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Franchising has a unique position to give back to the communities that an operation thrives within, especially large networks with hands-on franchisees.
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Words by Kieran McLoone, deputy editor for Global Franchise
On paper, franchising’s connection with charity work looks like a match made in heaven. Particularly for a franchised store location that is thriving within its local community, it only makes sense to give back to the patrons that have enabled it to find its footing and succeed. This could be through direct cash donations, in-kind donations, the providing of free services to boost the local community or anything else that goes above and beyond what a business offers to its customers.
“Personally, I feel that any business that is doing well has a responsibility to give back to the community because that’s where the business is based,” says Mitali Chopra, managing director in London for ActionCOACH, an international business coaching franchise.
For ActionCOACH and Mitali Chopra, giving back comes in the form of the brand’s ongoing Coaching for a Cause program. This operates as a global pro bono coaching scheme aimed at non-profit organizations, which is designed to bring in more donations and, consequently, build better communities around the world.
“For any franchise brand, they are in the business of solving problems for people – directly or indirectly. One of the things that they can look at is the nearest or most relevant charitable organization that they can help,” continues Chopra. “For ActionCOACH, we’re in the business of helping businesses to be better. We can help charitable organizations by working with them as a business, by looking at how they can run efficiently.”
An effective approach
It’s one thing to pursue charitable initiatives within your organization, but it’s an entirely different challenge to source and enact the right kind of outreach for your business.
For Mitali Chopra, ActionCOACH’s top-down approach of franchisor-driven guidance has been evidently effective: “The franchisors have a bigger-picture view that allows them to see where the most effective action can be taken, and they can then instruct franchisees on what actions to take to enact this. Being able to see everything holistically can be more impactful,” she says.
“Individuals can make a difference and may even be the ones to start that momentum, but to run it like a program, it comes down to a franchisor who can oversee everything from head office. It’s also important to instil it within the brand’s value system, which is probably the most important aspect.”
“Find a way to make a difference in the lives of those whom you are blessed to serve”
From the ground up
However, other franchise networks have identified more appropriate methods of charitable engagement for them; Edible Arrangements, for example, has taken a more hands-off approach. Rather than franchisors directing the network on how they should be working alongside their local communities, Cheikh Mboup, the president of Edible, believes franchisees have the insight required to maximize efficient giving-back.
“One of our greatest strengths is the ability to have independently-owned locations; in most cases owner-operators. What occurs is that they tend to have a better feeling and understanding of what’s happening in their own community,” says Mboup. “Often, strategy starts from the top, which then goes to marketing, then mass communication, then independent owners or franchisees, and then it hits the store and customers. In a time like this, you have to tilt that pyramid and talk to customers. Those customers don’t talk to us at head office as much as they talk to their local stores. So you ask those that are involved in each community and give them guardrails as to how they should do things.”
Edible’s charitable work during the COVID-19 crisis involved the donation of products to emergency services and first responders across the States, to thank those protecting the brand’s regular customers during extremely challenging times.
For some franchise concepts, the connection with charity seems like it was always a part of the plan. Just Between Friends, the retail franchise organizing pop- up consignment sales across the U.S., has donated more than $28m of in-kind and cash donations to hundreds of charities since it began in 2004. According to its founder, however, this benevolent side of the business grew naturally alongside franchise expansion.
“The charitable side of Just Between Friends was not a part of the original plan because we really didn’t have a plan. We didn’t even think about this because we were so small. As we quickly grew, we realized we did have a great opportunity here,” says Shannon Wilburn, co-founder and CEO of Just Between Friends. “It came to be when we noticed a woman at our Tulsa sale buying loads and loads of clothes for babies – more than any mom could use. As we spoke with her, we found out she worked with a local charity that serves families in very hard life situations – families that often have to flee for safety in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs. She asked us outright, ‘What do you do with these unsold items? Could we have them?’ With that question, the plan, and now a critical component to our business model, was born.”
“The franchisors have a bigger-picture view that allows them to see where the most effective action can be taken”
Laying the groundwork in your franchise network to create measurable change can be a tough hurdle to overcome, but Wilburn is passionate that all of the hard work pales in comparison to the feeling of helping those in need: “It may be tricky to figure out initially, but the shift it makes is immeasurable. After all, we have been so blessed to do what we get to do. So, do it. Do whatever it takes – find a way to make a difference in the lives of those whom you are blessed to serve. In the end, giving back is not a burden; it’s a tremendous, enriching, life-changing joy.”
For Little Kickers, the international football education franchise founded in the U.K., charity comes in several forms. As well as donating a franchise location to two Aston University students in Birmingham, England, the football brand has also been conducting work in Africa to better the lives of local children.
“We’ve been sending two coaches to Malawi every few months to the Sparkle pre-school for the past few years,” says Christine Kelly, founder and chair of the brand. “Our coaches take Little Kickers kits and equipment and run classes for the kids and train up local teachers from the preschool on how to run the Little Kickers program.”
Little Kickers has also shifted its football kit material from polyester to yarn spun from recycled ocean plastic, and if children return their kits once they’re finished with them, the brand donates them to orphanages in South Africa alongside balls, goals, and other fun equipment.
Koala Insulation has a strong partnership with Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that ensures those in need have properly insulated homes to stay safe and warm. Following franchisee training days, the brand donates insulated walls that have been built to prevent any waste.
“Through our regular donations, we’ve been able to help them build properly insulated houses for those in need,” says Scott Marr, CEO of Koala Insulation. “As growth continues to pick up for our brand, and we have more and more training sessions, we are able to supply them with additional materials. It’s exciting to make an impact, especially one that came about so naturally. It’s the least we can do!”
You’ve Got Maids, a home-cleaning franchise based in the U.S., partnered with the non-profit Cleaning for a Reason to donate house cleans to cancer patients who might otherwise not be able to adequately deep clean their homes. To say that the partnership has been beneficial doesn’t quite cut it: the brand has already performed over 1,100 free house cleanings to date.
“At You’ve Got Maids, our goal is to build goodwill into everything that we do,” says Frank Berger, founder and CEO. “Partnering with Cleaning for a Reason promotes that; what could be better than helping women who are fighting cancer to find something to make them happy? If we can make even a small part of their day just a little better, we are making the world a better place.”
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