In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical Miami real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic.
An experienced top agent at a Miami real estate office has serious concerns about a social position taken by the company’s longtime charitable recipient.
Since opening its doors, our office has been a committed and focused supporter of a high-profile national charity with a major local presence. We are active and visible participants at this charity’s gatherings, we hold annual office-wide fundraisers on its behalf, and most significantly, we donate a portion of each commission to their local facility.
Every agent here agrees to this arrangement upon being hired, and it has always been one of my favorite aspects of our company. I believe all businesses should give back to the areas that support them (especially in real estate), and I have always been proud of our agency’s philanthropy in this regard.
Because of this long legacy of support, I felt shocked and upset when the charity board took an opposing position on a social issue that I feel strongly about. I can’t pretend to know all the details and factors behind the board’s decision, but in my opinion, it went against the charity’s stated mission and presents a true deviation from its “moral compass.”
Today, I genuinely feel uncomfortable that part of my commission (and my colleague’s commissions) goes to support an organization whose views on this sensitive issue are diametrically opposed to mine.
It has made me seriously rethink my support of this charity and the extent to which our office supports it as well, and I want to have my voice heard. (In speaking with some colleagues, I know I am not alone in this opinion.)
Don’t we have a right to speak out on this matter, to let the charity know that a large portion of their constituents disagree with them and to ask our office to perhaps consider other partner charities more aligned with our collective values?
I intensely believe that the more you give the more you get. I tell every agent to stop and fix any street or real estate sign they see that is broken or dangling on its post.
Maybe no one sees them do this, but they will know that they took the time and energy to do so, and this collective mindset is good for the entire real estate industry.
This “big picture” approach is exactly how I would advise this disappointed agent. We have supported the charity in question for more than two decades, and it has been a fantastic partner in every way.
Its central mission is one that everyone can get behind, all the money we raise for it stays local, and we receive wonderful exposure as a partner business.
In fact, our level of support allows us a special designation, which we present to clients as a certificate with every sale, and this is genuinely appreciated by them more than any bottle of wine or other token.
That being said — you are never going to agree with every decision made by a friend, employer, colleague, spouse, partner, etc., and some decisions or actions will certainly bother you more than others.
While I can appreciate the extent to which my agent is disturbed by the charity’s position, it’s simply not enough of a reason to end or even question such a positive and longstanding relationship.
This charity impacts so many lives and does so much good in our community and beyond, that this position on one issue seems a small matter of concern by comparison.
How to meet halfway
For better or for worse, we live in an age of heightened sensitivity with respect to social and political positions. The broker makes a valid point about taking in the larger perspective of the relationship with the partner charity and all the good it does.
The agent is also justified in wanting to share legitimate concerns with an organization she has supported for many years with her hard-earned commission, especially if enough agents are of the same opinion.
A reasonable solution might be a formal letter signed and sent to the charity by the agent and her like-minded colleagues that explicitly states that the content reflects their individual, personal opinions and not the company itself. (Such a letter might also reinforce their commitment to the charity’s core values and focus on the impact of this one position.)
Moving forward, the office might also consider offering agents a menu of two to three additional charities to support with a percentage of their commissions, with the options of equally splitting their percentages to more than one and also changing their designated charity at any time.
Any office considering this option will need to weigh the benefits of granting their agents more choices and personal freedom with respect to their philanthropy versus the collective impact given to one signature charity.
Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, where he leads the activities of more than 165 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 100 homes a year. In 2018, he was named “Managing Broker of the Year” by Miami Agent Magazine’s “Agents’ Choice” Awards.