to good use.”