Perhaps it’s because real estate agents and brokers know so many people, perhaps it’s because they know their community so well, or maybe it’s just that they take their role in a service-oriented profession seriously — for whatever reason, “giving back to the world through service” seems to be ingrained in the lives of many real estate agents.
After reading about the Parker Principles from Inman Disconnect, one that stood out to me was principle 11: selflessly give back to the world through service.
It reads, “We must recognize the importance of building service into our companies, organizations and our brand to authentically give back to the world beyond our own community.”
If you’re looking for ways to incorporate a more charitable focus into your real estate business, here are ideas generated by some of the great givers in the industry.
1. Make it easy
Most of the agents in your brokerage probably want to give back, but many don’t know where to start. When you integrate charitable giving into your commission structure, you provide an opportunity to do good while doing well by streamlining the logistics.
Portland’s Living Room Realty has created its own agent-led charitable giving fund, The Loving Room Fund. Owner Jenelle Isaacson and broker Cristen Lincoln have ingrained service into the foundation of the company and celebrate gratitude and generosity as core values in their mission statement.
Each year a number of local charities are identified as beneficiaries of that year’s fund. With every home sale, clients choose one of these charities as a beneficiary of their agent’s gift. Agents then donate a portion directly from their commission to the client’s chosen cause.
By making giving part of the transaction, Living Room Realty creates positive change in the community and a positive image for its agents, and it was even presented with the Oregon Ethics in Business Award in 2014.
2. Think personal
Los Angeles Realtor Chantay Bridges has been recognized repeatedly over the years for the breadth and variety of her charitable work, but her favorite experiences have been the most personal.
“Do you have a burden for disadvantaged youth, the environment, social issues? Those are signs at where you may best fit,” Bridges said. “In lieu of talking at the water cooler about the wrongs in the world, this is a way to make some things right. Sign up, and get involved a little or a lot. Just do your part.”
To that end, Bridges has helped a senior citizen who was facing foreclosure pack up her home and relocate. She helped a divorcing friend-of-a-friend find a job so that she could support her family.
She personally transports families each year to a Christmas sharing program that she also oversees. By making her work personal and giving the gift of time as well as money, the rewards are personal as well.
“Did you know you don’t have to be a millionaire to be an angel investor?” Bridges added. “All you need is a heart and a willingness to give even if it’s a small dollar amount each month. I discovered this years ago when I attended a Treasures event.
“My small donation helped to reach a young lady who was rescued out of the sex traffic industry. Her life was drastically changed by me foregoing what I normally would spend on gourmet coffee. You can also make and be the difference!”
3. Connect it with your business
Northridge, California, Realtor Carol Haaz has made giving back part of her real estate career, “giving a donation at the close of every escrow since day one” for more than 18 years. While she volunteers her time and money to a variety of organizations, she also connects her giving to her work.
“I am a certified seniors real estate specialist,” Haaz said. “Most of my clients are seniors so I also belong to organizations that help seniors. I work from my heart not from my pocket.”
Consider how you might connect your giving to the people and properties you work with every day, whether they are military personnel for the Military Relocation Professional (MRP), young families for the Accredited Buyers Representative (ABR) or environmental organizations for the green Realtor.
4. Be consistent
D.C. area Realtor Allen Johnson has built giving into his real estate team’s foundation.
“We have made this a pillar of our business,” he said. “I believe that our business didn’t grow until we gave at the level that we sold. Our core value is to ‘Be a blessing’ not only to our clients but also our community. As Realtors we are natural connectors, so why not use the power of connections to make an impact on our community?”
Johnson’s team visits a local elementary school weekly to mentor and teach life skills, support the teachers and feed kids, Johnson said.
“Last year we also raised $2,000 for the local homeless shelter. Since we sell homes, it makes sense for us to help those that can’t find homes,” Johnson said.
“We gave away the commission from our 100th home sold last year to a charity that our clients voted on. It ended up being a children’s cancer non-profit that focuses on supporting families going through pediatric cancer treatment. We gave $5,000 — the best money we ever spent! It charges us up to sell more. Every 100th home we do this.”
Like Johnson, set regular, consistent giving goals tied to weekly, monthly or yearly milestones. Bringing in clients to help choose the charity offers another way to give a signal-boost to that charity and raise its profile among your clients and sphere.
5. Relate it to real estate
Westlake Village, California, Realtor David Bartels, owner and broker at Help-U-Sell Realty, works with his team to use their real estate knowledge and experience to help distressed homeowners in their area.
“We meet with them to make sure they understand their options in foreclosure, assist them with getting loan modifications, postpone foreclosures to get them more time, assist them with getting help from Keep Your Home California, and in general, support them with information and coaching that helps them make the best decisions for them and their families,” Bartels said.
“We work with a handful of families at a time and find it very rewarding to be of service” he added. “We have saved many families from foreclosure who have in turn either recommended our services to others or used us when they were ready to sell.”
You have a wealth of highly specialized knowledge to offer. Why not create opportunities to offer your advice and expertise pro bono? Better yet, use your professional network to join together with others in your area to offer financial insight, home repair and other help to those who can’t afford it.
Whatever you choose to focus on in your charitable work — the individual, the community or professional guidance and services — remember that giving takes a variety of forms. Time, money, knowledge — all of these are needed and all of these have meaning.
By creating systems and processes within our organizations and our own personal schedules that enable giving back, we infuse meaning into everything we do every day, raising the standard of service for our entire profession.