One of the joys of running a successful business is the chance to give back to the community. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it can also increase employee morale and foster a greater sense of purpose within your workplace. We all have causes near and dear to our hearts. More often than not, the hardest part is figuring out exactly how to support charitable organizations that benefit the less fortunate in our areas. But when a business finds a creative, meaningful way to give back, it can take off like a rocket. That’s exactly what happened to Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia.
Mason Wartman held down a high-powered finance job on Wall Street before he made the decision to give up the world of investment for something a little more down to earth. “I had always wanted to start my own business, and there’s a bunch of dollar pizza stores throughout New York and Manhattan,” Wartman told TheTab.com. “I thought it was a concept I could work with here in Philly.”
While Wartman thought he could serve up authentic New York pizza slices to the people of Philadelphia, he didn’t expect to start one of the city’s most popular charitable efforts. His story illustrates how you can create a way to give back that aligns with your business and ideals.
The Moment of Inspiration
As a result of their $1 slices and welcoming atmosphere, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza was already a place for homeless and low-income Philadelphians to grab a delicious meal. While this inclusiveness was always a core aspect of their business, they didn’t start a system of paying it forward until one customer inspired them to do so.
“One day a customer came in after reading that we naturally serve a lot of homeless people because it’s affordable food,” Wartman recalled. “He tried our pizza and liked it. He asked us if homeless people ever came in short and didn’t have a full dollar. They did, and I told him as much. He offered to pre-purchase a slice for the next homeless person.” Apparently, this customer was inspired by a practice in Italy called “caffe sospeso” where customers purchase coffee in anticipation for those who may not be able to pay for it.
After receiving the customer’s donation, Wartman placed a Post-It on the wall. And that Post-it would be redeemed by the next homeless customer. From this one small gesture, a revolution was born.
From 1 Slice To More Than 100,000
While Wartman didn’t put that Post-It on the wall with the intention of the program exploding, that’s exactly what happened. Once word spread of the concept, it took off like wildfire. “People from all over the world donate online and visit us in the shop when they’re in Philly,” Wartman said. “It’s a concept that a lot of people understand very quickly. It’s very simple and they appreciate that. They appreciate the simplicity of participating and the transparency of the program. It encourages more involvement.”
After the story was picked up by USA Today, it was shared far and wide. Today, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza gets dozens of donations every day. Customers love being able to help those in need, and they enjoy sharing kind words via those Post-Its. If you walk into Rosa’s, you’ll find hundreds of them plastered to the wall. Rosa’s is now more known for their creative way of paying it forward than they are for their tasty slices.
The program has served hundreds of slices to homeless people throughout Philadelphia. It’s a staple of the community and a model for other businesses to follow. What makes Rosa’s program so special is that it doesn’t feel like viral marketing or de rigueur corporate giving, though it is in effect both those things. Instead, it’s a natural extension of the care they show their customers and neighbors on a daily basis. In short, it’s authentic.
How to Create Your Own Giving Program
There’s nothing wrong with simply picking a worthy organization and sending them a check. However you want to give back is welcome, but finding a way to help and inspire people can turn a simple donation into a movement.
Here at The Newsletter Pro, for example, we support a number of causes that align with our values as a company. As the holidays approach, we participate in a program called Fostering Christmas where we provide gifts for children who are in short-term foster care during Christmastime. Many of our staff members have families of their own, so the cause resonates with all of us. Every year, we buy more gifts and help more kids. We’ve never forced our staff members to participate; they just do it of their own accord.
Similarly, one of our clients, Christopher J. Berry, has found a way to give back to a cause that directly affects his work. Because Chris works in financial and elder-care planning, Alzheimer’s and dementia are daily concerns in his world. It’s no wonder, then, that he helps organize his local Walk to End Alzheimer’s and asks his clients to help fundraise it. He talked about it in his newsletter, and his firm raised more $12,500 for the walk this year.
As all of these examples attest, paying it forward in a way that aligns with your company values can yield huge benefits for your community. As you’re thinking about giving back this holiday season, ask yourself if there’s a way to creatively inspire your team members and your customers/clients to join you. It may not result in feeding thousands of hungry people, but we promise it will yield something extraordinary.