The advantages and struggles for a charity affiliated with a big brand
Barbara Ryan, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities shares the advantages and struggles of being affiliated with the fast food giant
Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) has a long history of recognition and respect across Australia, but there are also misconceptions of its corporate partnerships.
RMHC regularly brings in large public and corporate donations that are used to connect families with seriously ill children through housing options, but the relationship with the fast food giant sees it in a battle to retain independence with a beneficial relationship.
Chief Executive Officer of RMHC, Barbara Ryan, said operating with McDonald’s means “making sure whatever we ask of them works with their business”.
“We are connected to a big brand with an amazing reputation and amazing recognition but with that people tend to see us as an arm of McDonald’s. We have been knocked back from hospitals where we wanted to put a family room in because the hospital said they did not want to be associated with McDonald’s,” Ryan said.
Speaking at the 2018 NFP Financial Leaders Summit, Ryan said that having the name of McDonalds attached to the charity has been a huge advantage in attracting attention, ensuring an ongoing financial partnership and maintaining a strong reputation.
“We need to have a strong and simple mission and a clear strategic plan. Internally, we call it ‘mission 2020’ and we’re working on the next one,” Ryan said. “We go through the McDonalds system and ask what they think, and there are so many stakeholders we talk to. But McDonald’s does need to know we’re on a strong course, otherwise they won’t want to put their name on the charity or be associated or committed to our charity.”
Ryan added that in order to work with McDonald’s, the charity has to ensure that its processes works with the fast food giant’s own business goals. This was a concern when the McDonald’s kiosks were introduced, which drew customers away from the donation money boxes at the counter. It took RMHC two years to be included in kiosks.
“The kiosks were a way for McDonald’s to steer the customer to the kiosks rather than the front counter, which was an issue for us,” Ryan said. “It was moving away from the counter where we wanted them to be with their cash. So, the first thing we implemented was for McDonald’s to put a holding slide on their screen and that brought awareness.”
One of RMHC’s most rewarding parts of the partnership is McHappy Day, which is run by McDonald’s rather than the charity itself. Ryan said the charity contributes on the day only in ensuring that McDonald’s has the correct messaging.
“The big thing is that everyone in the system gets behind McHappy Day. It’s really a time in the year that the crew feel they can give back to charity. We have to make sure that it’s a simple, easy way for people in the McDonald’s system to get involved.”