On Memorial Day, and Every Day, Give Back to Those Who Serve

2016 Franchising Gives Back Winner provides advice for partnering with charities serving our fallen heroes, active military, and their families.


By Tabbassum Mumtaz

Each year as we approach Memorial Day, May 29, many stop to consider how they can mark the day of remembrance for those who have lost their lives serving our country. For some, it may mean laying wreaths at a cemetery, while for others, it’s volunteering their time at a local Veterans Administration hospital or to create care packages for deployed troops.


But Memorial Day doesn’t have to be the only day in which we honor the fallen and give back to those who serve. There are countless opportunities throughout the year to support our troops, both past and present.


In 2016, the IFA Franchise Education and Research Foundation honored Ampex Brands as a Gold Winner at the second annual Franchising Gives Back Awards for our work with Snowball Express, a nonprofit organization that serves the children of our fallen military heroes.


It was a bittersweet moment to receive the Support Our Veterans Award. Over the past five years, we have sponsored the Snowball Express Children of Fallen Military Annual Gathering, which brings children together from across the nation who have lost a military parent since 9/11. Our goal is to connect children and widows and widowers to others who are experiencing the identical tragedy in their lives. Families who attend realize that they are not alone, and because of the tremendous demonstration of community support, they understand that neither their sacrifices, nor the sacrifices of their loved ones, are forgotten. It’s now the largest gathering of children and families of fallen military in the world with more than 1,800 attendees for the five-day program — and it has been an honor to play a role in the growth of such an important cause.


Over the years, we’ve established a true partnership with Snowball Express that has evolved into a year-long commitment — a never-ending mission — to give back to those who serve. Our work with the nonprofit has not only allowed us to show our support for these families, but also has given our employees a deeper sense of purpose. I encourage anyone passionate about our active military and veterans to consider supporting one of the many organizations across the country that directly serve these groups.


Choose a partner

When considering charitable organizations to support, it’s incredibly important to choose one that aligns with your passions. If you and your employees are going to devote your time and energy, you should support a cause that you are passionate about and a charity in which you and your team believe.


Ultimately, we chose to partner with Snowball Express because Memorial Day has a special, personal meaning for me — and a cause employees could feel good about supporting, as well. I came to this country with very little aside from hope, determination, and aspirations. Because of the freedom this country provides, I was able to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams and build a great company. When I finally had the capacity to give back to those in need, I felt compelled to support our men and women who willingly have risked their lives to protect our freedoms, as well as the children and families they have left behind.


Decide with your heart – and your head

When making a decision, decide with your head, in addition to your heart. You should have a thorough understanding of where your money and in-kind donations go. CharityNavigator.org, for example, provides rankings related to financial performance metrics to help people understand how much is spent on a charity’s mission rather than peripheral activities such as administrative expenses. Additionally, Charity Navigator ranks organizations on their accountability and transparency. By knowing this information, you can ensure you’re making an informed decision — and whether a nonprofit organization is being effective in what it is striving to do.


Get to Know the Charity

The best way to approach a veterans’ charity is to speak directly with it. If you can’t arrange for an in-person meeting, call. Get to know the people behind it and make sure they are a good fit for you and your team.


You’ll also want to be aware of the sensitivities that often coincide with the work veterans’ organizations do. Death, grief, and trauma are subjects that most people find difficult to approach, but that many of our veterans deal with on a daily basis. The administrative staff of the charity can provide you with information related to their specific constituents and advise of any sensitive matters.


It was critical when we partnered with Snowball Express that we understood its mission was to serve children. Specifically, to help them to deal with traumatic grief, help them heal, improve their self-esteem, and help them realize that they are not alone. Grief is a difficult thing to deal with, especially in children who often struggle to understand and process it.


Find Ways to Give Back Year-Round

Throughout our relationship, Ampex Brands has identified ways to continue to support Snowball Express’ mission outside of just our sponsorship of the annual gathering. For example, employees in our franchise locations raise funds during the year to sponsor children and help cover the cost to bring as many as possible to the program.


With the right cause, the right partner, and the right level of engagement, every IFA member can find a way to give back to the communities they serve. It’s humbling to see and hear firsthand how the work we do has had a profound effect on the lives of children who have lost a parent.


I’ll leave you with a quote from Leslie Ponder, widow of Master Sgt. James “Tre” Ponder III, who died in Eastern Afghanistan in 2005, leaving behind two daughters. When asked why Snowball Express was so important to her, her answer was short, but powerful.


“Snowball Express did more for my daughters in four days than three years of professional therapy,” she said.


Tabbassum Mumtaz is CEO and President of Ampex Brands, which owns and operates more than 300 KFC, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s, Pizza Hut, and Tim Horton’s restaurants across 17 states.


Nominations Open for Franchising Gives Back Annual Awards!

IFA's Franchise Education & Research Foundation is accepting nominations for the third annual Franchising Gives Back Awards. In partnership with Roark Capital Group, the awards will honor the best, most innovative community leaders and charitable programs nationwide during an awards celebration and dinner on Sept. 11 during IFA's Franchise Action Network Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Submit a nomination at www.franchisinggivesback.org/awards. The deadline is June 12. For information on individual tickets and table sponsorships, contact Gionne Jones at gjones@franchise.org or visit www.franchise.org/fgb-awards-dinner.