There are two types of charitable giving — one where you “give” to be noticed and one that’s a genuine interest in the philanthropy of your choice. People in the high and ultra-high net-worth segment can easily spot someone trying to buy themselves into their circle through a donation to a preferred charity and automatically distance themselves.
Therefore, it’s good to align yourself with something charitable that mixes with your interests. This will naturally blend into a synergy where you and your practice can be a notable presence.
1. Giving to be noticed
Red light! It’s great to buy a table and bid on an expensive piece of artwork at an auction, but are you seeking adulation of the audience and attention? Or do you have a reputation for being interested in art and can identify the difference between the artists Ellsworth Kelly, Chagall and Kostabi (which creates credibility)?
Developing a sense of your personal interests is essential in being taken seriously in any charitable category. Being forced by a client to donate $10,000 to a charity to aid in gaining a major development contract compromises values and suggests that clients can manipulate your ethics. This could be construed as a RESPA violation.
Resist the temptation. If you love your profession and perform — the business will come. Sponsorship is part of business, but charitable giving is very personal. However, we can always talk about our interests with clients, as it creates connections.
2. Personal interests
Green light! One of my colleagues has a long history of selfless commitment to a local family services organization, Bridge Meadows, and is a major supporter and board member.
While being involved has parlayed itself into business relationships, the personal story itself is what develops the bond and interest of others in the cause. Your interest may be in the arts, and you might support the symphony, museum or opera. Something like that will organically place you in a thought-leadership position in a market space of your choosing.
If clients sense your passion for a cause, their respect and desire to support a nonprofit or use your services as an agent will be much higher. If you volunteer — action speaks louder than words. Following through on commitments is imperative, just like in our profession.
All bets are off! Negotiate to the best of your abilities. If it’s $250, or banner $25,000 for a Rotary Club event or a local homeless program, make sure that if you do contribute in this way, that you maximize your presence in a trade association or charitable cause. Attend, participate in the event committee, and bring your sphere to the table.
In an environment beyond the pandemic, negotiation is key for maximum exposure. Begin thinking now about community investment in 2022. If someone in your organization has a preferred cause and requests $2,000 for an event, examine their personal role in the program and interest, and how you can maximize the involvement before making a commitment.
We can’t be everything to everyone, and sometimes saying “no” helps define the track for the types of charities you’d like to support. Nonprofit foundations have definitive guidelines for what they fund — and you can too, which helps solidify boundaries. There is only so much money during a year to distribute in this way.
Get involved in local Realtor board, and serve on the local planning and sustainability commission — something in a jurisdiction close to you or a market segment committee like AREAA as it increases your credibility with clients.
It takes time, but think of it this way: Doing 10 deals a month takes four to six hours each of solid work. Let’s throw in 40 hours for marketing monthly, and we have 60 hours left in a conventional work month to spend on operations and community involvement.
Being at the pinnacle of your industry is a feather in the proverbial professional hat and something your clients will respect. A local Pacific Northwest Bank’s suite of benefits includes 40 paid hours annually of volunteer service — more than ample time to dedicate to a charitable or industry cause of your choosing.
The bottom line
Some of our real estate peers choose to be very quiet about their giving — don’t! If you have personal interests or sponsor something, let your clients know as part of your online bio and social media with rich descriptions, photos and perhaps video.
You never know where future support for an organization can come from. For 2021, select a nonprofit board to serve on or a volunteer opportunity that resonates with you. Or simply contribute to something you identify with, and don’t hide it. It inspires people to do the same.
From the numbers, we know that real estate and lending has been good to everyone last year, and interest rates are still low. Invest in communities that mean something to you, and don’t be afraid to signal your support of the charitable cause of your choice.
Richard Horswell is the principal creative executive at Regency Media LLC in Portland and Washington, D.C. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Instagram.