One of the traditional ways of giving back in this industry is through offering free or discounted eyewear. I have frequently spoken with eyecare practices that want to offer a program similar to this, but they often have difficulty structuring it so that their business doesn’t suffer.
To try and avoid potential business conflicts, it can be a good idea to focus on directing charitable efforts to other areas, such as underdeveloped areas of other countries. This type of approach can make it easy for you to avoid competing with yourself, as well as giving you a way to use your business to spur your charity work. For example, if you take a page from a popular online retailer, you could offer to donate a pair of eyewear for every pair purchased. Finding a way to get your patients to help you with charitable do-nations can help improve the result of not just the donations, but your business as well.
Another thing to consider would be collecting older eyewear to donate. This can be a great way to get older pairs back in use, in-stead of being forever stuck at the back of a sock drawer. These donated frames can then be checked, and packaged and sent off to be reused in various countries throughout the world. To be successful with this type of an approach requires you to have a good way of getting relatively large numbers of eyewear together, as sending just a few pair wouldn’t really make sense. This is the type of thing that could easily be done as a concerted effort, with several independent practices joining together to start programs collecting older eyewear. Once you have the eyewear, of course, you still have to manage checking prescriptions and cleaning them. This might be easy at first, but the more successful you are at collecting eyewear, the more time and effort you’ll have to put in to verifying what was donated.
It was this type of eyewear collection effort that I wanted to look at in more detail. Specifically how someone would handle processing large numbers of donated eyewear in an efficient and cost-effective manner. To this end, I found a nearby eye care practice that was doing just this. I reached out to Broomall Eye Care, which is a small private practice and has been in business for over ten years. I spoke with Dr. Mike Allodoli and his head optician, Amy Vandercapellen, who gave me an idea of what they do and how they have managed the success of their program.
Interview with Broomall Eye Care
Q: Does your practice do any kind of community or charity work? If so, can you tell me about it?
A: Amy has a friend that works as a missionary in Paraguay. We have joined forces with them in an effort to supply glasses to the mission. We collect all manner of used eyewear, clean, label, and package them for their trip to Paraguay. We receive donated eyewear from across the United States, which results in hundreds of pairs that we need to process before we can send them.
Finding a way to get your patients to help you with charitable donations can
help improve the result of not just the donations, but your business as well.
Q: That sounds like a lot of work – how did you find the time to check all of the lenses?
A: We began by checking all of the incoming eyewear with a manual lensometer, which took a lot of time. We had considered purchasing an auto lensmeter to speed up the whole process, but it was hard to justify the equipment purchase for primarily free work. Thankfully, we were able to find a way to get one for free. Once we did, it was simple enough to teach our 14-year-old intern. She was able to master it by the end of the first day, and this has greatly improved the speed at which we can check the prescription of eyewear.
Q: Free is always a good price – how did you manage that?
A: Through a partnership with our wholesale lab, FEA Industries, and Norwood Device and Diagnostics. Their program offering diagnostic equipment made it possible for us to get the auto lens-meter for free. By buying Camber lenses, which we were going to purchase anyway, we were able to acquire new equipment.
Q: How does that type of a program work out for your practice? Do your patients like the lenses?
A: As I mentioned before, we were considering getting an auto lens-meter, but it wasn’t in the forefront of the budget. Thanks to the program, not only do we get a great piece of equipment at an affordable price, but our patients benefit from a superior lens. We have gotten nothing but positive responses from the patients that we put in Camber lenses. When presenting this to patients, I present the superior qualities of the lens. Both new and current PAL wearers of today appreciate the technology that Camber has to offer, when compared to their progressive lenses. The only thing that we’d like to see is even wider usage of Camber lenses, so we can get even more offerings in colors and materials.
Q: It sounds like this equipment program worked out well for you – would you do it again or recommend it to other practices?
A: Yes, we certainly would. The next time we need a piece of equipment, we know where we are going to check first. I strongly recommend both companies and their free equipment program. They both produce products that are top quality at very competitive prices. They both have excellent customer service with employees who are always eager to help with whatever needs you may have. When you want to give back, the costs involved can often be hard to manage. Especially when it comes to something as time consuming as checking the prescription on hundreds of donated frames. When you want to do something like that, it’s always beneficial to find a way to streamline the process. In this case, a partnership between the practice, their lab, and an equipment company made the process painless. If you are looking to implement a similar program, it may be in your best interest to talk to your lab and see what they can do to help you out.
If you have any eyewear to donate, please contact Broomall Eye Care at 610-325-7688
Bill “Other Bill” Heffner, IV
Director of IT, Marketing & Sales, FEA Industries, Inc.