Paint It Forward: The Value of Community Service Marketing

Volunteering your time in the community is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business too. That’s what the owners of professional paint contracting companies large and small are learning.

“If you give, you get more back,” says Craig Penne, who has built successful painting contracting companies in Hawaii and California.

At one point early in his career, Penne says he had an “epiphany” and realized that he and his painters could do a lot of good donating their time and skills in the community.

“It’s a personal thing for me, but when I pitched it to my guys, they were all very receptive,” he says.

“They all liked the feeling they got from volunteering their time,” said Jim Baca, one of his production managers. “Now they are looking at doing similar projects in their own communities. It instilled a lot of pride.”

Not only did it help build a greater sense of purpose in the crew, it’s been good for business too, Penne says.

“Say you’re a local painter in Minnesota and donate time for a good cause,” he says. “The community’s going to talk about you. They see you care, that you’re not just in it for the money. Paying it forward is going to help you.”

Helping those in need

Josh Abramson has seen similar results over the last decade with the Paint It Forward campaign he started at his Valencia, California-based company, Allbright Painting.

“It started back in 2005, when a contractor friend of mine, Kevin Nolan, shared something similar with me about how his company was giving away some painting services,” Abramson says. Shortly after that, Allbright Painting got the opportunity to be part of an ABC-TV “Extreme Makeover” project.

“After watching the movie Pay It Forward, I thought, we don’t have to wait for a TV show to do something good and worthwhile,” he says. “We could use the talents we have been given to help someone in our local community.” Since then, the Allbright Paint It Forward program has given away over $100,000 of painting services to help others in need.

“What started out as a $5,000 painting service giveaway has grown to over $1 million worth of giveaways because I have been sharing this idea with other painting contractors and service providers across the country,” Abramson says. “I wrote a ‘How to Get Started’ many years ago that I freely share at all my speaking engagements, and all I ask for is for them to share with me how their first one went. I get emails and Facebook posts and links from people around the country telling me about how their Paint-It-Forward events are going.”

Reaping the rewards

“The most rewarding part is seeing it spread and become much bigger than I could ever do on my own,” Abramson says. “Seeing other businesses talk about how it’s been life-changing for them and seeing how it helps others in need has been priceless.”

It also means a lot to workers to be part of a company known for giving more.

“The importance of this is not lost on our employees,” he says. “It raises the morale of our crews, increases their confidence, and sets the bar high for incoming employees. We teach a ‘we, not me’ attitude.”

Allbright Painting is a two-time winner of the Painting Contractors Association National Humanitarian Award. Even more important, Abramson says, is how their volunteer work has raised their stock in their local community.

“Most people want to work with businesses that help their local community,” he says. “They trust us to do the right thing for them, even when it doesn’t quite benefit us. They trust that we will have the integrity to recommend the right things, not the things that will most benefit us or save us money. It tells them that other things matter more to us than just making a profit.”

This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of PPC magazine. Story and video by Mike Starling, PPC Editor. Photos courtesy Allbright Painting.