Chipotle fundraiser ends in good taste with PRSSA

By Mateusz Janik, Staff Reporter

Mike Rundle
Columbia’s PRSSA chapter held a fundraiser at Chipotle, 10 E. Jackson Blvd., Sept. 16 from 4-8 p.m. Required to meet a sales goal of $300 to receive 33% of the profits in return, they attracted around 20 people.

The Public Relations Student Society of America initially walked away from a recent fundraiser having raised no funds due to a contractual technicality, but when the  Chronicle contacted the parent company, things changed.

PRSSA hosted its Sept. 16 fundraising event in partnership with Chipotle, 10 E. Jackson Blvd.

Student organizations often host events and other fundraising initiatives throughout the year to secure additional funding. The Student Organization Council allots the more than 50 registered student organizations on campus up to $1,400 annually, according to the college’s website. However, any leftover money does not roll over into the next school year, leading groups to look for outside funding.

Per Chipotle’s fundraising requirements, groups must accumulate at least $300 in total sales before they see any revenue in return.

In order to accumulate funds, customers must tell cashiers upon check-out that they would like a portion of their money to go toward the fundraiser. Otherwise, those funds are not designated for the group.

Mike Rundle

If the $300 requirement is met, Chipotle will give 33% of sales to the group, which is explained under the federal tax ID request form before an individual submits an application on the company’s website to host a fundraiser.

However, PRSSA generated approximately $175 in sales at the restaurant during their designated four-hour period and, because of this, did not receive any of the funds, said PRSSA President Alana Pendergraft, junior public relations major.

“It’s definitely a sucky situation that I wish we weren’t in,” Pendergraft said. “I’m sure that it was in the fine print somewhere, [but] it was unfortunately something that I missed or that I thought was achievable for us.”

The fundraiser itself went through the Chipotle corporation and not the local restaurant, Pendergraft said. Therefore, there was no communication with the onsite manager throughout the process.

Having done fundraisers in the past, Anne Marie Mitchell—PRSSA faculty adviser and associate professor in the Communication Department—has never come across this problem before, but said she does not interfere with the planning of events since it is an opportunity for students to learn from the experience.

“It’s a little bit of a slap in the face,” Mitchell said. “I mean, a big corporation would not mind letting us promote their organization for a week and then give us only four hours to try to raise $300.”

Members from PRSSA posted on social media the week before and handed out flyers that were designed within Chipotle’s branding requirements the day of the fundraiser to bring in more customers.

“In an effort to always maintain their brand in good standing with a group of college students, they should have gone ahead and given them whatever they initially agreed [on],” said Eva Bongiovanni, principal at BonMot Consulting and adjunct professor at Benedictine University.

Four hours after the Chronicle contacted Chipotle’s Media Relations office for comment, a Chipotle representative said they would issue PRSSA a check for $58, 33% of the $175 they raised.

“We try to give back more than anyone,” said Kevin McCulloch, Chipotle’s community roots manager, who said that in the last five years, Chipotle has given over $65 million total to more than 200,000 organizations.

“It speaks volumes to how Chipotle cares about the community and how we want to give back as a brand,” McCulloch said.

After hearing the news, Mitchell was thrilled with the company’s response.

“This feels like a warm hug,” Mitchell said. “Chipotle is doing the right thing. I think if they’re going to invite organizations to come and raise funds for them, they should give something back.”

As for PRSSA, they are already planning their next fundraiser, Oct. 17 at Panda Express, 515 S. State St., right next door to the University Center.