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‘Franchising Gives Back’ recognizes do-gooders


Chris Drucquer, CertaPro Painting's franchisee for Philly's Main Line territory, gets the winning-coach treatment from his team at one of his 5K charity races.

In South Africa it’s called Ubuntu. In the Bible it’s defined as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

For Buddhists, sharing resources is considered essential.

And for U.S. franchisors it’s called “giving back.”

Steve Romaniello, managing director of Focus Brands in Atlanta and a former chairman of the International Franchise Association, was brainstorming on what he viewed as a missed opportunity: How to value the impact of franchising beyond the number of jobs it creates and the dollars it contributes to the U.S. economy. This is vital information to arm franchisors and franchisees with when talking to their local, state and national representatives, especially now as the business climate has turned tempestuous for franchising.

“We saw how much the Roark companies were doing (for charities) and then thought of the rest of the franchise industry,” he says. Roark owns a variety of brands, such as Schlotzsky’s,  Cinnabon and Carvel.

Romaniello remembers wondering what the impact would add up to if someone tracked the dollars and time franchises donated to charity. To find out, he approached the IFA Educational Foundation about starting a program to recognize franchisors who are taking charitable giving in their communities to a higher level.

The result is a gala the night before IFA kicks off its Franchise Action Network (formerly the Political Affairs Conference) that honors 15 franchises in five categories: Spirit of Franchising, Enduring Impact, Newcomer, Support Our Veterans and Innovation and Impact. Each category has a gold winner and two silver runners-up.

To their credit, Romaniello and Roark Principal Geoff Hill didn’t just come up with the idea and hand it over to the foundation to turn into a 401(c)3. Roark contributed “a nice chunk of change,” Romaniello says—$500,000. In addition, a number of people have made personal contributions, such as Romaniello himself, and other sponsors have stepped in to help finance the program. (Franchise Times is the media sponsor.) The five gold winners receive a $5,000 donation to their charity—a nice chunk of change on top of the money each franchise already raised.

Politics, of course, isn’t the only reason to track companies’ charitable giving.

Giving work meaning

Doing good relates directly to employee morale. In a recent survey by Bentley University, 84 percent of millennials said “knowing I am helping to make a positive difference in the world is more important to me than professional recognition.” Millennials also want a “work family.” This group born after 1980 is predicted to be 50 percent of the workforce by 2020—that’s a lot of idealism to harness.

Millennials, however, aren’t alone in their search for meaningful work. Most of us want work that “makes a difference to other people and thus ennobles us in at least some small way,” Barry Schwart, the author of the upcoming book “Why We Work,” writes in the New York Times editorial section.

Chris Drucquer, a longtime franchisee with CertaPro Painting, says finding a charity that resonates with employees helps him retain good employees and hire compassionate, caring salespeople who are customer-friendly and not just intent on commissions.

Some franchises choose charities to rally staff around fundraising, while others, like CertaPro, looked to align with a charity that can utilize their skill set, such as painting adaptive homes for severely wounded veterans.

An impressive number of franchises encourage franchisees to donate time, product and dollars in their local communities, but if there isn’t a national  program many franchisees do so on their own.

No Kid Hungry

Children with Denny's promotional materials for its No Kid Hungry campaign.

A case in point is Jersey Mike’s Subs. Dalton Stewart, a multi-unit franchisee and area director for the Dallas/Fort Worth area, started  trading free subs for donations to Wipe Out Kids Cancer. The chain took a similar idea nationwide and it has grown into a National Day of Giving, with $3 million going to 150 different local charities in 2015.

Franchises don’t have to be large to make an impact. Figaro’s Pizza only has 46 domestic units and yet it’s been able to issue more than 400 grants totaling $94,285 to cash-starved school classrooms, since launching its H.E.L.P. program less than five years ago, according to CEO Ron Berger.

Singling out the best of the best

So with so much charitable activity going on, it was no small feat for John Reynolds, president of the IFA Educational Foundation, and his panel of judges to narrow down the field. After reviewing all the applications, Reynolds said the judges came back to him and asked, “Can’t we do an award for all of these?”

The voting was a blind review process, where judges assigned points to a variety of criteria.

“Scores were so close, the job was mission impossible,” Reynolds says, noting this is not necessarily a bad thing.

In addition to the annual award ceremony, the foundation has developed a website for franchises to log onto and record their charitable giving. “We want to aggregate the total number of hours and dollars to aggregate the total impact of giving back,” he says.

And that’s a lot of fodder for conversations with elected officials.

We’ve profiled the five Gold winners on these pages, plus a brief mention of their worthy competitors, the Silver award winners.

Figaro’s Pizza:
Innovation & Impact Award

In 2009 the media was filled with doom-and-gloom stories about the economy. Ron Berger’s pizza profits were down, but the news stories Figaro’s Pizza CEO was most disturbed by were the ones detailing how the recession was affecting schools.

“There were endless reports of schools shutting down, programs slashed and those left didn’t have supplies,” he says. “I looked at those articles and thought about our customers’ students. I thought it was a situation that cried out for help.”

Ron Berger

Ron Berger, CEO of Figaro's, shows off their box promotion for the pizza chain's H.E.L.P. fundraiser.

Thus H.E.L.P was on its way. The acronym stands for Helping Education with Love & Pizza and the program, administered at no cost to the franchisee by the franchisor, awards grants to teachers and schools via funds donated by the franchisees based on one-eighth of 1 percent of their local marketing fee (which is based on sales). The franchisor matches dollar for dollar.

The beauty of the program, Berger says, is the franchisee can tell customers that 100 percent of the dollars they spend in the store are spent in their community. To date, the chain has awarded 400 grants for a total of $94,285. In the latest grant period that ended in February, 32 requests were granted, totaling $10,583.

Grants are large and small. For instance, one teacher asked for $400 to repair old musical instruments, so they could once again have a music class. One of the most touching requests, he says, was from a teacher who had a dozen students who came to school without shoes. “We’ve have some crazy grant requests,” Berger adds, that can’t be fulfilled, such as one for $50,000 to repave a playground or give an entire class iPads. They’ve learned that to have the maximum positive affect, they can’t just partially fund requests. “Let’s say someone asks for $10,000 for playgrounds or iPads, we’ll grant $2,000 if they come back and show us they have other (matching) funds,” he says. “We’re learning how powerful an impact that these small grants have.”

Berger didn’t add new staff to take on the job of administering the charitable giving, but he says his controllers will answer, “yes, but we’ve sure added hours.” Not to mention the administrating of 46 separate funds for each franchise location. How does she feel about all that corporate matching funds leaving the coffers? “It’s just money,” CFO Kelly Kimsey answers, with a laugh. “It was challenging at first, but now we have the process down.”

Some of the challenges included reprogramming software to accommodate the new use of sales data, filing paperwork for the 501(c)3, and proving to government auditors that it was legal to put information about H.E.L.P on their napkins and cups. “We had to get materials from McDonald’s” to prove their case, Berger says.

But perhaps the greatest challenge is that Berger has extended an offer to franchisees of his other chains, Nick & Willy’s Pizza and Pizza Schmizza, to also take advantage of the program. Figaro’s will administer the requests for funds, but not match them, he adds.

One franchisee, Andy Anderson, has taken him up on his offer to do the same for his separate yogurt business as well as his Figaro’s Pizza. He’s adopted a school, and “the kids will come in and do a tour and play restaurant for a day,” he says. “It just feels good. You get busy; it’s a good reminder of what’s important.”

The reason the funds come from the local marketing royalty is because headquarters send the grant checks to the franchisee to deliver in person. This has  prompted local newspaper stories and pictures to upload on social media.

And it feels good. “For office staff, millennials especially, they feel like they want to have a special higher purpose for their lives, they want meaning,” Berger says. “I think having  H.E.L.P. as part of the fabric of their workdays makes people feel good.”

CertaPro Painting:
Support Our Veterans Award

CertaPro Painting wanted to do more than raise funds for a charity; they wanted a cause they could contribute their skill to as well. While researching options, Kathi Mello, director of content marketing for the Philadelphia-based franchise, ran across Birdies for the Brave during a shopping trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods. That nudged her to start researching veteran charities where she ran across Homes for Our Troops.

“Not only could we raise money,” Mello says of the veteran-centric nonprofit, “but we can help with the painting, and through our contacts (Sherwin-Williams) we can get the paint donated.”

The cause resonated with franchisees, especially Chris Drucquer, a franchisee who has the Main Line territory in the City of Brotherly Love. Headquarters developed what Mello calls a “5K in a box,” with the help of a race consultant.  Abbie Wahl was charged with developing the “box,” which includes everything from the timeline, number of porta potties needed to race day protocol.

Last year, longtime franchisee Drucquer and his fiancée, Andrea Fanfera, organized their fourth race. Thanks to Fanfera’s persuasive powers, she was able to get everything for the race donated, except the race shirts. The result was that $21,000 of the $23,000 raised went toward building a local veteran’s home. Drucquer rallied other franchises in town, such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Philly Pretzel Factory, to join the cause and donate food for the finish line.

The added benefit of having so many sponsors, Drucquer says, is that they attract runners from their circle of influence. About 250 runners, both running fanatics and those attracted by the cause, participated.

The recipient of the funds raised by the 5K is SPC Roberto Reyes,  a veteran who has been living in a VA hospital with a brain injury. Drucquer and crew will paint his house later this year when it’s finished.

The website says, Homes for Our Troops’ mission is “to build mortgage-free, specially adapted homes nationwide for severely injured veterans post-9/11, to enable them to rebuild their lives.”

In March of 2013, CertaPro became one of Homes for Our Troops national sponsors, committing to raise $200,000 in funds and services.

Franchisees have helped paint 20 homes and executed 5K races in San Diego, Houston and Philadelphia and a golf tournament in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to name a few. In addition, headquarters holds a silent auction as a fundraiser at its conventions, with items donated by vendors. “Rather than give away prizes at their booths, they donate them to our auction,” Mello says. Corporate employees donate to the auction, as well, she adds. To date, 24 franchise owners have hosted fundraising events and/or painted the adapted homes.

Some of the veterans who have been helped attend the races and  CertaPro’s convention. At one convention, Mello says, vendors found out the veteran attending was getting married, so one donated his timeshare for the honeymoon and another donated his miles for the airline tickets, she says.

One of the keys to pairing with a nonprofit is for the franchisees and their staffs to get personally involved so they can feel good about what they’re doing. For CertaPro this involves the painting, but also attending the groundbreakings and “grand-openings” when the veteran moves into his or her home.

Spirit of Franchising

When Denny’s execs decided to launch a national charity five years ago, they surveyed guests to find out which charitable causes resonated with them. “What we got back,” says Paul Spencer, director of CRS and internal communications, “was feeding children.”

Ensuring children have access to a healthy breakfast so they are in the right frame of mind to learn aligned with Denny’s mission. “As America’s Diner, it was a perfect fit,” Spencer said.

Denny’s approached Share Our Strength to sign on with its No Kid Hungry campaign. The charity’s goal is to end child hunger in the U.S., where one in five children struggle with hunger issues. The charity connects children to school nutrition programs for breakfast and summer meals through donations made from private individuals and companies, government and local nutrition programs, according to its website.

Denny’s started small and every year the franchisee participation and amount of money raised has steadily increased. Last year alone,  Denny’s donated $944,645 to No Kid Hungry. Since it started its fundraising in 2011, the chain has donated more than $2.3 million.

What’s even more remarkable is that Denny’s has 100 percent franchisee participation, which is impressive given the high percentage of the chain that is owned by franchisees. According to our Top 200+, Denny has 1,596 domestic units and is 91 percent franchised.

“This is a franchisee-led campaign,” Spencer stresses, but headquarters helps support the fundraising with point of sale items and motivation such as rewards or T-shirts.

During its Dine Out for No Kid Hungry campaign in September, Denny’s restaurants sell coupons for $3 each, which goes to the charity. In return, the guest receives a coupon for $9 off their next meal at Denny’s. “It rewards the guests for donating, but it also brings them back,” Spencer says. The donor also sees a “pin-up,” a paper cutout with his or her name on it, displayed  on the wall in support of the campaign.

This year staff in the restaurants are wearing orange T-shirts, No Kid Hungry’s color, to help start a conversation with guests about the cause. Some restaurants, such as the ones in the Dallas area, go up and beyond, Spencer says, and solicit local businesses to donate prizes to motivate workers to sell more or customers to donate more by entering names in a drawing.

As a franchise with business owners all over the country, Denny’s management knew it was vital to have a good portion of the money franchisees raise stay in their local communities, which Share our Strength has honored. On Denny’s website a map allows site visitors to click on a state and see the stats for that state. For instance, in Louisiana, only 57 percent of kids who qualify for free/reduced lunch programs are receiving a school breakfast and only 12 percent have access to summer meals.

An internal Facebook page allows team members to post pictures and dollar amounts for both corporate and franchisees’ eyes only, allowing everyone to see the good they’re doing in real time. And if that provokes friendly competition, so be it.

Another important part of the campaign, Spencer says, is to give franchisees and staff an opportunity to see the value in what they’re doing. For servers who are reluctant to ask guests for money, hearing from the administrators at the schools they’ve helped or seeing the breakfast carts onsite is the motivation they need to not only sell more, but to feel good about the place they work.

Jersey Mike’s Subs:
Enduring Impact Award

Jersey Mike’s corporate credits Dallas franchisee/area developer Dalton Stewart with coming up with the idea behind Jersey Mike’s Month of Giving, but Stewart is having none of it.

“Basically, Peter (Cancro) founded Jersey Mike’s on the principle of getting involved and giving back to the communities we serve,” Stewart says. “I really just took what Peter had been doing all along and gave it a nudge in another direction.”

Like many franchises, Jersey Mike’s operators were all doing their own fundraisers. The twist Stewart put on the idea of giving back was to coordinate a market so that the efforts of several stores were going toward one nonprofit where a larger impact could be made.

Finding the right charity is both an art and science. The cause needs to resonate with all the people involved, plus it needs to be large enough to have a sophisticated system, but small enough so the funds raised locally can stay in that community, Stewart says.

“I thought it was important for it to be a month long (event) and to have a big finale, which is our day of giving,” he says.

The first version of the program involved giving out free subs in exchange for a donation. While people were generous, it became obvious that a more efficient way was to donate 100 percent of the sales from one day a year to the charity. That way people could order one sub or 50 and the money runs through the cash register and to the charity.

One of the unique qualities of Jersey Mike’s program is that each franchisee or market can choose its own charity. Stewart’s charity of choice is Wipeout Kids Cancer.

2015’s Month of Giving raised $3 million for 150 different charities, says Caroline Cancro, marketing and charitable giving coordinator. Each franchisee chooses the nonprofit that resonates with its staff and customers. A lot of franchisees choose nonprofits that benefit children’s causes, Cancro says.

Generosity fosters generosity. “Crew members will donate tips for the day,” Cancro says.

March is the chosen month. “That’s when our media budget kicks in and we can incorporate it into our national advertising,” she adds. Customers can donate all month long, but the culmination of the month—the Day of Giving—can be a long, busy day. “My view is we want to make this a celebration,” Stewart says. Local celebrities show up, there’s music, balloon artists, whatever will make giving more fun than receiving.

Church’s Chicken:
Newcomers Award

Church’s Chicken’s tagline is “Love goes beyond food. Church’s has love for the neighborhood.” In 2007, the Partners Foundation was set up to help employees facing catastrophes. In keeping with the chain’s sentiment that minds get hungry, too, the chain launched  Church’s Scholar Program in 2014.

Its Scholar Program is only 18 months old, but it’s already having an impact on the lives of students in the U.S. and soon abroad. In 2014, the foundation awarded $50,000 in scholarships to students in its founding base, Texas; and in 2015, that number grew significantly, as did the number of states, to $175,000 to students in 18 states. Each scholarship is $1,000.They currently have $215,000 in commitment for 2016 scholarships.

Church’s employees and franchisees are also welcome to apply for the continuing education scholarships that can be applied to two-year, four-year or vocational colleges. Recipients must meet the scholarship’s criteria, and live in the community where the funds are raised.

As the program gets ahead of the learning curve, it is being revised. “The education platform has also grown for Church’s Chicken in the past year,” the application states, and the fund has begun supporting music education through a partnership with the World’s Fastest Drummer (WFD). (The contest allows Church’s to produce a clever ad with two chicken drumsticks crossed with the headline “WFD Knows Good Drumsticks.”) The partnership also brought music classes to a high school in Atlanta, with the goal to expand the program to another state next year.

Funds are collected in a variety of ways, including donations, events and the sale of coupon books at the individual Church’s locations.

Silver Award Winners

Enduring Impact

Marriott International

Marriott became Children’s Miracle Network’s first corporate sponsor in 1983. Ten years later, franchisees began to get involved, and to date more than 5,000 volunteers have put in nearly 14,000 hours to complete fundraisers. The value of those hours is estimated to be $4.2 million.

Melting Pot

In 2014, the Melting Pot raised $605,000 for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital through its 11th annual St. Jude Thanks and Giving Campaign. This brings the total amount the fondue restaurant chain has donated to $9 million since 2003.

Innovative and Impact Award


Jibu is helping employ people and end Africa’s clean drinking water crisis by equipping franchisees with a business in a box to filter water inexpensively at stations within walking distance. While it’s a new franchise, it estimates that its in-kind donation is already $618,000.


Wingstop teamed up with NBA teams and charities along its nine-city Flavor Tour (a foodtruck serving wings) last summer to help rebuild playgrounds and basketball courts that will provide underprivileged children a better place to play. More than 600 volunteers donated thousands of hours to the project, along with more than $100,000 in donations.


Moe’s Southwest Grill

Franchisees Tammy Reese and Ruth Musgrave donated the $8,200 proceeds from their grand opening in Abilene, Texas, to the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department to recruit a new police dog for its K-9 unit.


Fitness franchise SoldierFit works with 22 Needs A Face, a nonprofit that aims to combat the number of service members who commit suicide due to post-traumatic stress. SoldierFit does a number of fundraisers to create a community for soldiers and donates to helpline centers for veterans.

Spirit of Franchising

Massage Envy

Massage Envy, looking for a cause to support surrounding its belief in the power of touch, developed Healing Hands for Arthritis to benefit the Arthritis Foundation. In 2014, Massage Envy raised more than $1 million in one day during its fourth annual event. In all it’s raised more than $3 million to help find a cure for 50.3-plus million people affected by the disease.

Sport Clips

Saving Lives Never Looked So Good is a month-long partnership between Sport Clips and the American Red Cross Blood Services where free haircut coupons are provided to donors as a thank you for their lifesaving gift. The in-kind value is estimated at $893,589.

Support Our Veterans


Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants participate in Stars for Heroes, an annual fundraising campaign to raise money for active-duty military, veterans and their families  through various causes. Through $1 donations, more than $3.5 million has been raised since 2011 (2015 figures haven’t been included in that figure, but the 2014 total was $1.1 million, demonstrating that the momentum is building).

Golden Corral

In 2011, Golden Corral created Camp Corral as a week-long, free summer camp for children of wounded, disabled or fallen military personnel. Customers have donated annually $1.7 million to fund the camp; volunteer hours were estimated at 3,500 a year.

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