Who: Kate Atwood, executive
director.

Company: Arby’s Foundation.

Charitable giving highlights: Arby’s donated $2 million to District-based nonprofit Share Our Strength.

Tell me about Arby’s corporate philanthropy.

We just launched our new platform in 2011. We looked at a relevant and pressing matter that was aligned with our business and important to our customers. It was pretty obvious that childhood hunger in America is a pressing issue that touches all the communities we serve. We decided to take on that mission. Being a fast food chain, the first step was to launch a healthier kids menu. We did that last summer. We also believe all children in our nation should have access to the meals they need to learn, play and grow. We do that through serving meals in our stores and through a national partnership with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

What was the philanthropy prior to its formalization in 2011?

We have always focused on making a difference through youth initiatives like donating to youth mentoring organizations.

Why formalize it in 2011?

We understand now that the consumer is savvier and looking for something that resonates more with the work of the company. It was a natural maturation of corporate philanthropy.

How did you determine childhood hunger to be the area of focus?

We engaged with a strategic cause marketing consultant that did a lot of that discovery and research and led us to recommend that. We’re in a day where the premium corporate philanthropies are doing good and doing well in their business. That takes time and research on what the cause focus should be and who you should align with to get the work done. We’re seeing less and less corporate philanthropies taking on the work themselves.

Why did you choose Share Our Strength?

They are really at a tipping point in their growth. That was exciting for us because we could really have a measurable impact in working with them. We wanted to be a part of a nonprofit that we felt really had a sustainable strategy that would lead to solving this issue. That’s what we saw in their No Kid Hungry campaign.

Describe the partnership.

Arby’s is in this from both a cause marketing and activation standpoint. We’re helping them raise funds. We did that with our Share Your Good Mood campaign, which allowed us to contribute $2 million to the cause. There’s also the activation phase where local restaurants can nominate anti-hunger organizations in their communities.

How did you raise the $2 million?

It was a one-dollar pin up program. Customers are asked to donate a dollar and they get a one-dollar back coupon back for their next visit.

How do you track the effect of giving on the business?

We did a fundraiser where Arby’s Foundation would match a customer’s Foursquare check-in [a location-based social networking application] with a dollar. We did it primarily online with our Facebook fans and Twitter followers. We raised $50,000 through that campaign to donate to Share Our Strength but we also had double the number of orders in the month of November than we did in the three previous months. We plan to demonstrate that over the years with the partnership.

Any challenges associated with this giving model?

It all comes down to education and communication. Childhood hunger is complex. We’re really challenged with educating our internal family what the issues is and how we’re going to play a role in solving it.

— Interview with Vanessa Small