White Castle is launching a new companywide philanthropy program to give its 10,000-plus team members more input on the recipients of its charitable donations. Recognizing that local nonprofits were among the hardest hit during the pandemic, White Castle will ask each of its restaurant markets to raise money for the charitable causes most important to their respective team members and communities.
White Castle introduced this new program, called “District Charity of Choice,” as a pilot in 2021 as part of its 100th birthday celebration. The company’s restaurant operations are divided geographically into a few dozen districts. Each district worked with team members to identify local causes they wanted to support. For a few weeks during the year, the restaurants invited customers to round up their check to the nearest dollar, with the additional money going to the selected local charities.
All combined, White Castle’s 350 restaurants raised more than $1.1 million for 48 different charities. That’s in addition to the more than $1.1 million White Castle raised as part of its companywide round-up programs to benefit Autism Speaks in late 2020 and 2021.
The District Charity of Choice program was so well-received by customers, team members and, of course, the nonprofits, that the company decided to continue it in 2022 and beyond.
“As a family-owned business through four generations of leadership, we are always looking for organizations and causes in our communities that can benefit the most from our support,” says Erin Shannon, White Castle corporate relations manager and 4th generation family member. “So we have developed this new corporate giving program in a way that not only benefits local communities but also empowers our team members to make a difference, too.”
The 48 nonprofit recipients of White Castle’s charitable donations in 2021 included everything from food banks, homeless shelters and humane societies to after-school programs, mental illness advocacy groups, and emergency shelters for domestic violence victims. White Castle team members also donated thousands of volunteer hours to these organizations.
The 101-year-old White Castle has a long history of philanthropy, starting with its founder E.W. “Billy” Ingram. Billy felt strongly that the company should invest in the future of others and give back to the communities where they operated. In 1949, he created what’s now known as the Ingram-White Castle Foundation as a mechanism to support worthy projects and programs. In 2005, White Castle introduced its “Castle Shares” program to encompass both the Ingram-White Castle Foundation’s grantmaking and White Castle’s corporate philanthropy. Every year, the two entities combined donate more than $2 million to charitable causes, community groups and nonprofit organizations.
“Our pilot program in 2021 was a great success, and our 10,000 team members are eager to raise even more in 2022,” Shannon adds.