100% profits to charity, an interview with Mike McGrath of Newman’s Own Foundation

“What could be better than to hold your hand out to people less fortunate than you are?” – Paul Newman

This statement drove the Newman’s Own mission of giving 100% of profits to charity, a model that inspired the founding of Impact Makers almost 12 years ago by Michael Pirron, who committed to giving 100% of our net profits to local charities. In 2015, Impact Makers took that commitment one step further by gifting company ownership to the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond and Virginia Community Capital.

Mike McGrath, the former CEO of Newman’s Own Foods, now works for the Newman’s Own Foundation to engage with companies that employ a 100% profits to charity business model, drawing on his experience in the business world to help them tell their story while growing a successful, sustainable business.

Mike had connected with Rodney Willett, Impact Makers’ SVP of Business Strategy, several months ago because of our long-term relationship with Newman’s Own and shared business model and planned a visit to Richmond to meet with both Impact Makers and local restaurant Comfort.

Mike was nice enough to sit down with Rodney and provide some insight into the trends and challenges that he’s seeing for these 100% profits to charity companies.

RW: What types of companies are you working with and what do some of your relationships with them look like?

MM: The Foundation has identified 28 companies in existence today that are founded on the premise of donating 100% of profits to charity, most of which are in varying degrees of the start-up phase, and engage with them based on searches that allow us to identify the companies. I always approach my interaction with them with the mindset of “How can I help you be more successful?” – or, how can I tie in my experience getting start-ups off the ground to help them create a successful business model? For example, I’m currently working with Ajiri Tea, a company with a goal of creating employment for women in western Kenya. My mission in partnering with them is to help them tell their story in a way that creates competitive advantage and results in sales and, therefore, profit donation. For Ajiri, I can do this by connecting them with my business contacts in the food and manufacturing industries, as well as Newman’s Own distribution brokers, to create a plan to productize their tea, creating efficiencies, lowering production costs, competitively pricing, and increasing sales.

RW: What is the overall goal of the Foundation in supporting the “100% profits to charity companies” and how is that being realized today?

MM: Our goal is to create a potential infrastructure for the identified companies that establishes relationships to foster lessons learned and best practices, creating a platform for information sharing. Ultimately, the goal is to help companies that are trying to do very interesting things by providing guidance on what I’ve done in order for them to be successful in what they’re growing and passionate about.

RW: What do you hope your legacy to be with the Foundation?

MM: I want to make sure that we create a business model for growth that these companies can employ at the outset. I want to provide a forum for these companies that are so intentional in what they do and how they support their charities that always leads to their success. And I want to spread the word about 100% profits to charity, so that there’s no confusion around what that means and it’s something other companies can aspire to. Bottom line: these mission-driven organizations have to accurately and directly communicate their message in the right way to serve as a differentiator and provide that competitive advantage.