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As the holidays wind down, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the pressure of closing the final deals of the year while feeling like you’re running on E. In the midst of our busyness, we may miss the golden opportunity the holidays provide — the chance to reflect, give thanks and give back.

Here’s a list of real estate-related causes you can support this holiday season with your time, talent and treasures:

Affordable housing

Habitat for Humanity

Established in 1976, Habitat for Humanity is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the world dedicated to providing affordable, permanent housing for under-resourced families. Prospective homeowners are chosen based on their financial needs, with Habitat for Humanity following the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s area median income standards to determine those most in need.

Once qualified, homeowners must agree to put in “sweat equity” for their homes, which includes working beside volunteers to build a new home or renovate an existing property, putting in volunteer hours at one of Habitat’s ReStores or completing a homeownership class. Families who receive a Habitat for Humanity home never pay more than 30 percent of their gross monthly income toward the mortgage.

Habitat then cycles mortgage funds back into the community to help build additional Habitat houses.

Volunteers can support Habitat for Humanity in several ways, including hosting a build event, making monthly monetary donations, establishing a long-term corporate volunteering partnership or joining their affordable housing advocacy program.

Giveback Homes

Similar to Habitat for Humanity, Giveback Homes helps provide permanent affordable housing for under-resourced families across the globe through the financial support of real estate agents and brokerages across the United States.

To get started, agents must choose one of Giveback’s monthly memberships: Basic ($192 annually), Pro ($384 annually) or Business (price varies).

The Basic and Pro memberships give access to a personalized Giveback profile page, member directory listing, domestic Build Day and international Build Trip opportunities, marketing and public relations support and several other tools to maximize their Giveback initiatives. The Business membership gives broker-owners access to everything the previous memberships offer, plus a personalized corporate giving plan.

After setting up a membership, agents can make a monthly or annual pledge — 100 percent of which goes to Giveback’s charity partners. Giveback doesn’t have a donation minimum.

“There is no minimum as every donation makes a significant difference in the life of someone in need,” the website reads. “Whether you contribute $10 or $10,000 to our home projects, all donations are 100 percent tax deductible.”

Those donations go to Giveback’s established charity partners, who currently have international projects in El Salvador, Mexico and Nicaragua and domestic projects in Georgia, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. Agents can also earmark their donations for World Central Kitchen and Waves for Water.

If you don’t want to become a member, Giveback also accepts one-time and monthly donations here.

Homeownership Council of America

Between rising home costs, inflation and stagnant wage growth, the path to homeownership is harder than ever for most Americans. Saving for an adequate down payment is often the first obstacle, with the typical first-time buyer taking 11 years to gather enough cash for a 20 percent down payment (Side note: Buyers can and often do offer smaller down payments, with some offering as little as 3.5 percent).

Thankfully, there are plenty of down payment assistance programs throughout the U.S. that help under-resourced homebuyers with down payments and other transaction-related costs, and now there’s a way that you can help.

On Dec. 14, Down Payment Resource announced its $10,000 donation to the Homeownership Council of America’s (HCA’s) Equity Down Payment Assistance (DPA) program, which assists low-to-moderate income (LMI) and racial and ethnic minority first-time homebuyers with payment and closing costs.

“By providing the funds to help even just one qualified homebuyer afford the upfront costs of homeownership, Equity DPA donors make a lasting impact on families who were previously unable to access the wealth-building benefits of homeownership,” DPR said in a press release.

Donors can earmark their contributions to go to specific communities, areas and HCA partners. The program is still in the pilot phase, with HCA taking inquiries from prospective donors for 2023. If interested, email HCA here for more information.


National Alliance to End Homelessness

The National Alliance to End Homelessness is one of the nation’s largest nonprofits dedicated to researching, preventing and ending homelessness.

Founded in 1983, NAEH has helped lead the way in creating federal, state and local policies to create permanent supportive housing, coordinated assessment and entry systems for homeless shelters and several other policy initiatives to help public, private and nonprofit partners better serve our nation’s unhoused community.

NAEH accepts one-time and monthly monetary donations, which go toward funding its research and outreach work and the two national conferences it hosts each year. The group also accepts Donor-Advised Funds, Stocks and Securities, Bequests and Estate Plan Gifts, all of which can be set up through the Alliance’s development department.

If you’d like to go beyond monetary support, NAEH also leads an advocacy program with self-led online courses about affordable housing, effective street outreach, racial equity and cultural humility. They also send consistent updates about important housing bills and provide guidance on how to start fruitful conversations with your state and federal representatives about housing-related issues you’d like to see fixed.

Want to help an organization a little closer to home? Check out the National Homeless Shelter Directory to find out who’s helping unhoused people in your city.

Support a local street magazine

Street magazines have been around since the late 1800s, with unhoused and under-resourced people selling mini news pamphlets to make income and raise awareness about poverty and other social issues. More than a century later, street magazines are still thriving and have the organizational support of nonprofits that help vendors, who’ve often been unhoused for years, get back on their feet with healthcare, job training, financial coaching and affordable housing.

Most major cities have a street magazine that is published monthly and costs no more than $5, with vendors keeping the majority of their earnings. The magazines still focus on poverty, homelessness and other societal issues, with trained print and photojournalists taking the lead on many of the stories with the assistance of vendors who share riveting stories of redemption and growth.

A simple Google search (street magazines + homelessness + your city’s name) will help you find your city’s street magazine and a map of vendors. Vendors always wear specialized jackets or vests and accept tips — so feel free to give more than the magazine price this holiday season.

In addition to buying a magazine, you can also donate to the nonprofit that operates the magazine.

Housing for children and teens

Ronald McDonald House Charities

When a child is sick, the last thing their caretakers want to think about is access to safe and reliable housing. McDonald’s charity arm, Ronald McDonald House Charities, provides safe and reliable temporary housing for under-resourced children and their families while they receive treatment for cancer and other serious illnesses.

RMHC houses are all located near children’s hospitals and provide furnished rooms for children (21 and under) and their families, alongside free meals, recreational activities, non-clinical support services and sibling support services. RMHC houses families for as little as one night or as much as one year, depending on the length of their child’s treatment plan.

Families who can afford to pay for their stay pay no more than $25 per day, which is a fourth of the daily total cost of caring for one family at an RMHC house. However, most families’ stays are covered by donors.

You can provide a one-time or monthly gift, host a fundraiser, become a corporate partner or fulfill a family’s wish list for the holidays. RMHC also provides volunteering opportunities through local RMHC chapters and the ability to join their national running team, #TeamRMHC, that raises money leading up to the Chicago Marathon.

The Ali Forney Center

LGBTQ children and teens are at higher risk of being unhoused as their parents or caretakers push them onto the streets for their sexual orientation or gender expression. This places the youngest members of the LGBTQ community in harm’s way, with many of them fending off discrimination, sexual abuse and hate crimes — some of which result in death or lifelong health challenges.

The Ali Forney Center is named in honor of Ali Forney, a nonbinary advocate who dedicated their short life to raising awareness of the dangers LGBTQ youth faced on the streets of New York City. Forney was murdered in 1997 at the age of 22.

In their honor, the Ali Forney Center provides LGBTQ youth in New York City with emergency housing assistance, job readiness and education and health services. AFC accepts one-time and monthly monetary donations, with $25 being enough to host a birthday party for a homeless LGBTQ teen. A $1,000 donation will host a one-month stay at Ali Forney Center’s drop-in shelter, and $10,000 will cover one month of substance abuse counseling for 10 teens.

As with many other nonprofits, AFC also has a plethora of volunteer opportunities for people in the NYC area.

Support a local group home

Group homes are a lifeline for children and teens who’ve experienced abuse and need a safe place to be rehabilitated before they can safely go back to their relatives or be placed with a foster or adoptive family. Although many group homes receive state and local funds for housing, food, clothing, physical and mental health services and educational support, there’s still often a gap in their budgets.

You can support a local group home with a one-time or monthly monetary donation or host a donation drive to collect clothing and other household necessities. A simple Google search will provide a list of group homes in your area, and you can check their accreditation on the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International‘s website before giving.

Real estate organizations

Support your organization’s fundraising arm

Not sure where to start with your journey as a philanthropist? Then support your organization’s fundraising arm or corporate partnership with an established charity. Here’s a very brief list of real estate companies that regularly give to housing and other important causes:

  • RE/MAX and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
  • Windermere Real Estate’s Windermere Foundation
  • Keller Williams’ Keller Cares
  • Coldwell Banker’s Coldwell Banker Cares
  • Redfin’s Redfin Rise
  • ERA Real Estate and Toys for Tots
  • CENTURY 21 and Easterseals
  • Better Homes and Gardens and New Story
  • Compass Cares
  • eXp Realty’s eXtend a Hand
  • NAR’s Realtors Relief Fund

Support a real estate affinity group

If the past two years haven’t proved anything else, they’ve proved the importance of allyship as the industry — and the world — navigates the results of years of inequality, discrimination and gatekeeping. There are many affinity groups in the real estate industry that need support to continue the important work of growing and diversifying the industry.

Here are a handful of groups you can support with one-time donations, purchasing a membership for yourself or someone you know who can’t afford one, attending a conference, sponsoring an event or supporting their advocacy goals:

Pay for new agent’s licensure, dues or other subscriptions

The majority of new agents who join the industry today won’t be in the industry five years from now — eek!

Some of those exits are warranted as some agents find they aren’t interested in real estate or can’t master the necessary skills of a successful salesperson. However, some of those exits are due to barriers that could be lessened with a little community support until they’re able to sustain themselves solo.

So, this holiday season pay for an aspiring agent’s real estate license courses, sponsor a new agent’s first year of membership to NAR or another professional organization or gift a subscription to the publications and platforms that help you do your job better, such as Inman Select.

Do what you can when you can

I’m sure there are plenty of worthy housing-related causes and charities that I missed. If you know of one that’s trustworthy, please feel free to leave a link in the comments below so fellow readers can check them out.

If none of these ideas connected with you, there’s still plenty more you can do — pay for a family’s groceries so they can easily afford food and rent this month, take a struggling colleague out for lunch to show your support, put small gift baskets on your neighbors’ doorsteps, pay your favorite barista’s rent this month, pay for an elderly church member’s home cleaning, host a free first-time homebuyer’s class or simply leave a kind comment under your friends’ social media posts.

We all need a little more warmth this year: Happy holidays and happy giving!

Email Marian McPherson

agent advice
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