Building a Community-Minded Culture

Find out how Windermere Stellar in Portland, Ore., became one of the top philanthropic companies in its market.

January 29, 2015

My brokerage, Windermere Stellar, was recently honored by the Portland Business Journal, which named us one of the Top 10 Philanthropic Companies in Portland, Ore., for 2014. We were humbled to also learn that we came in No. 1 for most volunteer hours.

Community involvement is a cornerstone of our company culture and values, but we would never demand our agents spend their time on any specific item, whether that’s calling expired listings or volunteering.

So how did our residential real estate company spend a whopping 6,537 hours of volunteer time in 2013? Let me give you a window into our community-minded culture.

The entire Windermere network participates in Community Service Day, which takes place one day each summer. The majority of our agents take a break from showing property for half a day and roll up their sleeves to help local charities, neighborhood schools, and even elderly or disabled clients clean, organize, and beautify their property. It’s something we value. However, Community Service Day is responsible for just a portion of the 6,537 volunteer hours recognized by our local paper.

In order to create this infectious attitude, I suppose you could say that we’ve leveraged two key traits found in most successful salespeople — their inherent tendency toward competitiveness and their strong desire to help others, whether that be their clients or an underserved population.

Weave It Into the Day: What we do for Windermere Foundation is simply part of our daily lives. For example, agents will offer to make a small donation to the Windermere Foundation for each agent that attends a broker’s open or gives a price opinion at a listing. Some offices have lunch donated by an agent, charge $5 per plate, and donate the proceeds to charity. The camaraderie from these events connects our agents on a business level as well as a community level, while they share information that creates sales for our clients. 

Leverage Friendly Competition: Many agents are competitive. Each office competes in a friendly yearlong contest called “Rise to the Challenge” to raise the most money for charity. This is how many of our unique fundraisers are launched. Another trait of agents is their willingness to help. They sincerely wish to assist clients in their quest to live the life of their dreams. Their desire to help families and children in the community is easily an extension of their everyday jobs. This has also helped us go from the $172,482 in charitable donations our brokerage made in 2013 to more than double that amount ­— $370,000 — in 2014.

The act of donating goes beyond writing checks for us. While a small portion of every agent’s commission is donated to the Windermere Foundation with the sale of every home, the majority of Windermere Stellar’s donations come from agents providing personal donations above the minimum commission contributions. Planning and executing their own office fundraisers, such as flower sales, auctions, galas, and golf tournaments, is where the real magic happens. All of the proceeds benefit the local chapter of the Windermere Foundation, which provides funds to charities that support low-income children and families in the neighborhoods we serve.

In short, we’ve fostered a culture where agents recognize the benefits of being involved in creating healthy communities where they live and work. They have witnessed how this involvement builds valuable relationships with other agents and the community. They value how it provides a deeper understanding of issues and solutions related to their neighborhoods. And most of all, they understand that helping people move forward in life is an extension of helping their clients buy and sell homes.



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Joan Allen is a co-owner of Windermere Stellar and cochair of the Windermere Foundation. As co-owner of Windermere Stellar, Joan provides overall strategies for management, marketing, and company direction. Joan works with multiple nonprofits in the region as cochair of the local Windermere Foundation, which supports charitable organizations that assist low-income children and families. She also serves on the board of directors for New Avenues for Youth, Bridge Meadows, and Providence Portland Medical Center, and is an advisory board member for Girls Inc.