Thinking Pink for a Reason
Sometimes a short conversation can spark a movement that impacts the lives of thousands. Little did Debbie Sardone know that years ago a simple call inquiring about pricing would lead to her establishing one of the most active and successful nonprofits associated with the cleaning industry.
Almost 18 years ago, Sardone was the owner of Buckets & Bows Maid Service, a residential cleaning service based in the suburbs of Dallas, TX. “What really led to the start of Cleaning For a Reason® was when I took a routine call from a woman who wanted a quote for our services,” says Sardone, the nonprofit’s founder. “By the time the conversation ended, the woman determined that she couldn’t afford my company’s services at that time because she was currently undergoing treatment for cancer. After that phone call, I decided any time a woman called our company looking for service and could not afford us due to cancer treatments, we would provide cleaning for no charge. I met with the rest of my staff, and we established that as a permanent company policy.”
From Policy to Practice
As the new company policy led to positive publicity for Buckets & Bows, Sardone realized that her good idea could be even more successful if she shared it with other organizations. “Through Buckets & Bows, I became active in the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI),” she says.” I was on the founding board of directors and was the association’s third president. I did a lot of speaking to other cleaning businesses, and it was during an ARCSI conference—part of an ISSA/INTERCLEAN® North America show no less—that I shared my cause-marketing plan. The feedback I received was nothing short of phenomenal! Business owners came up to me asking how they could do it in their communities. That was the exact moment I realized I could take our company policy a step further and turn it into a nationwide nonprofit, encouraging cleaning services across the country to give back to their communities.”
With her passion for helping others ignited to a new brightness, Sardone returned to Texas after the ARCSI convention determined to take her company’s policy nationwide. She spent the next year appointing a board of directors, filing the necessary paperwork, and going through all the other steps required to form a nonprofit. One year later, Sardone was ready to share her vision with the rest of the cleaning world.
“The next year, at the ARCSI convention hosted in conjunction with ISSA/ INTERCLEAN North America 2006, I officially rolled out Cleaning For a Reason as a national nonprofit,” Sardone says. “The response from attendees was fabulous. I was signing up cleaning partners on the spot; dozens of companies wanted to participate. By the next ISSA/INTERCLEAN trade show in 2007, more than 100 organizations had signed up with Cleaning For a Reason.”
Sardone’s philosophy continued to gain momentum over the years and today shows no sign of slowing down. “Five years after I debuted Cleaning For a Reason, we had more than 600 companies working with us providing cleaning services,” she says. “Now we’re in our 10th year, and we have 1,200 maid services in almost all 50 states and in Canada that are now donating free cleanings in their communities to women who are suffering from cancer. Since we started, we have serviced more than 23,000 cancer patients. We’ve had a huge impact, and I can confidently say that we are absolutely crushing our mission.”
While Cleaning For a Reason’s growth over the past decade has been exceptional, Sardone is quick to share credit with other organizations, including ISSA. “I originally became an ISSA member through ARCSI, and one of the first things I heard about the association was its awesome annual trade show,” says Sardone. “When we were first starting out, I reached out to ISSA and asked if there was any way it could donate a trade show booth. ISSA was more than accommodating, and we’ve become the pink presence on the show floor every year since. We have vendors and attendees that stop by every year for a pink bag from our booth. And when they stop by for a bag, they also share stories on someone who has been hit with cancer. It is really powerful. Not only can trade show attendees learn how they can pitch in to help others, they can also hear about how their donations and partnerships have helped their communities.”
But it is not only ISSA or ARCSI that has contributed to the success of Cleaning For a Reason. According to Sardone, it is the industry as a whole. “I like to view our industry as an integrity industry,” says Sardone. “We still have a lot of small family owned companies and assisting others is something they want to do. Most don’t know how help or maybe do not have the money to write big donation checks. Cleaning For a Reason shows them a way to make a tangible difference in their community without worrying about being considered controversial or political.”
Another factor in the spread of Cleaning For a Reason is the fact that it is a win-win for all participants. According to Sardone, it is not just the right thing to do, but from a business perspective, it is also the smart thing to do. “Studies have shown that consumers will seek out specific brands if they believe their purchases make a difference,” she says. “So from a practical business standpoint, it’s a wise move to align your organization with a cause in your industry that has meaning. By participating in philanthropic efforts and sharing those efforts with customers, business owners can differentiate their brand from the competition and give their clients another reason to select them. We’ve literally heard dozens of stories of cleaning contractors winning bids because they mentioned their participation in Cleaning For a Reason in their proposals.”
Philanthropic efforts not only raise a business’s standing externally, they also factor in employee recruiting and retention. “The market is highly completive for quality employees, especially in our industry,” Sardone says. “By contributing to a charity, companies can help their employees feel like their efforts are making a difference in the world around them. We’ve heard feedback from contractors that have our logo in their uniforms that their workers feel like they are part of something bigger than their job. “
Sardone and Cleaning For a Reason have no intention of resting on their laurels. She envisions the nonprofit continuing to spread in the future. “There are still thousands of cleaning companies that have not heard of us, and we aim to change that,” Sardone says. “Our goal is to become a household name with every maid service, contract cleaning, and jansan supplier in the country. If you sell a mop, if you distribute a floor machine, if you manufacture a glass cleaner, you should be affiliated with Cleaning For a Reason. We want to be even more obvious and even more omnipresent. We all will win when that happens.”
This article originally appeared in the 2016 Postconvention edition of ISSA Today.