Happy Valley Eats For Goods Provides Mega Deals For Students And Residents
As a Penn State student in the 1980s, Joe McCarthy owned the only miniature golf course in State College. It was a popular spot for dates — a nice ritual that “seems old fashioned now,” he quipped.
The miniature golf course was busy on weekends, but weekdays were slow. To encourage customers to play during the week, he began giving away free passes — single rounds, then dozens, even hundreds — to different community groups.
“I didn’t have any business during the week, so why not give away free passes,” he explained. “You can generate a lot of good will and it’s better than advertising.”
Now, decades later, McCarthy is applying this same concept to a Baltimore tech startup called Eats for Good. Eats for Good is launching its first college campaign on Nov. 15 in State College. The campaign is called Happy Valley Eats for Good and is locally sponsored by Nittany Co-Op, a nonprofit that helps other nonprofits and dozens of Penn State student groups.
To date, Happy Valley Eats for Good has partnered with more than 80 State College restaurants and merchants to offer exclusive deals and discounts to people who make an online donation of $10 or more to a participating organization such as The Youth Service Bureau and The United Way, as well as many smaller groups like the Bellefonte Community Band and Bounce Dance Organization, a Penn State hip-hop club.
“Eats for Good is a pioneer startup at the crossroads of restaurant marketing and fundraising,” said McCarthy. “Through Happy Valley Eats for Good, nonprofits, schools, teams, and good causes can offer their donors and friends more than $1,000 of exclusive Groupon-like discounts at popular restaurants and shops in exchange for a donation of $10 or more.”
McCarthy noted that donations increase by 300% when fundraisers offer real value to donors and restaurants, and the opportunity allows merchants to connect with an entirely new pool of potential customers.
“Donors discover new restaurants, save money, dine out more often, and leave bigger tips. Everyone wins.”
Participation in Happy Valley Eats for Good as a good cause partner or as a restaurant or merchant partner is completely free. Businesses may choose the terms of their discounts, while nonprofits receive a customized fundraising page that includes their logo, images, and messaging. To join Happy Valley Eats for Good as a good cause or merchant, visit HappyValleyEatsforGood.org.
Nittany Co-Op meanwhile worked with McCarthy to make connections with local nonprofits.
“Nittany Co Op is really dialed in to the good cause community,” he said. “It’s been great working with them.”
He views the EatsforGood.com platform, which he hopes to expand nationally, as a combination of Groupon and GoFundMe, except “we’re better than both because restaurant and merchant marketing dollars now go to good causes and donors get great deals.”
In McCarthy’s eyes, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Businesses, he says, don’t often contribute to charity because they don’t receive sufficient public recognition and appreciation. With Happy Valley Eats for Good, businesses give back, help the community, and win new customers too. “There’s no bad karma,” says McCarthy.
For donors, the deals more than offset the cost of the donation. The $10 minimum donation entitles the donor to redeem deals worth more than $1,000. In some cases, a single deal can offset a donation. For example, Pietro Hair Salon offers donors $25 in free Paul Mitchell Salon products. Dickies Barbeque offers donors a free $7 BBQ sandwich — and there are 85 more great deals to enjoy at popular restaurants and shops.
“For donors, the digital deal book makes it super easy to give to their favorite good cause, for merchant partners they can reach tens of thousands of new customers,” he said. “And deal books make great holiday presents too for friends, family, and employees.”
And for the participating good causes and nonprofits, it’s a stress-free, easy way to raise money and increase their public profile at the same time.
Several years ago, during a bit of a mid-life rediscovery, McCarthy spent several months hiking in the Himalayas.
“While traveling, I decided I wanted to create a company that helps as many people as possible,” he recalled. “Did you know there are over 6 million nonprofits in the United States? What do they have in common? They want to help people, but they need money. I’m trying to build a digital platform so that businesses win new customers and prosper by giving to charity, by being generous. It is pay-it-forward marketing and it works great.”
Happy Valley Eats for Good is McCarthy’s first college town test; he’s running a similar campaign in Baltimore and will soon organize DC Eats for Good. Several national chains are already on board. “We are attracting a lot of attention,” says McCarthy. “I think this is a multimillion dollar market and it all started because no one plays mini golf on Wednesdays.”