Franchising Gives Back: I’ll Take a Blizzard with That

Dairy Queen is using its famous Blizzard treat to raise funds and awareness for Children's Miracle Network

Photo of two young kids at a Dairy Queen fundraising event

In 1984, when Dairy Queen Canada partnered with Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), franchisees across the country’s 650 plus locations made a commitment to raise funds and awareness for the non-profit organization’s life-saving mission.

Founded in 1983, CMN supports 170 children’s hospitals across the United States and Canada, using donations to fund health care treatments, medical equipment, and research. For Dairy Queen, contributing to CMN’s efforts more than 30 years ago was a natural partnership that aligned well with the company’s mission and values.

“Supporting our communities is an integral part of Dairy Queen’s philosophy, and is even integrated in our mission statement,” says Candida Ness, Dairy Queen Canada’s Senior Director of Marketing. The statement, “We believe in giving back to the community in which we work and do business,drives the franchise system’s charitable giving, and encourages franchise partners to get involved from coast to coast.

And get involved they do. Dairy Queen has seen a consistent level of franchisee participation each year when it hosts its annual Miracle Treat Day in support of CMN. In fact, in 2017, the franchise system has a nearly 100 per cent participation rate among franchise partners.

With a number that high, it’s no wonder the company was awarded the Canadian Franchise Association’s (CFA) 2017 Outstanding Corporate Citizen Award. This award acknowledges franchise systems that demonstrate ongoing support for a community initiative or social service group. This year, Dairy Queen received the award during CFA’s annual National Convention in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

“It was an honour to be recognized, especially for our franchisees,” says Ness. “So many of our franchise partners are emotionally invested in Miracle Treat Day and the Children’s Miracle Network that to have them recognized makes us all feel proud to be a part of the Dairy Queen system.”

Held on the second Thursday in August, Miracle Treat Day is a national initiative whereby net proceeds from every Blizzard Treat sold are donated to the 14 Canadian children’s hospitals within CMN, including SickKids, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Foundation, and the BC Children’s Hospital.

With more than three million dollars raised in 2016, including one million by Dairy Queen’s East Coast locations, Ness credits franchisees for making the day a success year in and year out. “They really go over and above to make the day a great event at their locations,” she says. “It becomes a local celebration in support of these hospitals.”

The festive environment created during Miracle Treat Day can include anything from car washes to bouncy castles to face painting stations, all organized by that location’s franchise owner to encourage customers to purchase a Blizzard. According to Ness, customers are also likely to see participation from “local celebrities” such as police officers and radio personalities, who get in on the fun by showcasing their Blizzard-making skills.

Though Miracle Treat Day remains the number one and most popular company initiative to raise funds for CMN, Dairy Queen hopes to introduce additional channels of support in the near future that can be implemented year round, such as the Round Up at the Register Campaign. The initiative, which was introduced earlier this year, invites customers to round up their bill to the nearest dollar, with the additional money collected donated to the local CMN member hospital.

Ness says implementing year-round initiatives isn’t just about promoting Miracle Treat Day, it’s about raising awareness for CMN’s cause. “When you’re in a local community, you want to help people in that community, and that’s exactly what we want to accomplish through our partnership with Children’s Miracle Network.”

Looking ahead to the future, Ness says Dairy Queen plans to continue strengthening its relationship with CMN by encouraging Canadians to learn more about Miracle Treat Day and CMN’s mission. To do this, the company organizes a national campaign that uses a combination of in-store marketing materials, social media, and television advertisements.

Since partnering with CMN in 1984, Dairy Queen franchisees across Canada and the United States have raised $125 million, though Ness says they’re not done there. “Every year, we’re setting ourselves a new goal to beat the previous years’ funds raised.”

With a group of dedicated and passionate franchise owners, this shouldn’t be a problem!