Franchising Gives Back highlights philanthropic efforts
Doing well by doing good
Putting donations in the hands of public school teachers for their classroom needs. Funding the Make A Splash initiative to teach more children to swim. Supporting wounded service members recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. At its fifth annual Franchising Gives Back Awards celebration on September 9, the International Franchise Association will honor these and more award winners, recognizing franchise companies’ philanthropic programs and the impact they have on their communities.
One winner in each of five categories (Spirit of Franchising, Newcomer, Enduring Impact, Support Our Veterans, Innovation and Impact) will receive the Gold distinction from the stage prior to the IFA’s Franchise Action Network initiative, where members visit their congressional leaders. Franchises will also bring home silver awards in each category.
Franchise Times, the program’s media partner, profiles the winners selected by the IFA Foundation here. Established by a donation from Roark Capital Group, Franchising Gives Back salutes the best community leaders and charitable programs nationwide.
Spirit of Franchising
The Rose Group’s team, including marketing VP Cathi Chuck (far left) puts on a golf event to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
‘Constantly supporting our communities’ is goal for Rose Group
It started with a cold call. Liz Scott, mom to Alex’s Lemonade Stand founder Alexandra “Alex” Scott, called The Rose Group back in 2005 as she was looking to expand partnerships between the childhood cancer research foundation and businesses. Recognizing the impact of the foundation and wanting to support its efforts, The Rose Group, today a 54-unit Applebee’s franchisee, joined with fellow franchisee Apple American Group to become among the first sponsors and participate in a promotion.
Today, said Cathi Chuck, The Rose Group’s VP of marketing, 18 franchisees operating 1,100 Applebee’s restaurants are involved and last year the system raised $1.7 million for Alex’s Lemonade Stand to bring the total to more than $10 million since 2005.
That’s just one of several ways The Rose Group, this year’s Spirit of Franchising Award winner, supports charitable and community organizations. “From the moment The Rose Group opened its doors, no matter the concept, we’ve made it a priority to be involved in the community,” said Chuck of the company’s start in 1985 when founder Harry Rose bought five Roy Rogers restaurants. “What we care about is we’re constantly supporting our communities.”
Since 2010 alone, The Rose Group has raised more than $14.5 million via fundraising and in-kind donations to support nonprofits and charitable organizations in the communities where it operates Applebee’s restaurants. Its restaurants can raise money in a variety of ways and choose to support various local groups through efforts such as Flapjack Fundraisers and Dining to Donate.
There’s also A is for Applebee’s, an incentive program for local schools, and providing free meals to veterans on Veteran’s Day. Through the Flapjack program, for example, Chuck noted the group’s restaurants hosted 1,700 breakfast events last year that raised $765,000 for a variety of programs.
“And we’re not talking about local store marketing, we’re talking about community support and involvement,” she said. Guests appreciate knowing that support is there, and employees want to be involved as well.
“It’s very clear our team members want employers who are involved in the community … they want to be part of something bigger,” said Chuck.
The Rose Group’s Applebee’s units host numerous fundraisers.
The Rose Group also makes it a point to support its employees as part of its mission. The Rose Fund, a 501(c)(3) charity, was created in 2007 to provide financial assistance to employees facing a crisis.
“We seeded the fund,” said Chuck, and now employees can opt in and donate a chosen amount from each paycheck. The average amount per paycheck is just $1, “not a lot, but it adds up,” she said. About $400,000 has been distributed since its inception and 46 percent of team members across all levels are participating.
“We just had a manager whose mother died,” said Chuck, and so money from the fund helped cover funeral expenses. Another employee was about to be homeless and needed a down payment for an apartment.
“It’s all about helping each other out,” said Chuck.
Captain D’s franchisee Jimmy Jamshed— Food For Homeless
Six years ago on his way home from work in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Jimmy Jamshed watched as people rummaged through trash cans for food. As an immigrant who built his life in a new country, Jamshed, a multi-unit franchisee with one Captain D’s restaurant open and two under construction, decided to pay his success forward and help those in need in his community. He created a nonprofit, Food For Homeless, and now visits Lancaster Community Park six days a week with volunteers to hand out about 350 meals purchased out-of-pocket from his franchises. He also hands out clothing twice a week.
Goldfish’s Float It Forward campaign supports learn-to-swim efforts.
Goldfish subsidizes swim lessons for youth in need
The number one cause of injury-related deaths for children ages 1 to 4 is not car crashes. It’s not concussions. It’s not hard falls on concrete. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the top cause of death for these toddlers is actually drowning.
Goldfish Swim School is trying to change that. Raising more than $160,000 this year through a slew of creative fundraising efforts, the franchise has been a pivotal sponsor for USA Swimming Foundation’s Make A Splash initiative, which subsidizes free and discounted swimming lessons for youth in need.
Nearly half of American children have no ability or a low ability to swim, according to a 2017 USA Swimming Foundation study. Causes for these swimming deficiencies vary, but children are generally less likely to be proficient swimmers if their parents never learned how to swim, if their schools don’t have pools, if they don’t have easy transportation to swimming facilities and if their families can’t afford swim lessons.
Although children of all races and income levels lack swimming skills, these barriers cause marginalized and low-income populations to experience the brunt of the problem. According to the USA Swimming Foundation study, 79 percent of children with household incomes of less than $50,000 and 64 percent of African American children have low or no swimming ability, compared with 40 percent for Caucasian children.
But unlike disparities in other sports, not knowing how to swim can have life-or-death consequences.
“Arguably, swimming is the only Olympic sport where if you don’t know how to do it, your life is in danger,” said Shana Ferguson, chief commercial officer for the USA Swimming Foundation.
Goldfish and the USA Swimming Foundation are on a mission to bolster the number of children who know how to swim. At the end of 2018, Goldfish launched its Float It Forward campaign to raise funds for the foundation, and its franchisees delivered, collecting $166,928 across the franchise’s 89 units by the end of July. The bulk was raised in May for National Water Safety Month.
Premium Service Brands gives food backpacks to students.
Instead of hosting fancy donor events and black tie galas, Goldfish’s franchisees devised unique fundraising tactics to creatively connect with their local communities. Some hosted events such as chili cook-offs, cornhole games and silent auctions. Some donated funds collected by their Snack Shack vending areas. Others led competitions where the top fundraiser won a free dinner.
The USA Swimming Foundation will allocate these funds as grants to local organizations across the nation to provide free and discounted swimming lessons. The grant recipients are chosen based on levels of need for swimming instruction in their surrounding communities.
Although it’s difficult to measure the impact, Ferguson estimates that just $1 converts roughly to one swimming lesson for one child. With the money generated from the fundraising efforts, coupled with additional funds donated directly from Goldfish’s corporate budget, the USA Swimming Foundation hopes to eventually finance hundreds of thousands of swimming lessons for children in need.
Chris McCuiston, CEO and co-founder of Goldfish, said this service is essential to child safety.
“Just like how everybody is aware that putting on a seatbelt when you drive in a car is important, putting a bike helmet on when you’re getting on a bike ... we want people to feel the same way about swimming,” he said.
Premium Service Brands — Kids-Lift Weekend Meals Backpack
More than 12 million children in the U.S. are living in food insecure homes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While they may receive free and reduced-price lunch at school on weekdays, their weekend lunch options are often meager.
Home service franchise Premium Service Brands is addressing this problem by grocery shopping for food insecure students at a nearby elementary school. Every Friday morning, these children fill their backpacks with a weekend’s worth of food, providing stability, support and the ability to study without hunger pangs.
For the 2018-2019 school year, Premium Service Brands packed 532 backpacks with 3,192 meals.
Honoring our Veterans
A group of veterans and their caregivers getting a much needed break from their long path to recovery.
Sport Clips’ support ‘means everything’ to Aleethia Foundation
When Gordon Logan came back from Vietnam, the future founder and CEO of Sport Clips didn’t get much of a warm welcome. After the terrible experience of war, his fellow service members were essentially left to their own devices.
“There was hardly any transition programs there when I got out. That was one of the things that we all wanted to fix after the Vietnam veterans came home,” said Logan.
He muddled through the return to civilian life better than a lot of his fellow veterans, achieving degrees and embracing the entrepreneurship that led to owning salons and eventually founding Sport Clips. But as soon as he was able, he began pouring time and money into supporting veterans and never stopped.
Today, Logan serves on the board of the VFW, gives to various veterans’ charities and helps out with everything from the IFA’s VetFran program to helping bankroll a training bi-plane that gives senior veterans a vintage joyride. But when he attended an Aleethia Foundation dinner, he saw an opportunity to help soldiers and their caregivers facing some of the most brutal scars of modern warfare.
“When I first started to go to it, 10 years ago, there were a lot of soldiers who had been maimed in Afghanistan or Iraq with IEDs” or bombs, “undergoing rehab at Walter Reed” medical center, said Logan. “There were many double, triple or quadruple amputees. It was just heart-rending.”
Hal Koster, executive director of the Aleethia Foundation, said Logan put the full measure of his philanthropic work behind the program that very night. “He met some of these people and looked at it and said, ‘I want to do this, too, I don’t just want to be an attendee,’” said Koster.
Koster said the dinners served as a tiny break from the grueling demands of healing, physical therapy and acclimating to civilian life after a life-altering injury. It started as a small group of people at the steakhouse Koster owned, but quickly blossomed into an important part of the healing process.
“The first night we had two people; the next night we had nine. We fed the nine guys and did all this and said come back anytime. They said, how about next Friday? That’s how it became a Friday night dinner, it fit in their schedule between doctor’s appointments and physical therapy,” said Koster. “It just grew, within three weeks we were feeding 125 people.”
One of Freedom Service Dogs’ canine helpers in action.
Since then, the program has provided more than 62,000 meals for wounded, injured and ill service members and their families. But dinners at Ruth’s Chris, the Capital Grille and recently at the famous Washington, D.C., National Press Club are not cheap.
“If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t be around. We couldn’t afford to do it,” he said about Sport Clips. “Even though we get really special prices, it’s still between $3,500 and $4,500 a week. These are pretty big numbers so we need that kind of support,” said Koster.
“What also makes it special, it’s not just the money, they send people: Gordon when he can and Martha England,” Sport Clips’ VP of marketing, might fly up from Texas to be part of the dinner. “It means everything for someone like Sport Clips and Gordon to be there helping out.”
Logan’s motives are simple. “I think it’s just important for us to recognize the sacrifices our vets and others are making for us. I’m just happy to be in a position to say thank you in a small way,” he said.
Wag N’ Wash—Round Up for Freedom Service Dogs
Coming home from duty with a serious injury just compounds the difficult reintegration into civilian life. Not only do service members need to learn how to reenter the civilian world, but they need to acclimate to a life-altering injury, too.
That’s why Wag N’ Wash stepped up to launch a fundraising campaign dubbed Round Up for Freedom Service Dogs. The program supports Freedom Service Dogs, an organization that helps veterans regain their independence with help from a service animal, free of cost.
Through the month of July, all Wag N’ Wash locations offer a round-up campaign to fund the program. Customers that choose to round their service bill up to the next dollar amount have already helped raise $12,400 and contributed 500 volunteer hours to the program.
Enduring Impact Award
Sonic’s Limeade for Learning program supports individual requests from public school teachers around the country.
At Sonic, school teachers get funds for classrooms
Aprimary school teacher asked for materials for guided reading instruction.
A middle school teacher wanted an interactive touchscreen stand and accessories for students with disabilities.
And a science teacher requested video cameras for outdoor use, to help students learn about ecology and biology.
All three were requests funded by Sonic’s Limeade for Learning, which in partnership with DonorsChoose.org supports individual requests from public school teachers around the country.
Sonic has donated $13.1 million to 33,177 classrooms since 2009, when the 60-plus-year-old hotdog and burger drive-in chain whose iconic drink is Limeade, hence the program’s name, started its first and only cause-branded platform.
Donations have gone to communities in all 50 states, helping teachers receive needed materials that span all areas of learning, from basic supplies and reading books to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and arts-related resources.
“Unsurprisingly, given the news coverage of the state of public education and the support for teachers in particular, what we’ve seen for the last 18 months to two years, it continues to be important that teachers are supported,” said Christi Woodworth, vice president of public relations for Sonic, based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
She referred to well-publicized teachers’ strikes in Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles Oklahoma, Virginia and West Virginia, in which teachers marched against budget cuts and low per-pupil spending, among other complaints.
“They’ve gotten a lot of news coverage and it’s really highlighted the work public school teachers do, and what is available from public support, state and local funding,” she said.
“It’s also highlighted a role for private business to play. What we’ve heard is they want to be a part of the solution,” she said, referring to franchisees and other stakeholders.
To decide on Sonic’s cause originally, Woodworth’s team researched what other quick-service restaurant brands were doing and where Sonic could stand out. “Where were other brands, and where was the sweet spot for Sonic,” were the questions to answer. Then they surveyed employees, franchisees and customers for relevant causes.
“Customers today expect brands and companies to stand for something and to be involved in the community in some way,” said Woodworth. “Then the question becomes, what’s important to your communities, employees and franchisees?”
Each fall, Limeade for Learning puts the decision for donations in the hands of Sonic customers, publicizing the teacher requests online and counting the votes at 12:01 Monday morning every week during the four-week campaign. About $250,000 worth of projects get funded each of those weeks.
DonorsChoose.org is about 18 years old, started by a public school teacher in the Bronx who would talk with fellow teachers about student needs. “They would sit in the lounge and say, ‘I really need just $400.’ They thought, ‘if people knew what we needed, it’s not that heavy of a lift,’” Woodworth said. An educational philanthropic marketplace was created, and Sonic uses that platform to make its philanthropy easy to execute.
She says the local connection is most important to franchisees. “We were looking for partners to get funds into the local level,” she said. “Our drive-ins and our restaurant managers get to be the hero.”
Sizzler’s BMW Management—Student of the Month Program
Sally Myers is a well-known Sizzler franchisee in Southern California, operating BMW Management with her husband, Gary Myers. She founded her nonprofit organization, the Student of the Month Program Inc., in 1992, to inspire students across Southern California to pursue a higher education. The program partners with local chambers, school districts and cities to select 30 college-bound high school seniors a month who are then recognized at a celebratory banquet at BMW-owned Sizzler locations. At the end of the school year, students who were celebrated at the monthly events compete for the Student of the Year award from their respective schools. The winner from each school is awarded a scholarship toward furthering their education. The program has helped nearly 8,000 students to pursue their dreams and since 2002 has donated more than $800,000 toward higher education.
Innovation & Impact
Unsold donations find new lives at Just Between Friends.
At Just Between Friends, donations come full circle
Just Between Friends is unlike other franchises in that its owners don’t run stores, offices or restaurants. Instead, its 150-plus locations organize five-day events each spring and fall where customers bring consignment items that deserve second homes.
With reuse as the spine of the concept, Just Between Friends added another limb: repurposing unsold goods as donations for any cause its ‘zees choose, from helping struggling new parents to homeowners recovering from disaster.
Looking back to 1997 when CEO Shannon Wilburn started the consignment business with Devin Tackett in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they realized finding a home for unsold items after the sales events was an opportunity, not a burden.
“We soon found out we needed to find a charity partner, and in Tulsa that was Emergency Infant Services,” Wilburn said of the local group that helps new parents. “It makes you feel good knowing your consignors feel good as well when they’re able to donate the items to charity at the end of an event, so we decided to put that into our concept.”
Twenty years later, the Tulsa location still gives its in-kind donations to Emergency Infant Services, while Just Between Friends’ other franchisees donate to a variety of causes.
With that give-back mission now multiplied from coast to coast, there are so many heartwarming stories between franchisees and their chosen causes that the corporate office hired a videographer to go across the country and film pieces in all five of the brand’s regions. They’ve been published to its “JBFSale” YouTube channel that includes tales from Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Colorado, plus its home turf in Oklahoma.
With community aid now a building block for its corporate culture, Wilburn gives copies of “The Go-Giver” to current and new franchisees, a book all about the connection between corporate success and giving back. Over the years, the franchisor has learned the charitable efforts also provide franchisees with perfect opportunities to network and market their upcoming sales in the local media.
“It’s not just about the dollars that go into their pocket, it’s about the change in their community that they can evoke when they put their heads together and have a plan,” Wilburn said, adding she now tracks the local impacts so giving stays top of mind across the system. “If you don’t talk about it, if you don’t measure it, no one pays attention to it.”
Because the donations are in-kind products valued 50 to 90 percent off their retail value, tracking is a careful science that added up to $22 million worth of donated items to nonprofit partners just over the last four years—and a high of $7.6 million in 2018. She noted another soft benefit of the donations is reducing the amount of previously used items heading to landfills.
“We have shoppers, we have sellers, we have charity partners; I don’t feel like you could have one without the other,” Wilburn said. “It feels full circle and sustainable.”
Wayback Burgers—Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Wayback Burgers started a partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America last summer with a relatively modest goal: donating $100,000 to the group dedicated to helping young people reach their full potential. It ultimately raised $140,000 by donating a portion of every burger or sandwich sold, plus two dedicated fundraising days.
The brand also sponsored a milkshake recipe and naming contest with the clubs. Customers voted, with the winning shake—Caramel Cinnamon Toast Crunch—selected as an LTO during the summer of 2019. The winning club received a $5,000 prize.