This article originally published October 25, 2016.
When you are growing your company, having a mission that is part of your business can act as a magnet for customers and potential employees alike -- and the ongoing success of Molly Maid is proof of that concept.
The 37-year-old home-maid service has more than 450 individually owned franchises across the country. It launched the Ms. Molly Foundation two decades ago in an effort to raise money and awareness about domestic violence and provide aid to its victims.
Molly Maid founder David McKinnon explained that the philanthropic aspect of the business has been instrumental in developing its base of franchisees. “If someone is looking at three different franchises, the fact that there is a [way to] give back that is built right into the operation of the business definitely sets us apart from everyone else,” he says. Not only that, but every new customer orientation includes an explanation about the foundation. “It definitely gives us a leg up on a competitor.”
The idea for the Ms. Molly Foundation began in the mid 1990s when McKinnon was looking for ways that the company could give back to the communities that had welcomed them. After brainstorming for months about potential philanthropic efforts, he found himself still searching for the right fit.
In the fall of 1995, McKinnon was laid up with pneumonia and found himself, like many other Americans, learning about how Nicole Brown Simpson had been a victim of domestic violence while watching the O.J. Simpson trial.
At the same time, one of the members of the Molly Maid team who took care of McKinnon’s home told David and his wife Karen that she needed to extricate herself from an abusive situation. McKinnon knew at that moment, it was clear what the company needed to do. He sought out two shelters and asked their leaders what they needed most. The answer was food, toys and clothes and help getting the message out, especially this month.
“That’s when we said, OK, this is what we’re going to do," McKinnon says. "The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and we said that every October for the future, we’re going to do something that raises awareness of domestic violence, educates our customers and raises money."
In 1996, the nonprofit Ms. Molly Foundation was launched, and over the past 20 years, it has raised more than $2 million for domestic violence prevention agencies and shelters across the United States. In 1997, the McKinnons were honored at the White House for their work with the foundation.
While October is a significant month for the foundation, the company provides pamphlets and bags that customers can fill with donations of both funds and supplies all year, and the cleaning teams will deliver these bags to shelters that need them.
Cameka Crawford, the chief communications officer for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, says since the domestic violence field is under-resourced and underfunded, it is vital for business owners to donate their time and leverage their expertise to help victims.
An average of 20 people in the U.S. are physically abused by a partner every minute, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And annually, an estimated $5.8 million is spent on healthcare costs related to domestic violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 8 million days of paid work each year are lost due to domestic violence issues.
Whether it’s a social media post or putting up a poster in your office’s restrooms, sharing information with both employees and customers can make a significant impact, Crawford says. Business owners can also work with their HR departments to give support and resources back to their staffs, and create an environment where employees feel safe to speak up and get the help they need.
That kind of safety, trust and support are the benchmarks of Molly Maid’s service, according to McKinnon, as the company has keys to 75 percent of the homes it cleans. It gets new clients mostly from word of mouth, a testament to the relationships the company has built, McKinnon says.“You’re entering the customer’s most private space -- bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens -- when they aren’t there. There has to be a level of trust [there]," he says. "When someone sees a Molly Maid car parked in their neighbor’s driveway, they say wow, my neighbor must trust these people. The trust has to be perceived, believed and then experienced.”