It was a breezy Friday afternoon in Arizona, and we were sanding a bench at Brooks Academy, a former school that now serves a the home to a variety of non-profits and social services helping to uplift the under-resourced Roosevelt School District on the south side of Phoenix. We were in town with the International Franchise Association’s convention, and like every year, the IFA Foundation  organized this day of service. Alongside us were over 70 executives and franchisees from franchise companies around the nation, each of them rolling up their sleeves and painting walls, assembling furniture or building a playground. A casual passerby might not recognize the top leaders of companies like Marriott, Brightstar Care or Roark Capital, splattered in paint and dust, just as most of us don’t realize that franchises and their 8 million employees are America’s hidden force for good in almost every community.

There are over 750,000 franchise units in the United States, and most are run by  small business owners who consistently outpace the rest of the economy in both job creation and growth. What is less known about the franchise sector is that it leads America’s small businesses in volunteerism, inclusion and local impact. Unlike nationwide corporations, franchise locations are owned by local residents, rooted in that community and committed to it. They leverage the resources and values of a national brand to uplift and support the community where both the owner and the employees live.

Consider this — every corporate location sends virtually all its profits back to headquarters and out of your local community, but most franchised businesses send only five to ten percent to the national franchisor, leaving 90 percent of the wealth in the hands of a local entrepreneur who can spend and invest it locally. In effect, franchises are actually small businesses — they may represent national brands, but their owners are dedicated to making those brands work to improve their local communities.

The story of franchising has always been one of bottom-up empowerment, transforming communities through prosperity and inclusion.

It’s hard to quantify community impact — the lives changed, meals served, homes built or kids educated. Every franchisee’s story is a little different, as are their ways and reasons for giving back. The same goes for every employee’s story for getting involved. At the IFA Foundation, we keep a snapshot of some of this impact with our Franchising Gives Back National Registry. We’ve calculated that over 400 member companies and their more than 300,000 volunteers have donated over a quarter of a billion dollars and nearly the same number of volunteer hours to their communities. A full picture of the entire franchise sector may be close to ten times that number.

The story of franchising has always been one of bottom-up empowerment, transforming communities through prosperity and inclusion. Did you know that franchise businesses have nearly double the minority ownership rate of non-franchises? That Hispanic ownership of franchises doubled within five years? Or that franchises are 50 percent more likely to be co-owned by a couple compared to non-franchise businesses? Or that women’s ownership of franchises also grew by 50 percent over five years?

When it comes to community impact, the statistics give us the facts about a sector committed to diversity, inclusion and giving back, but they don’t tell the full story. The story of franchising’s impact is told by the eight million Americans who live that story every day. A story of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, and of turning a job and a workplace into a force for good in their communities.