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Panda Cares Supported their Employees’ Communities through DonorsChoose Hyperlocal Giving

More than 25,000 classroom projects funded near Panda Express locations


For the growing number of companies with workforces spread across the country, supporting employees’ hometowns isn’t as simple as writing a check to that one local charity. When Panda Cares, the philanthropic branch of Panda Express, wanted to support schools surrounding its 2,200+ Panda Express locations, they knew they needed a nonprofit that had a national reach and the ability to target donations to the communities they care about.

Teachers at 86% of all US public schools have used DonorsChoose to request learning resources for their classrooms, and at any given moment, there are 50,000–100,000 resource requests seeking funding on our site. Through our platform, donors give any amount to the resource requests that inspire them, and we’ve designed mechanisms specifically for partners who want to target their classroom support to select hyperlocal geographies.

The Challenge: Engage Panda Associates by supporting the schools around each of Panda Express’s 2,200+ locations

Year-round at every Panda Express location, you’ll find Panda associates fundraising for Panda Cares, the philanthropic arm of Panda Restaurant Group. Panda Cares uses those funds raised at point of sale to serve Panda Express communities by supporting organizations that benefit the health and education of youth in the community as disaster relief support. Panda Cares empowers employees to give back, inspiring morale and pride.

Panda Cares wanted to deepen and personalize their associates’ engagement in Panda philanthropy by funding local public school classrooms across the country — our reach combined with our ability to support schools by zip code made us a natural fit.

“Panda and DonorsChoose is a win-win partnership where in-store donations made by our guests and associates are poured back into their communities nationwide,” said Winnie Chan, Director of Panda Cares Foundation. 

Over our three years of partnership with Panda Cares, their team has inspired us to further hone our hyperlocal funding mechanics so Panda associates know that the funds they raised at their location are going right back into their neighborhood schools.

Our Approach: We worked closely with the Panda Cares team to develop iterative campaign models to target funding with more nuance

Year by year, we honed our approach for local funding based on what we’d learned in the previous year, and our growing capacity for supporting hyperlocal giving. For all campaigns, qualifying projects were from schools where most students are from low-income households to ensure the funding would make the biggest impact.

Year 1: Zip code funding

We started off with our bread and butter of local giving — funding teacher requests based on the zip code of their school. All resource requests from schools within 10 miles of Panda Express zip codes had their projects fully funded.

Year 2: Radius-specific match offers

For the second year, we dove a little further into the nuance. Instead of fully funding all projects, we launched tiered match offers. Projects from schools within a 5-mile radius of Panda Express zip codes had donations tripled, while projects from within a 5- to 10-mile radius had donations doubled. 

Year 3: Zip code funding allocated by local POS fundraising

This year, we made giving the most specific yet. We returned to a direct project funding model, this time tying the amount fundraised at each Panda Express location to the funding for those local schools. This local funding connection inspires even more employee engagement, as locations who raise more at point of sale can support even more resource requests.

To further deepen these connections, we helped to facilitate Panda associates delivering Panda Express meals to the local schools they supported through their campaign during Teacher Appreciation Week — to everyone’s absolute delight!

The DonorsChoose team designed, curated, and mailed customized thank-you packages so that all 2,201 Panda Express locations received thank-you notes directly from supported students, a flier sharing an overview of our partnership, and a letter announcing our next campaign. In all, we shared more than 8,800 thank-you notes to 2,201 Panda Express stores.

The Impact: Deep impact, engagement from Panda associates, and happy teachers

Over the past three years, Panda Cares has had a remarkable impact on their communities through these hyperlocal initiatives, funding more than 25,000 classroom projects and reaching thousands of public schools in their target zip codes.

Employee engagement surrounding Panda Cares remains high, with 84% of associates feeling that Panda is committed to supporting the communities in which it operates — compared to 70% overall benchmark.

“I receive a great sense of honor knowing that I work for a company that does so much for the community.” —Panda Associate, 2022 Associate inspiration Measurement (AIM) Survey

Teachers flocked to social media to share their gratitude for the campaign across social media.

Want to learn more about how we can target funding to support schools in the communities you care about most? Reach out to us!

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