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Thomas J. Doll headshot

The Importance of Giving Back — Even In Times of Uncertainty

It’s never a convenient time to advocate giving away money, but that shouldn't stop business leaders from getting started. This CEO shares why giving back is well worth it — even in uncertain times.
By Thomas J. Doll
Subaru Share the Love Event - CEO Tom Dole - giving back to the community

Generous, community-minded and loving isn’t typically how the American public describes car companies or car dealers. But back in 2008, 10 years before I was promoted to CEO of Subaru of America, I had an idea that might change that. What if, instead of a rebate or financial incentive program at the end of the year, we took $250 from every sale or lease and gave it to charity? This was at the time of the 2008 financial crisis in the United States, when many people lost their jobs, and many were in need. 

Everybody thought I was nuts. They said: “$250!? That money could be used to lower the lease payment by $10 a month, or could be put toward a free accessory! People only care about themselves. Don't you understand the cost of doing such a thing!?” 

The point is: It’s never a convenient time for a leader to advocate giving away money, and when you are the person managing the money, the task can be especially challenging. In 2008, I was both the COO and CFO at Subaru of America, and with those titles comes the presumption that you’re going to protect the bottom line at all costs and shoot holes in any attempts that get in the way of any return on investment — especially during a time of uncertainty like the financial crisis. But I’ve been dealt a fortunate hand in life and have always tried to give back where I can, and I knew giving back as a company was the right thing to do. As a financial veteran of the automotive industry, I had a feeling it would pay off. As Subaru celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Subaru Share the Love Event, I am proud, excited and quite frankly relieved to report that I was correct on both counts. By the end of this year, Subaru and its participating retailers will have donated over $250 million to help those in need through our company’s Share the Love Event

When it comes to charitable giving, the choice must come from the heart. That’s why, starting with the first Subaru Share the Love Event, we put our customers in the driver’s seat and let them select from a group of national charities they could designate to receive the $250*. This year, there are four national charities customers can select from: ASPCA, Make-A-Wish, Meal on Wheels and the National Park Foundation.

Subaru Share the Love Event - giving back to charity

After a few years, we realized that many customers, as well as our retailers, wanted to have the option to keep charity donations within the communities where they live and work. That’s why in 2014, Subaru retailers began sponsoring local nonprofits, or as we call them “Hometown Charities,” during the Subaru Share the Love Event, and these local charities are the recipients of over 70 percent of Share The Love donations. This can add up to tens of thousands of dollars of much-needed funds going right back into the retailer’s hometown to make their community a better place to live and work! Over the years, I have had the privilege of attending many of these check presentations, and I am always moved because it truly is life-changing money for these local charities. 

After a few years, we knew we created something truly special with the Subaru Share the Love Event, and we wanted to see how we could make an even greater impact throughout the entire year. That’s how we came up with our Subaru Love Promise activations: Subaru Loves to Help in February, Subaru Loves the Earth in April, Subaru Loves to Care in June, Subaru Loves Learning in August, and Subaru Loves Pets in October. People walking into a Subaru retailer now realize that there’s something different happening at this company. Our giving back enlightened us to the fact that we were delivering on our commitment to be “More Than a Car Company.”

Subaru is a relatively small company when you look at the other large automotive manufacturers in the United States, and to have a meaningful way to differentiate our brand from the competition, we needed our retailers to change the way they approached the market. The Subaru Share the Love Event and the Subaru Love Promise activations organically paved the way. Having our retailers immerse themselves in their communities, being an engaged and committed presence, changed the dynamic: from a dealer selling hard to customers, to a retailer where a customer could help us help others by their purchase or lease of a Subaru vehicle. 

Whether entering the lobby of our headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, or walking through the doors of your local Subaru retailer, there is little doubt about what Subaru stands for and for what accomplishments we are most proud. 

Typically, car dealers are remembered for selling and promoting themselves to their communities, not supporting and participating in them. Thanks to the Subaru Share the Love Event, Subaru and our retailers have changed that dynamic over the past 15 years. 

Although the timing never seems convenient, we choose to focus on giving back, even in times of uncertainty. We believe we will be remembered for our impact on the lives within our communities. But whatever our eventual place in history, we know that our retailers, our brand and our customers are far richer for the experience.  

Images courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

This article series is sponsored by Subaru and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team. 

*Subaru will donate $250 for every new Subaru vehicle sold or leased from November 17, 2022, through January 3, 2023, to four national charities designated by the purchaser or lessee. Pre-approved Hometown Charities may be selected for donation depending on retailer participation. For every new Subaru vehicle sold or leased during the campaign period, participating retailers will donate a minimum of $50 in total to their registered Hometown Charities. Subaru will donate a total of $5 to their registered Hometown Charities for every Subaru vehicle routine service visit during the campaign period. A routine visit includes customer payment of $5 or greater, or any service that includes a genuine Subaru oil filter. Purchasers/lessees must make their charity designations by January 13, 2023. The four national charities will receive a guaranteed minimum donation of $250,000 each. See your local Subaru retailer for details or visit subaru.com/share. All donations made by Subaru of America, Inc.

Thomas J. Doll headshot

Thomas J. Doll is President and Chief Executive Officer for Subaru of America, Inc. (SOA). As the company’s most senior executive, he is responsible for overseeing operations for the entire organization. He is credited with the annual Subaru Share the Love® Event, the Subaru Love Promise, the company’s vision to show love and respect to all people at every interaction with Subaru, and the philosophy that Subaru is More Than a Car Company®. A more than 40-year veteran of SOA, Doll is proud of the direction he has led the company, which he says is a small company with a big company mindset. He believes the company’s values of teamwork and comradery sets Subaru apart from its competitors. 

Read more stories by Thomas J. Doll