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The Franchise Force for Good: How Top Brands like Dunkin' are Giving Back

The inside scoop on Dunkin's upcoming charity event and why franchisor philanthropy is more than a hot trend.

By Morgan Wood1851 Franchise Contributor
Updated 8:08AM 02/15/23

Franchisors, like many large companies, are often known to engage in corporate-level and systemwide giving efforts. In 2021, corporate giving grew to over $20 billion, and many national franchisors played a crucial role. However, there are multiple forms of “giving” that exist in the space, and broadening the vision to encompass efforts outside of direct monetary gifts allows companies and their employees to make an even bigger impact.

Atlanta-based multi-brand franchisor Inspire Brands has a strong commitment to giving, and Dunkin’, a brand under the Inspire Brands umbrella, fits that bill perfectly. For over 20 years, Dunkin’ has had a strong record of engaging in a range of philanthropic efforts. 

In 2002, it donated tens of thousands of pounds of ready-to-brew coffee to fire stations. Ten years later, a local Colchester franchisee donated $10,000 directly to the community’s volunteer firefighter company. In 2015, a New Britain, Connecticut franchisee committed all of their opening day proceeds to a sick firefighter.

More recently, Atlanta Dunkin’ locations have been heavily involved in community-building and giving efforts. Inspire Brands, Dunkin’s parent company, is a sponsor of multiple nonprofit organizations in its hometown, including the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation. AFRF is the only nonprofit organization committed to supporting the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department when the city’s budget cannot cover all of the stations’ and individual firefighters’ needs.

Through its sponsorship, Inspire Brands plays a key role in allowing AFRF to provide firefighters with scholarships, financial support for housing and a larger Fire Station Fund, which is used to equip stations with working household items as firefighters call their stations their second homes.

Atlanta firefighters and EMTs work 24-hour shifts, which means the stations are not only their workplace but also their second home,” the foundation website reads. “In fact, they spend one-third of their lives in the fire stations. All day every day, someone is using the washers, dryers, ice machines, coffee makers, kitchen faucets, and refrigerators while someone else is relaxing in a recliner watching tv. It’s no surprise that the heavy usage leads to breaks. What may surprise you is that the replacement may not be covered by the current city budget. Additionally, 80% of Atlanta’s fire stations are beyond their 40-year life cycle, meaning they need major renovations or should be torn down and rebuilt.”

Franchise Philanthropy Can Reach Beyond Corporate Sponsorship

While Inspire Brands is certainly making a valuable contribution through its corporate sponsorships, its willingness to get out in the community does not go unnoticed. Dunkin’ regularly brings treats to the 1,100 men and women of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, dropping off donuts and coffee at individual stations on a whim.

However, in years past, Dunkin’ has coordinated widespread efforts to provide for the entire department in celebration of its hard work. In 2021, Dunkin’ partnered with AFRF to deliver a total of 72 dozen donuts, 36 Boxes of Joe, gift cards and notes of appreciation to the 36 fire stations of the city of Atlanta. 

“We knew it was important to sprinkle joy to people in our communities who make a difference every day,” Dunkin’ Field Marketing Manager Katie Gaston said in a release. “The Fire and Rescue Department of Atlanta was certainly the perfect group to recognize for their consistent support of our communities.”

“We are so thankful to Dunkin’ and Inspire Brands for their continued generosity of support for our City of Atlanta firefighters,” said Shirley Anne Smith, CEO of Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation. “This engagement complements the Foundation’s 2021 Pledge to create a culture of gratitude and appreciation for firefighters.” 

In 2021, the brand executed additional giving efforts in honor of International Firefighters’ Day, May 4, and September 11.

“I am so proud to work with franchisees and operations partners who find the time in a busy calendar to commit to making donut and coffee drops to these organizations,” Gaston added. “They’re [sic] commitment to their local communities encourages me to continue to bring them ideas and create those reasons to get outside of our restaurants and share in kindness.” 

This year, for Random Acts of Kindness day on February 17, Dunkin’ will once again partner with AFRF to show some love to Atlanta’s firefighters.

Giving Is an Incredibly Prominent Aspect of Many Franchisors’ Business Models

The list of franchisors who engage in giving efforts goes on and on. While each franchisor embraces a different way to give back, the efforts the brands engage in are often meaningful and close to the hearts of those within the franchise network.

A few franchisors who embrace charity are Krispy KremeChicken Salad ChickThe Human Bean and Jersey Mike’s.

Krispy Kreme’s fundraising program was established in 1995 as a way to support community-level organizations in fundraising for their cause. 

“Last year alone, Krispy Kreme Fundraising helped organizations raise approximately $37 million to support their initiatives,” its website says. Krispy Kreme’s fundraising model allows organizations to sell Digital Dozens (vouchers) and fresh donuts, and up to 50% of the profit is donated to the cause.

Chicken Salad Chick and its charitable arm the Chicken Salad Chick Foundation drive a substantial amount of donations each year. The brand’s co-founder, Kevin Brown, passed away from colon cancer, and the Chicken Salad Chick Foundation keeps his legacy alive by contributing to local cancer centers and the American Cancer Society. Its biggest initiative each year, the Giving Card program, has raised almost $1.5 million for local charities in the past five years.

While The Human Bean conducts most of its charity internally, it can still make an important difference. Rather than launching charitable pushes throughout the year, the brand weaves giving back into its everyday operations with the Farm Friendly Direct program. This allows coffee farmers to receive a premium for their beans, and 100% of those funds are put toward farm and community projects. 

“The Human Bean is guaranteed a constant and consistent supply of the highest quality coffee while growers and their local communities receive above-fair-market pricing and investments into local infrastructure,” the brand's website states.

Jersey Mike’s, a popular sub franchise, hosts an annual day of giving each year. Since 2011, the brand reports over $67 million raised. Throughout the month of March, dining guests are encouraged to donate to a local charity. However, on the last Wednesday of the month, 100% of sales are donated to that partner.

Why It Matters

Jersey Mike’s website sums it up perfectly, saying, “You shouldn’t give for the accolades … or the back pats, or the tax breaks.” For franchisors who see philanthropic efforts as more than just a trend or a way to gain a bit of good press, the benefits are incredible.

By aligning the brand with a set of core values and important missions or efforts, franchisors are able to make the business space a bit more personal. This resonates with franchisees and customers, and the network as a whole is made stronger. When done correctly, giving back can develop a strong brand story and give consumers something to latch on to.

In the height of summer 2020 tensions, Inspire Brands’ CEO Paul Brown released a statement on “Living Our Values.” 

“As a company and a franchise system, it is especially important during times like these to look to our values to guide our behaviors,” he said. “Two in particular are Allies and Good Citizens. We must continue to be Allies supporting each other regardless of backgrounds or beliefs. Further, we need to be Good Citizens to our guests and our teammates, as well as to people in the communities where we live and serve—without qualification.”

Huge corporations like Inspire Brands hold an incredible amount of power. When corporate leadership, unit-level owners and individual employees are passionate about truly living the brand’s values, the franchise network can become a force (for good) to be reckoned with.