This is the time of year when many people and businesses focus on philanthropy as charities make their pushes for year-end giving.

In real estate, charitable giving is multifaceted. It’s always good to give back, and giving back is also one of the ways that brokerages and agents help illustrate their value and engagement in the community.

Charitable giving also can be smart marketing. An article in Entrepreneur last September pointed out that more than 85 percent of millennials correlate their purchasing decisions with the social good that they perceive a brand is doing. However, these same millennials are sensitive about being sold to, so marketing involving charitable giving must be done in a way that is subtle and not overt.

Programs like the one sponsored by TOMS shoes work because the messaging makes people feel good about the product: A pair of shoes is donated for each pair bought. Charities that support the positive feelings associated with homeownership, such as Habitat for Humanity and Giveback Homes, are a natural fit for real estate, but the home touches so many facets of life that many other connections also can be made.

So how do you walk the thin line between self-promotion and sharing your good works? Here are some tips to keep in mind when spreading the word about your charitable activities:

1. Promote the cause first, yourself second. It’s great to highlight the good you are doing in the world, but one way to make it more appealing to the people who will encounter it is to make it more about the cause and less about you. Why does this cause matter to the world and to you personally? What does it support? How can others get involved? If you haven’t conveyed these things, then you haven’t really done the charity (or yourself) a true service.

2. Support the cause even when you aren’t involved. You don’t always have to be actively involved in a charity’s effort to support it. Share the charity’s latest event or fundraising drive on your social media profile, or link to to it in your email newsletter. This helps share their good works and reminds people of a cause that they can associate with you.

3. Make it fun. From ALS ice-bucket challenges to walks, runs and bicycle races for charity, these days the campaigns that get the most traction are the ones that incorporate a bit of energy. Giving back feels good, so share some of that energy in photos and videos.

4. It’s OK to be silly or sentimental. This is a place where you can really get creative. The more true and authentic your message is, the more it will resonate with your audience.

5. Find out which charities matter to your clients. What charities do your clients support? Can you help either with a donation or by volunteering? Would you be willing to donate part of your commission to the cause? Many people have one or two causes they support or that are dear to their hearts. When they talk about them, they tend to light up and feel passionate because they are talking about something that really matters to them. Having that conversation also creates a chance for you to share the causes that matter to you, too.

These days, investing in something that’s good for society is of increasing value to all types of companies, from corporate giants to entrepreneurs; it just makes good business sense. And if you know how to share your charitable activities on social media and in the wider world without venturing into self-promotion, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Deidre Woollard was part of the marketing team at and is currently the head of communications for Partners Trust, a leading luxury brokerage in Los Angeles.

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