In part two of this two-part series, Bernice Ross interviews mega-producers who focus on giving back to their communities in a big way.

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January is Agent Appreciation Month at Inman and what better way to launch 2023 than by looking at how to build your business by giving back to your community. This is the second part of a two-part series on mega-producers. Catch up with the first part of the series here.

Based upon Steve Kantor’s research, approximately two-thirds of billion-dollar producing agents believe serving their community played a pivotal role in their success.

Whether it’s supporting a local school by doing individual tutoring, working to correct an unsafe intersection in neighborhood or throwing a major holiday-themed event, there’s much you can do in 2023 that will contribute to your community while simultaneously helping you grow your business.

Part 1 of this series examined how mega-producers Imraan Ali of the EastsideCo, Tiffany McQuaid of McQuaid & Company, and Valerie Torelli of Torelli Realty have grown their businesses by giving back when they didn’t have any budget, took steps to make their neighborhoods more beautiful, and what they did to help when they experienced a major disaster. 

Today they share additional ways to grow your business by supporting local schools, ideas for improving the health and safety in your area, as well as how to use holidays not only to market to clients, but as another important means for giving back. 

To briefly review, here are the six categories that describe important ways you can start giving back to your community. 

  1. Getting started when you have no budget
  2. Beautification
  3. Disasters
  4. Education
  5. Health and safety
  6. Holidays

Education 

Helping local schools is one of the most effective ways to give back to your community simply by donating your time. 

Elementary schools

When Ali first started giving back to his community, he had no budget. He decided to tutor kids in English as a second language. Even though it didn’t directly impact his business, he believes this work indirectly benefited his clients in his community. It also led to more projects working with schools. 

Torelli has done extensive work with elementary and high schools. When she first started, she would sponsor a booth at the local elementary school in her farm area. Sometimes she would pay for the cookies or whatever they were selling to raise funds. Other times she has sponsored face painting or other fun activities. 

More recently, the main elementary school in her area created a coding program for children in the fourth and fifth grade training them how to do backend computer work. Torelli has personally contributed $5,000 per year to this program but advises agents that they don’t have to make a huge financial contribution to be involved. 

For example, you could start a fundraiser and then match the money you raise with your own contribution. If you have a $500 budget to contribute, be the first person to contribute. You can then go to other community members and ask them to contribute. In fact, you could start off with as little as $50 and find others to contribute. She goes on to advise agents to “Start small, make an impact, and go on from there.”

High schools

Torelli started off by sponsoring the drama club at her local high school. One of the community leaders advised her that if she sponsored football, she would get much better exposure. 

We actually wound up buying the football cart that goes around the stadium with our name on the top of it. I believe it’s still there even though we don’t attend the football games anymore. 

Another inexpensive strategy that has really worked well for Torelli was sponsoring the cheerleading team. Some benefits included: 

  • Appearing in the football programs as the cheerleading sponsor. (Advertising directly in the program was much more expensive.) 
  • She had a chance to speak before the cheerleaders and really enjoyed working with them. 
  • When she sponsored a face-painting event at a local elementary school, she asked the cheerleaders to come to the event with their pom-poms and do a routine. She then gave the money she raised back to the cheerleaders. This way she had two schools involved instead of only one. As she noted, 

If you give them a $150 donation, the squad leader makes sure the cheerleaders show up. 

Health and safety

Whether it’s clothing or food drive, providing batteries for smoke detectors as value-add to your past clients, or sponsoring your local police department’s “Annual Night Out” promoting better police-community partnerships, there’s much you can do to help your community be a better place. Here’s what Ali did:

Convex mirrors on hairpin turns

Ali lives in the Hollywood Hills which has quite a few windy, hairpin turns. He had seen a couple of accidents, fender benders and broken glass on these turns. He decided to purchase and install convex traffic mirrors like the ones you see in many garages. He also had them installed around the school to make it safer there as well. 

Help refugees find a place to live

Ali works with another agent who has been donating her time to help relocate international families from Afghanistan. She asked Ali to help her buy a condominium to house these refugees, but it was too expensive. Ali had an empty unit in one of his properties that he offered to this family at a steeply discounted price. 

Helping kids with autism 

Torelli owns two horses, a pony, two sheep, and a steer. She invites both kids and adults to come over just to be with the horses or to ride them if they are physically able. 

We also have a little black-nosed sheep. We take him places and he stands there with his head up so the kids can brush him. You can do the same thing with a dog or cat. To me this is one of the most extraordinary things, and I love doing it. All these things are available to us. It’s just thinking about them in a different, creative way. 

 

Helping those living with addiction and those newly released from prison

While Torelli is not a counselor, she attempts to build a heart-to-heart connection with the groups she works with: 

I’m a workaholic. I don’t find much difference in that addiction vs. being an alcoholic. I see them, I understand them, and because of that, they feel safe talking to me. I decided to read to them each week from (Don Miguel Ruiz’s book) The Four Agreements: A Practical to Personal Freedom

 

I have found this work to be some of the most rewarding work I have ever done. 

Holidays 

Agents have always used the holidays as a theme for client appreciation events, marketing, and open houses. Here’s what McQuaid and Torelli did for Easter during the pandemic to bring people a bit of joy. 

Giant bunny hunt campaign

McQuaid mailed out giant postcards with cut out bunnies. She asked the recipients to cut out their bunny and post it in one of their windows. She then invited families and their kids to search their neighborhoods and count the number of bunnies in the windows. 

She started the campaign three weeks before Easter. Every week she asked participants to move the bunnies to different windows. It reset the game and kept everyone out hunting. 

At the end of each week, McQuaid had them text her with how many bunnies they found. She and her team then dropped off prizes to their doorstep. 

Easter bunny parade and egg hunt

Torelli normally holds a large egg hunt with pony and train rides plus booths from the local schools. Attendance is typically 500-1,000 people. Once the pandemic hit, she could no longer do this type of event. 

The first year she sent out emails and flyers inviting all 3,000 homes in her farm area to contact her if they wanted to have the Easter Bunny come to their street. They received requests from about 25 streets. 

We had a little parade. Each of our agents and their families were in their cars all dressed up. I was dressed up as the Easter Bunny. We would start at the corner and go down the street playing music and throwing wrapped candy to the kids. Everybody was outdoors waiting. Some people actually put out chairs on the sidewalk.

 

We decided to do the same thing the following year but added an Easter Hunt with clues at different famous places in Costa Mesa. Everyone got participation prizes, but the first person who found all the clues won a $800 gift certificate from one of the restaurants we sponsored. We did the same thing for Christmas, except Santa came down the street. 

 

Halloween

In addition to having a huge Halloween event with pony rides, pumpkin decorating contests, a haunted house, and face painting, Torelli had always delivered pumpkins to her farm area. Attendance usually topped 1,000 people. 

During the pandemic, she invited people to come to her office to pick up a pumpkin. Torelli says that when you’re first getting started, you’ll probably have no more than 50 people. 

For Halloween 2022, she had their biggest event ever. 

We had about 700 pumpkins and we ran out of them with the first hour. We also had bounce houses, a haunted house, and face painting. It was extravagant and bigger than ever because people were locked in so much—the community was so grateful. 

 

A Christmas miracle

The Annual Christmas parade in downtown Naples, Florida has always been important to McQuaid, her company, and community. About 10-12,000 people gather each year to enjoy the parade and wish each other Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Due to all the flooding from Ian, however, the city didn’t know if they would be able to hold the parade.

Despite all the flooding, Naples managed to pull off a Christmas miracle and hold the parade. McQuaid and her company decided to bring a little light to the town and a bit of joy to everyone in attendance by purchasing 5,000 long red phone light sticks to pass out at the parade. They decided painting the town red would be a fun give-back to the community. 

Final advice

Here’s the final advice from each of these mega-producing agents about what you can do to be successful by giving back to your community: 

Imraan Ali attributes much of his success to his assistant, Hannah Haan, his Chief of Communication who makes everything happen in his business. 

Get an assistant like Hannah, who allows you to create really great experiences for your clients that lead to referral business and allow you as the person who’s running the team to do the things that you do best. If you’re lucky enough to have someone as organized as Hannah, (it) allows you to be more involved with the community and do the things that make you feel your time is well spent. As Voltaire says, “Tend your garden.” 

Tiffany McQuaid points out there’s always a need. 

Although you’re not going to solve all the problems, you can create your own little niche. When you have a helper mentality, it’s easy to find small ways to make a big impact. Whether it’s supplying school supplies or helping the elderly with their groceries, sweeping off their porch when it’s snowing, or it’s a time of disaster, helping others will help your business more than you could ever imagine.

Valerie Torelli encourages you to get started helping others, regardless of your budget:

Be strategic about where you put your time and your money. As long as you believe in it (what you’re doing), it will absolutely come back to you.

Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with more than 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

Bernice Ross
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