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How to Set Up a Successful Charitable Partnership



How to Set Up a Successful Charitable Partnership

The right charitable partnership helps a brand connect with its community. As a successful business, it’s important to give back and not just look out for yourself. Partnering with a charitable organization is a great way to show your customers that you care and do some good in the world.


Choosing the Right Charity

Choosing a charitable organization to support with your brand is an important decision. Some organizations look for charities that can help promote their business, but at Penn Station, we have found it best to choose a charity that we relate to personally. Penn Station Founder and CEO Jeff Osterfeld have friends and family affected by Down syndrome, and he has donated anonymously to local Down syndrome organizations for years. When we decided to set up a charitable partnership, it made perfect sense to choose a cause our founder was already passionate about and bring his support to the brand level.

Look for a cause that connects with a large variety of people. If you choose something too specialized or limited, you risk not being able to make as big of an impact, because your customers may not understand or care passionately about it. Consider a cause that is more underserved as well. The top charities in the country have a plethora of financial partners, but there are many other deserving, lesser-known organizations.

If your organization is regional, national or global in scope, make sure you choose an organization that can help people across all of your markets. Again, you don’t want to be too narrow when choosing.


Creating the Partnership

When you decide how to support the charity you choose, there are many different methods. You can donate a percentage of sales all the time, set aside specific days, weeks or months to make a donation or set up a way for customers to donate themselves. We believe it is important to make some sort of donation directly from your brand, as well. It is great to encourage your customers to give back, but your brand should also make a donation.

For example, when Penn Station created its partnership with local Down syndrome organizations, we wanted something that would be easy for both our customers and employees, so we landed on a round-up campaign. Customers have the freedom to donate as much or as little as they want, and we incentivize them to donate more by offering a buy one get one coupon for a future visit with larger donations. We made it a three-week campaign, so we have enough time to raise a significant amount of money without asking our customers to donate all the time.

Including an educational component in all of your materials to help raise awareness of the cause you are supporting is another important aspect of the campaign. Educate your customers on why you are raising money for this organization specifically and how they help the community. Don’t forget to teach your employees about charity and explain how they should talk about it with customers.


Spreading the Word 

Obviously, you have to publicize your partnership to encourage people to support the charity, but you do not want to spend money you could be donating directly to the organization on marketing. Instead, work with the charity you chose to bring people into the store via its contacts. Enlist your public relations firm. Use your own email lists and social media pages to reach your existing fan base. Window clings and counter cards in your store can also get the word out before your event begins. Any type of grassroots marketing is a good bet.

A partnership can be a mutually beneficial relationship between a business and a charitable organization. In our particular case, the organization wins because of the money we’re raising, the customer wins because they too can feel great about donating to a worthy cause, all the while getting a free sandwich for their next visit, our franchisees win because they benefit from future visits with our valued guests, and the brand wins by giving back and building goodwill in the communities we serve. It’s good to support organizations in your community that you believe in, and the partnership should strengthen your brand as a whole.

Craig Dunaway has been president of Penn Station since 1999. Before joining Penn Station Inc., Dunaway was a partner at the regional accounting firm of McCauley, Nicolas & Company, LLC in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where he had worked since 1982 in various staff and managerial positions. Dunaway has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Indiana University and is still a licensed CPA. Dunaway formerly had ownership interests in a Papa John’s® franchisee that owned 11 stores, and he served as the secretary/treasurer for that Papa John’s® franchisee. In addition, he had ownership interests in Coastal Cheesesteaks, LLC (headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina) until June 2011 and in Louisville Cheesesteaks, LLC (headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky) until January 2014, both of which are Penn Station franchisees. While a shareholder in those Penn Station franchisees, Dunaway served as secretary/treasurer. Penn Station was named one of the Best Franchises to Buy by Forbes in 2016 and 2018 and one of the Best Franchise Deals by QSR Magazine in 2016 and 2017.