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Okay, I’m guilty.
I tend to think more about charitable giving around the holidays, even though I know that these causes are in need of support all year round. Restaurateurs in particular have a unique opportunity to be part of a great cause any time of the year. Restaurants are a smart and impactful avenue through which to raise money for charity.
If philanthropy isn’t part of your restaurant business plan, it might be a good time to start thinking about it. According to a 2012 Edelman study, 72% of consumers would recommend a business that contributes to charity over one that doesn’t. Partnering with a charitable organization can boost employee morale, build on your company’s brand, slightly ease your company’s tax burden, and make a major difference in the lives of many.
Of course, business philanthropy requires a little more foresight than the contributions you give to the Salvation Army bell ringer with a Santa hat standing outside of your local Target. So, how can restaurants get involved? Here is a brief listing of inspirational organizations working directly with restaurants and how you can get involved right now.
“Dine Out” for No Kid Hungry
One in five children in the United States live in a household that does not have consistent access to nutritious, plentiful food. In September, Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, a restaurant-funded initiative backed by the National Restaurant Association, raised $10 million. Since the organization launched in 2008, No Kid Hungry has provided over 107 million meals to children in the United States. The organization works to connect kids to food sources, educate families about healthy eating, and spread awareness about childhood hunger in America.
How to get involved: Register your restaurant online and choose which type of participation program best fits your business. Options include donating proceeds from special menu items and offering a donation card at checkout. The No Kid Hungry campaign also offers programs for chefs to share their knowledge and for individuals to pledge personal funds.
Round It Up America
As a charity designed solely for restaurants, Round It Up America collects and distributes funds to other charitable organizations like No Kid Hungry, the American Red Cross and Stand Up to Cancer. Participating restaurants provide patrons with an option to round up their purchases to the next dollar and to donate the difference to charity.
How to get involved: The program requires some backend magic so online registration isn’t the only step. To get your restaurant set up with this charitable program, complete the “contact us” form. One-time monetary donations can also be made through the RIUP website.
By providing health insurance and charging a 2% kitchen appreciation fee — and by saying "thank you" every day — Ming Tsai shows his staff he cares.
ProStart by the National Restaurant Association
The restaurant industry currently makes up nearly 10 percent of the American workforce. The ProStart program, founded by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), gives 95,000 high school students across the country the opportunity to join that workforce. The two-year program equips students with career experience and training in all aspects of the restaurant industry. Certified graduates qualify for special scholarship opportunities. Since 1997, the NRAEF has awarded over $14 million in scholarship funds.
How to get involved: Chefs and restaurateurs can register to be mentors to aspiring professionals and work with them both in and out of the classroom. Restaurants can also support the organization by hiring ProStart graduates or donating to the NRAEF scholarship fund. Become a mentor.
Local Food Projects
The National Restaurant Association named locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, and environmental sustainability as the top three trends in food this year. From fast-service food trucks to fine dining, guests want to know where their food came from and how it was cultivated. Regional farm-to-table organizations are popping up all around the country. In Massachusetts, the Food Project supplies local restaurants and employs teenagers from urban areas and teaches them about nutrition and sustainability. In New Mexico, Farm to Table is changing the local food supply chain with their award-winning “Farm to Restaurants” program. Growers Collaborative in Northern California is a nonprofit that promises to deliver farm-fresh food to restaurants within 48 hours of harvesting.
How to get involved: If local goods and environmental responsibility are values aligned with your business, consider working with a nearby local food hub to get connected to quality farms and support your local farmers. Find a Local Food Project near you.
UNICEF Tap Project
Waterborne illnesses kill an estimated 4,000 children every day around the world. During World Water Week in March, restaurants that participate in UNICEF’s Tap Project aim to decrease the number of deaths caused from waterborne illnesses by requesting a $1 donation from guests in exchange for a class of tap water. A guest’s $1 donation provides a child with 40 days of clean drinking water. Since its start in 2007, the Tap Project has raised over $4.5 million for UNICEF's water and sanitation programs.
How to get involved: UNICEF is one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. To join the ranks as a UNICEF partner for the Tap Project campaign, your business must meet specific criteria like having been in operation for at least two years. Apply through the website and, if your business is a fit, they pledge to respond within 10 business days.