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Giving Back to Your Community

For tire businesses, helping out your community is more than good press.

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If one were to peruse the dozens of Top Shop Award entries received by Tire Review each year, one fact would be clear: successful tire dealerships and philanthropy go hand in hand. All of our past Winners and Finalists pride themselves on giving back to the communities that have supported them over the years, whether it’s backing scores of small causes or spearheading one or two large efforts each year.

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While the root cause of involvement in charitable causes is the genuine desire to give back, there are also obvious benefits to your business, including tax deductions and added brand awareness among current and potential customers.

Read on to learn how three dealerships use philanthropy as a mainstay in their businesses. Their strategies may help in fine-tuning your own charitable efforts.

Waukegan Tire

With four locations in the greater Chicago/Milwaukee area, Waukegan Tire has received a lot of publicity as a result of its involvement in charitable causes over the years, according to vice president and chief financial officer Julie Scroggins.

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“Being a company dedicated to giving back means something to our customers and strengthens our image as a leader in our community,” she says. “This absolutely affects our sales. We’ve had customers say, ‘I come here to buy my tires because you support such and such.’ We try to always do our best where we can and have found that although that wasn’t our motivation for doing something, it always comes back to us.”

Among the major charitable causes the dealership supports are the Michelin Soccer Program; Chicks, Cars and Cupcakes; and Bcureful.

Over the past 13 years, Waukegan has provided financial and equipment support for local youth soccer organizations through the soccer program, as well as establishing youth soccer where it previously didn’t exist in one case.

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Chicks, Cars and Cupcakes is an annual event Waukegan Tire collaborated to create that educates women and supports Breast Cancer Research. “Now in its third year, CCC features AskPatty.com’s Jody DeVere as keynote speaker, informative sessions lead by experts on all aspects of car purchasing and maintenance, as well as fashion show breaks, goody bags and cupcakes,” Scroggins notes.

Founded by Scroggins in 2012, Bcureful (bcureful.org) is a charitable foundation, staffed by volunteers, that is dedicated to accelerating research for a cure of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex and raising public awareness of the disorder. The organization currently is raising funds to establish a TSC center at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago and also is funding research at New York University-Langone.

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“We choose causes that we feel make a difference in our community, make sense for our industry and reflect the passions of our employee family here (Scroggins’ oldest daughter was diagnosed with TSC in 2012).”

Waukegan Tire budgets upwards of $10,000 annually to support various charitable causes. This amount covers those the shop is committed to; all other requests are taken on a case-by-case basis, Scroggins notes, adding that individual locations pass along causes they would like to support, and “we try our best to answer those requests as we can.”

Waukegan Tire has teamed up with tire manufacturers in the past, including Michelin for the soccer ball program and Hankook, which Scroggins says has been a big financial supporter of both CCC and Bcureful events.

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When considering joining with a vendor to support a cause, she notes, “It depends on how much time you want to put into it. Partnering with an organization that’s already done most of the legwork is a pretty seamless process.

“Creating your own events is much more time consuming – but rewarding all the same.”

Direct Tire

“If you canvas 20 to 30 of our clients and ask them some questions about our company, including whether they’re aware of Direct Tire’s philanthropic side, I guarantee 99% of them will say yes,” says Barry Steinberg, CEO of Watertown, Mass.-based Direct Tire.

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While Steinberg never goes out of his way to garner publicity for his dealership’s philanthropy, the notoriety often is a natural byproduct. “Organically, people know about it. You don’t have to go out and get press and pictures; I think that’s waving your own flag and people could see through that.”

Steinberg’s strategy, simply put, is to never say no to a charitable request.

“We accept the fact that we’re a business and we’re successful because of our clients; it’s because of them that we’re able to support these causes,” he says. “So whether or not it sounds important to me, I don’t make that decision, I just don’t say no.”

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With that reputation, it’s important to steer clear of scams. Steinberg asks organizations to send an email or letter with contact information on the letterhead of the organization. He also recommends checking a group’s Facebook page to ensure legitimacy.

Recently, Direct Tire made a larger than usual splash with its benevolent actions. Recently, the dealership celebrated its 40th year in business, so for the entire month of February, Direct Tire donated $40 for every set of winter tires sold to one of four charities: Boston Children’s Hospital, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Greater Boston Food Bank, and the New England Center for Homeless Veterans.

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“We did it because it’s a great celebration for us, it’s good for the community and our customers love it,” Steinberg says. “These are four very high profile charities in Boston so people appreciate and recognize the importance of what we’re doing.”

For the anniversary causes, Direct Tire budgeted $40,000; in typical years, the dealership sets aside $10,000 for charitable causes.

Some tiremakers (which Steinberg declined to name) assisted with the anniversary event, providing “key market money,” Steinberg said.

“Basically, it’s discretionary money over and above co-op that I can use either in the cause’s radio campaign or as part of the funding for the charities.”

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He adds, “If tire dealers look at their local communities – whether they have one store or 100 stores – and focus on doing something good in the surrounding area, it’ll come back to them.”

Lex Brodie’s Tire

With five locations on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Lex Brodie’s Tire Co. has become well-known for its public support, according to president Scott Williams, who adds the company receives more than 100 non-profit donation requests annually.

A yearly budget is set (Williams did not specify the amount), and the dealership chooses to support causes that “have touched the lives of our key employees,” he notes. “On top of offering financial support, we also leverage our media buy to help support our non-profits. With that added value, our community support and reach is pretty significant.”

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Beyond donating money or resources to community groups, Lex Brodie’s Tire started a non-profit organization to support programs that support students in the public school system. “We started this to honor our company’s founder, who served on the Hawaii School Board for 12 years.”

The non-profit’s signature pro-gram is the “Thank You…Very Much!” Award, a contest that invites students in grades 4-12 to submit a letter describing their appreciation of someone who impacted their life – a parent, teacher, friend, etc. The winner receives more than $2,000 in prizes for themselves, including a two-night stay at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani in Waikiki for the person they thanked. The child reads his or her winning letter on Hawaii’s largest live radio show then it’s published in the MidWeek periodical.

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“We also help the Institute for Human Services (Hawaii’s largest homeless shelter), the Arthritis Foundation, Susan G. Komen, the Hawaii Foodbank, Alzheimer’s Association, Boy Scouts of America, American Diabetes Association, Read Aloud America and several others,” Williams notes.

“I have had some rough-looking dudes stop me and tell me how much they love our ‘Thank You…Very Much!’ Award and because of that, they come to us when they could have easily gone to Costco,” he adds.

“We were the first and only company ever recognized by the International BBB for excellence in customer care,” Williams continues. “The judges told us our community programs played a huge role for us being chosen. We know we have a marketing advantage that no one else could ever compete with, and that is priceless.”

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