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Best Practices for Starting a Charitable Program

CertaPro Painters, a 2015 Franchising Gives Back Gold Award Winner, advises members on aligning with a cause that can make a significant impact on their communities.

By Kathi Mello


When the IFA’s Franchise Education and Research Foundation honored CertaPro Painters with the Support Our Veterans Award at the inaugural Franchising Gives Back Awards this past fall, it was a bittersweet moment. It brought me back to several years ago when one of our franchisees, Chris Drucquer, approached us about how we as a brand needed to start giving back. With our vast network of professional painting contractors nationwide, surely we had the manpower and reach to make significant contributions to the communities we served. It was just a matter of deciding exactly how we would do that.

After countless hours of research and in-depth discussions with our senior leadership and several franchisees, we can say proudly that, to date, we have raised more than $260,000 in much-needed funds and an additional $160,000 in in-kind donations as a national sponsor of Homes for Our Troops, a privately funded nonprofit organization that builds specially adapted, mortgage-free homes for the most severely injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This didn’t happen overnight, of course, and starting a charitable program is no easy task. But there are several key steps you can take to ensure a smooth process if you’re planning to develop a program from scratch.

Do your due diligence

Before aligning with an organization or cause, do your research. It will be incredibly important for those involved — corporate employees, franchisees and local customers — to be able to rally behind a particular cause, especially if you’re asking them to donate or raise money. All those involved will want to feel as their time and money are benefitting the
right place.

By not doing your due diligence, your customers likely will do theirs, and that could result in a negative response and limited, if any, participation. Sites such as are incredibly beneficial in providing detail such as ratings on accountability and transparency, and the percent of each dollar that benefits the cause.

Align your brands

Once you’ve done your due diligence and narrowed your choices, select the cause that resonates most with who you are as an organization, whether you’re a franchisor, franchisee or supplier. Homes for Our Troops was the perfect choice for CertaPro Painters because the organization builds homes and we paint homes. We were able to get paint donated through our partnership with Sherwin-Williams. Of course, it was a chance to work on projects that have a lasting impact on veterans, a group that everyone can get behind.

Set the example

Whether you’re at the franchisor or franchisee level, your teams will struggle to support a cause that you yourself haven’t rallied behind. We knew it would be important for us at CertaPro’s corporate headquarters to set a positive example in order for our franchisees to support Homes for Our Troops.

The first 5K race was coordinated and executed by our corporate team and it was not only a chance to show our support, but also a great opportunity to work out the kinks before getting franchisees involved. We created a “5K in a box” concept for our franchisees to implement locally and help guide them through the process — everything from designing a course and getting the proper permits to marketing the race, driving registrations and getting local community partners involved. Ultimately, we knew we couldn’t ask franchisees to do anything that we as the franchisor couldn’t do ourselves, so the “5K in a box” helped build excitement at the
local level.

Appoint a leader

For the past five years, we’ve had a dedicated point person in our corporate office who provides support for franchisees as they ramp up to their events. We’ve been able to assist them with marketing materials, sponsored social media posts, training programs through CertaPro University and more. Now, franchisees have grown their local fundraising programs to include 10Ks, golf tournaments and evening socials as they become more confident in their ability to plan and execute great events.

Be patient and stay creative

As you go through the process of creating your charitable program, remember that patience is a virtue. As expected, we had franchisees who were very eager to get involved and others who have yet to participate. That will happen in any organization. Ultimately, giving back is a labor of love and only those who truly value making an impact will do so. For international systems such as CertaPro Painters, understand that a single cause may not resonate everywhere. Our Canadian franchisees couldn’t relate to causes that support U.S. veterans, so one of our regional marketing managers coordinated a separate initiative in Canada.

But there are ways you can get creative to broaden your impact. We’ve used our annual conference as a platform to raise additional funds for Homes for Our Troops by asking vendors to donate items to our silent auction. During last year’s convention, we raised an incredible $11,000.

Make it your own

Even though Homes for Our Troops resonated across our system, most of our franchisees have taken additional steps to further localize their 5K events and other fundraising programs. Chris Drucquer, for example, wanted to put a face to veterans in his local market of Philadelphia, so he and his team started honoring a local hero. They connected with Homes for Our Troops to find homes being built in their area and who might benefit. Chris says participation has increased dramatically since they’ve started honoring a local hero, as it gives residents an opportunity to meet the veteran, attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the home and feel as if they are helping someone who has strong ties to their immediate community.

Leverage the franchising community

As IFA members, we are part of a huge family of small businesses around the world. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your fellow franchisees to ask for assistance, whether it’s to sponsor your event, make an in-kind donation or simply hang a flyer in their stores. Use your network.

In Chris’ case, his fiancé, Andrea Fanfera, leveraged her connections to get almost everything donated to their local race last year, including generous food donations from Dunkin’ Donuts and Philly Pretzel Factory for the finish line festival. The result was an incredible $23,000 raised to build a home for their local hero! 

Kathi Mello is director of Content Marketing for CertaPro Painters. Find her at

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