Cultivate Clients in Your Community

Three brokers follow their passions for volunteerism and community involvement, growing their businesses in the process.

March 17, 2016

Volunteering isn’t about building your business — but it can be a satisfying and profitable byproduct. New clients can come from all types of community involvement, whether it’s through efforts at your place of worship, involvement in your local chamber of commerce, or work within nonprofits or local schools.

Here are three examples of real estate brokers who have given their time while still building business contacts.

Religious Institutions

Hagan Stone has been teaching Sunday school and volunteering at his church since he was a senior in college. As a licensed broker and active salesperson for Pilkerton, REALTORS®, in Nashville, Tenn., Stone says real estate agents who give of themselves will reap business benefits.

Stone has been a member of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville for more than 20 years, joining well before he entered the real estate business. He established trusted relationships with members of the congregation, so helping them buy or sell a home was a natural fit.

“My service at the church has opened up relationships. I sell about 60 to 65 homes a year, and one-third of those are from our congregation.” says Stone, who’s also a former president of the Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS®. “To me, it’s about doing a good job and putting others before yourself.”

He doesn’t have to market himself within the church. Everyone knows who he is, and those who have used him as their real estate agent tell their friends and family members.

And as his Sunday school students have grown up, he’s beginning to help some of them who are now in their 20s buy their first homes. “It’s neat to have those relationships continue,” he says.

Chambers of Commerce

When Nate Dodge moved back to Omaha in 1993 from Boston, the first thing he did was join the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. He had worked in commercial bank training programs for large financial institutions including Chase Manhattan Bank and Citicorp. He went on to work for Fannie Mae in its National Housing Impact division. But once he came back to his hometown, he wanted to get involved at a grassroots level. He was accepted into the chamber’s leadership class.

“I have worked my way through the chamber throughout my career. I feel it is the fundamental reason that I stayed connected to my community,” he says.

He has found through the years that most people like doing business with people they trust and like. “The way to build that trust is to interact with people outside of your own business. You learn that others are interested in the things you are interested in,” says Dodge, who is now president of NP Dodge Real Estate in Omaha. “Through the interaction, they learn who I am.”

Over the last 23 years, Dodge has served in many capacities in the chamber, including president of the board of directors and chair of the membership campaign. He also has a soft spot for helping the chamber’s young professionals group with their activities.

“I actually pour beer at the holiday party. I like to interact with people and let them have an idea of what NP Dodge is all about, and it’s fun,” he says.

Diane Poots, director of member services at the Omaha chamber, explains that most of the brokers in the city are chamber members.

“When you go to networking events, people can then put a face to a name,” she says.

Membership in a chamber of commerce also offers some visibility benefits. The Omaha chamber encourages members to tag the chamber’s Facebook page in business posts so that members’ content gets in front of their 20,000 followers. The chamber also has a business directory on its website, where the public can search under real estate and pull up a list of brokers and agents who are chamber members. 

Nonprofits and Schools

Being involved in a drug awareness program at Fairfield, Iowa’s elementary schools has helped broker Debbi Davis give back to a cause that’s close to her heart. Her younger sister battled drug addiction, a difficult experience for her entire family.

Davis is the designated broker and co-owner of her family company, Davis & Palmer Real Estate, with her husband Chris. They work in the three grade schools serving about 600 children total, taking drug awareness materials to the schools and working with standout high school students so they have the opportunity to speak with the young children as well.

“We have three grandchildren in the elementary school, so it’s important to us to reach out,” Davis says. “The teachers and staff at the schools welcome us, and they remember the things we do.”

They are also members of the local Elks Lodge in their small town of 10,000, helping out with the Elks trailer that makes the rounds in parades and other events to showcase drug awareness efforts. 

“We definitely have picked up clients that we would have not had without being involved with the schools and the Elks,” Davis says. Most of the business from the Davises’ volunteerism comes naturally from people knowing who they are and what they do. They are able to garner business from teachers, parents, and other Elks members through word-of-mouth.

“Being involved in your community is one of the most important things for owning your own business,” Davis says.

At the end of the day, business aside, volunteerism is truly about following your true passions. And if you follow those passions, Stone says, you won’t have to worry about income. “That’s what I’ve always believed, and it’s worked for me.”


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Lee Nelson

Lee Nelson is a freelance journalist from the Chicago area. She has written for Yahoo! Homes, TravelNursing.org, MyMortgageInsider.com, and ChicagoStyle Weddings Magazine. She also writes a bi-monthly blog on Unigo.com. Contact Lee at leenelson77@yahoo.com.

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