Real estate is a business that extends beyond the professional realm into a very personal place. Not only are we selling homes where hopes and dreams are realized; we’re selling a community, a place where people come together to connect on various levels – social, professional, educational.
We’ve long known the connection between homeownership and a strong community. People invest in their community because they want to make it a better place for not just themselves but for everyone living there.
We feel the same. Giving back to the place where we live and work is woven into the fabric of our company. Over the years, I’ve learned a few approaches to optimize our community involvement for the benefit of the causes we support and of the brokerage as well.
- Be authentic. Community service should not be a means to an end; it should reflect your company’s genuine interest in causes near and dear to the heart. We support more than 50 different organizations throughout the year, but each one is important to us.
For instance, we leverage our client relationships to help Move for Hunger, an organization that accepts food donations from people who are moving and can’t or don’t want to transport food from their refrigerator, freezer or pantry. These donations provide meals to vulnerable communities facing hunger. We also collect holiday gifts for Toys for Tots, raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and award five scholarships each year to promising high school seniors. Most of us at the brokerage are parents, so these causes resonate with us. But we also feel strongly that if people need help, let’s help them.
- Engage your team. Philanthropy is not a top-down directive in our company, nor should community involvement be an effort taken on just by leadership. In fact, we regularly solicit ideas from our agents about where and how we can best support the community.
For example, we recently established an agent-run charity council which consists of one or two agents from each of our four offices. They represent the interests of all 200 of our agents and meet monthly to review opportunities for community involvement where there is the greatest need and where we can make the most impact. They are currently working to identify causes we can support on a regular basis rather than ad hoc efforts throughout the year.
- Don’t do it for the recognition. We easily devote more than 200 hours a year to various causes. Since its inception, our annual scholarship program has provided more than $70,000 in educational support to local high school students. We’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
But we don’t ask for recognition. We appreciate the increased awareness of being involved in and hosting community events and the credibility we are extended because of our charitable work. And I tend to think that our agents stay with us because they know our company cares about more than just making money. The truth is that most people want to give back and we have made that an integral part of our company.
Community involvement is a significant component of our company culture. Giving back is in our firm’s collective DNA. We strive daily to make our company “Part of Something Bigger,” a tagline that embodies our spirit of community support.
However, I think of it as much more than a slogan, but a way of life that informs how we all go about our business each day, with authenticity and a servant’s heart.