A story in today's USA Today reports on a paper just released by advocacy group Corporate Accountablity International that says McDonald's "gains 100% of the PR benefit of the Ronald McDonald House program, while contributing only 10% of the charity's income."
I don't dispute the numbers at all. But the business model for the Ronald McDonald House program is not at all reliant on the fast food giant contributing all or even most of the money. And McDonald's -- and especially many of its franchisees -- put a lot of sweat equity into the program.
I don't know the actual numbers the advocacy group is reporting, but I know big bucks for the Ronald House program also come from the fast food chain's suppliers nationally and regionally. Through my work handling McDonald's PR programming in the metro New York market more than 20 years ago, I've seen personally the hard work and dedication that many of the franchisees put in to help support the charity, giving personally, tapping their own local suppliers and local business neighbors, and supporting countless local fundraising efforts where they donate product and employees' time.
Yes, the Ronald McDonald House program is a brilliant public relations concept which reaps fantastic goodwill for McDonald's. But what's wrong with that? It's a win-win. The Ronald McDonald Houses throughout the U.S. and around the world help an average of 12,000 families every day with free or low-cost accomodations near hospitals where seriously-ill children are being treated. It simply wouldn't be happening without the support of McDonald's and its franchisees.
The adocacy group's report calls for McDonald's to change the name of Ronald McDonald House so it does not include the brand name. They also want the company to stop using the Ronald McDonald character in connection with the charity.
Come on! It's a program that works all around is doing great things to help families going through unthinkable trials. Leave it alone!