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Foundation: 35 Years Of History

By Lawrence “Doc” Cohen, CFE

This article was originally published in the July issue of Franchising World. You can read it and other Franchising World articles here.

During the past 35 years, the IFA Foundation has made a tremendous impact on the franchising community. Countless volunteer leaders have dedicated an immense amount of time and resources creating the organization that we see today, and I’m proud to have witnessed its growth and evolution since I became involved in the 1990s.

Furthermore, each program the IFA Foundation has developed – from VetFran to NextGen in Franchising – is focused on helping others and giving back to the community. In this way, the Foundation has played an integral role in protecting, enhancing and promoting franchising.

As we celebrate the IFA Foundation’s 35th anniversary, please join me in recognizing the history, people and programs that have made the Foundation what it is today.


Humble beginnings

The IFA Foundation was established in 1983. Dunkin’ Donuts founder Bill Rosenberg, who was instrumental in the founding of IFA, also was a driving force in the early years of the Foundation, along with Arthur Karp, co-founder of the Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Company, who served as the Foundation’s first chair from 1985 to 1990. In the early days, the Foundation’s mission aligned closely with IFA’s strategic goals. Over time, as more volunteer leaders became involved and the number of donations grew, the Foundation identified new ways to expand on IFA’s mission, developing broader programs that addressed specific needs within franchising.


“In the early days, the Foundation’s mission aligned closely with IFA’s strategic goals.”



Following an effort led by Kathryn Morgan and a team of IFA members, with the help of representatives from the Wharton School of Business – which had developed the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) program – the IFA Foundation Board of Trustees created the Institute of Certified Franchise Executives in 1991. The program has reached thousands of franchise executives by providing education and professional development tools and, to date, has seen more than 2,000 graduates. As the first franchisee to earn my CFE, I’ve seen ICFE’s astonishing growth and how focused IFA and Foundation leadership is on continuing to improve the program.


Diversity Institute and DiversityFran

Founded in 2001, the Diversity Institute assists women, minorities and others seeking business ownership opportunities and careers in franchising. It began as an outgrowth of work by IFA’s Minorities in Franchising Committee and has since helped foster diversity and inclusion in the franchising community, assisting IFA members in expanding their diversity recruitment and multi-cultural marketing efforts at all levels – franchisees, employees, suppliers and consumers. DiversityFran builds on relationships forged with leading organizations such as the National Urban League, the Minority Business Development Agency, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Black MBA Association. We want to send a message that franchising is a model that works and is an affordable way to realize the American Dream of business ownership.



Started in 1991 by the late Don Dwyer Sr., who also founded The Dwyer Group, VetFran helps returning military personnel find jobs and business ownership opportunities in franchising. In 2017, Sport Clips Founder and CEO Gordon Logan personally donated $500,000 to ensure the continued growth of the program. VetFran member companies represent more than 650 franchise brands that voluntarily offer financial discounts, mentorship and training for aspiring veteran franchisees and veterans seeking employment. VetFran’s most recent survey shows that more than 238,000 veterans and military spouses have found opportunities in the franchise industry as either employees or franchise owners. There are more than 6,500 veterans that have become franchise business owners since 2011.


Franchising Gives Back

Franchising Gives Back started in 2011 as an annual service event to give IFA members a way to give back to the local community that was hosting the IFA Convention. Thanks to a generous $500,000 donation from founding sponsor Roark Capital Group — namely Steve Romaniello, Geoff Hill and Neal Aronson — the program has grown to a yearlong celebration of all the ways franchisors, franchisees and suppliers are supporting their communities each day. As Steve has put it, “the economic footprint of franchising is very big, providing millions of jobs and billions of economic output, but the social footprint is equally powerful, touching the lives of our neighbors in thousands of communities.”



NextGen in Franchising is a key program for the Foundation because it engages the next generation of franchise entrepreneurs and future leaders. The worldwide NextGen in Franchising Global Competition attracts millennial entrepreneurs seeking to grow their businesses through the franchise model. Since its inception following an investment from David McKinnon, CFE, Second Vice Chair of the IFA Foundation and Chair of the NextGen in Franchising Committee, nearly 2,000 millennial entrepreneurs from more than 75 countries have applied. And the competition continues to grow every year.



The IFA Foundation provides numerous scholarships to college students enrolled in business, hospitality and entrepreneurship programs who have an interest in franchising. The Foundation’s scholarship program creates a pipeline of high school and college students that could become the future of franchising. It’s a relatively small investment with a big return. When I contributed to the Foundation to establish the Doc Cohen Franchising Scholarship in 2012, I wanted to establish a legacy. I hoped that it would give young people the opportunity to further their careers in entrepreneurship. These are the people who are going to run our companies. These young people are the leaders of tomorrow.


“Every contribution, big or small, helps support the Foundation’s programs and, ultimately, the entire franchising community.”



The rapid growth of franchising in the 1990s created the need for more comprehensive economic research about the impact of franchise businesses on the U.S. economy. In 2002, the Foundation, in collaboration with PwC, undertook the first comprehensive study to measure the number of establishments, jobs, economic output and gross domestic product (GDP) due to franchising. Following this study, the Foundation began collaborating with the U.S. Census Bureau to include a franchise status question on the five-year Economic Census. This work led to the inclusion of franchise questions in the 2007, 2012 and 2017 Economic Census, and economic impact studies demonstrating the breadth of franchising across more than 300 industries and in every state and Congressional District in the United States. The Foundation works with IHS Economics to publish an annual Franchise Business Economic Outlook and Franchise Business Index, showing the growth of franchise businesses compared to other sectors of the economy. The Foundation also partners with FRANdata to publish a quarterly series of reports on franchise business trends and statistics.


Foundation Future

Looking toward the future, it is more important than ever to continue the vital work of the IFA Foundation, which is supported through the generous contributions of IFA members and others. Every contribution, big or small, helps support the Foundation’s programs and, ultimately, the entire franchising community.


Doc Cohen, CFE, is President of Doc & Associates, a franchisee of the Great American Cookie Co., the Coffee Beanery and Pretzel Time. He is a member of the IFA Foundation Board of Trustees, past IFA Chair and two-time winner of IFA’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. Find out more about the IFA Foundation at


IFA Foundation Past Chairs

The IFA Foundation would like to thank the following past chairs for their service and leadership to the IFA Foundation.

•           Arthur S. Karp (1985-1990)

•           Gregg M. Reynolds, CFE (1990-1993)

•           C. Stephen Lynn, CFE (1994-1995)

•           James Bugg, Sr., CFE (1995-1996)

•           Ronald C. Harrison, CFE (1996-1998)

•           Jim L. Peterson, CFE (1998-1999)

•           Sidney Feltenstein (2000-2002)

•           Richard D. Rennick, CFE (2002-2004)

•           Steven J. Greenbaum, CFE (2005-2006)

•           Michael J. Roman, CFE (2006-2007)

•           Kenneth D. Walker, CFE (2008-2009)

•           Jack Earle (2009-2010)

•           Jon Luther (2010-2011)

•           Steve Romaniello, CFE (2011-2012)

•           Jerry Crawford, CFE (2012-2014)

•           Lawrence “Doc” Cohen, CFE (2014 – 2016)

•           Michael M. Isakson, CFE (2016 – present)


Others who played a key role in the development and evolution of the IFA Foundation include:


•           Bill Cherkasky (IFA President 1981-1995; Foundation President, 1995-1998)

•           Gene Getchell (IFA Chairman 1991, ICFE Board of Governors)

•           Don DeBolt (IFA President 1995-2005)

•           Matt Shay (IFA President & CEO 2005-2010)

•           Steve Caldeira (IFA President & CEO 2010-2015)

•           John Reynolds, CFE, (Foundation President 1998 – 2017)