Bringing Associates Together to Help Others
Tracy Thompson is the executive director and CEO for the Restaurant Facility Management Association or RFMA.
The Restaurant Facility Management Association works hard to serve different communities through a recurring event called RFMA Gives.
The core mission of RFMA is to promote the advancement of the restaurant facility professionals, according to Thompson.
The CEO has been with RFMA since beginning, and the association is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary.
Thompson said she was employee number one, starting out working from home with a Mr. Parcel P.O. Box.
“We’ve grown quite a bit since then,” she said.
Originally, Thompson said she worked as a radio promotions director. After taking a few years off to stay home with kids, she returned to work, and this opportunity popped up.
The Restaurant Facility Management Association actually started with vendor Joe Robinson at Right Way Facility Services, according to Thompson. The CEO said he discovered his customers all had the same problems and pain points. So, he brought them together to solve these problems. The customers met, liked collaborating, and eventually created an association. Thus, RFMA was born.
“Restaurants have unique needs with their food service element and equipment. That makes for unique sets of problems,” Thompson said.
RFMA Gives started in 2011. Thompson went to a conference for association executives from all over the world, and one keynote speaker talked about social responsibility in the association industry and how associations are a place where all of these like-minded people come together. The speaker discussed how association leaders should be harnessing that power.
“I was intrigued by that at the time,” she said.
Thompson volunteers in her community, as many others do. The executive director said she brought up the idea of giving back with her board in 2010. From there, members came together with a common goal and used their volunteer spirit. It helped to bring vendors and restaurateurs together.
As for deciding who to help, Thompson said the association saw that helping nonprofit food organizations made sense.
“A kitchen is a kitchen, whether you’re giving your food away or selling it,” she said.
The first project kicked off during 2011 in Costa Mesa, California. The target was a really small soup kitchen started by a grandmother to feed needy people in the community.
Thompson said RFMA called up and offered to redo kitchen. The owners were suspicious at first, but then the association came in and did it.
With every project RFMA Gives takes on, challenges are bound to arise.
“Each project does bring about it’s own set of challenges,” Thompson said.
Some years, materials are harder to get than others, ceiling tiles, flooring, refrigeration, etc, according to the CEO.
Thompson said RFMA usually tries to partner with food banks because they know who the players are in their community, who really needs help.
As for criteria RFMA looks for in who to help, Thompson said the association typically wants people asking for help to own their own building and not have lots of outside funding sources.
This way, RFMA Gives makes a huge impact. The association asks charities to provide them with a wish list to compare it to what they know their members can provide. Then they have to choose who to help that year. The hardest part is wanting to help everybody, Thompson said.
“It’s hard not to help everybody,” she said.
The CEO said she’s always surprised and touched by how passionate members get about this stuff and how much pride they feel being apart of these events.
As for the best way to get involved with RFMA? Thompson suggests following along on the organization’s blogs by clicking here.