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3 Steps to Become Your Community’s Steward

Most real estate pros feel a responsibility to support local charities through volunteerism or donation. Here’s some advice for those struggling to get started.

December 12, 2019

There’s no doubt that real estate professionals have the power to uplift the communities they serve, and most take that responsibility seriously. REALTORS®—82% of whom donate to charitable causes annually, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ C.A.R.E. Report—are much more giving of their time and money than the general public, only half of whom do the same. These figures show how deeply practitioners feel for the people they serve. And great communities lead to higher property values, which is good for everyone.

But profits didn’t inspire agents like Tina McDonough, who helped build the number one fundraising team for breast cancer research in the country, or Joy Nelson, who started an equine therapy program for people with special needs. Their examples reflect the spirit of the real estate industry, which aims to be meaningful to consumers beyond fleeting, transactional commitments. Pros know their clients trust them as guides through emotional and stressful chapters of their lives, and afterward, satisfied buyers and sellers feel a kinship with their agents.

For all their abilities, third-party real estate websites can’t get involved with buyers and sellers on the same level. Certainly, website algorithms can fetch and deliver data, but they can’t give insider secrets on, for example, where to go for out-of-this-world brisket. That’s where agents come into play.

Real estate agents who haven’t realized the power of championing their communities can start by adopting a few behaviors.

  1. Take on frontline opportunities. In 2018, 73.5 million people in the U.S. lived under community associations, including homeowners and condo associations, as well as cooperative-style organizations, according to the Community Associations Institute. Collaborate with the officers of those entities to get a better sense of what homeowners need. Then, you can advocate for your clients by staying up to date on everything from emerging tax laws to long-time city ordinances.
  2. Give according to passion. When my company, Windermere Group One, had an especially good sales year, we were able to underwrite a 300-seat venue for a local children’s theater. Yes, it was a smart branding move, but it was also the best way to showcase our agents’ collective support for exposing youngsters to the performing arts. Whether it’s sponsoring a patriotic Independence Day fireworks celebration or cleaning up litter on the beach, you may want to link yours or your team’s name to a cause. That way, you become professionally affiliated with something people personally appreciate.
  3. Earmark contributions from each sale. It can be tough for new agents to allocate funds for pursuits other than paying bills or supporting marketing efforts. Nevertheless, you should save a certain percentage of your commission from every sale. Then, use the money to support local charities or programs. Over time, this type of giving adds up and can make quite an impact. Doing a little bit at a time might not feel like a lot, but a $50 or $100 check can be incredibly meaningful to a small organization. Additionally, it keeps the agent top of mind. When people associated with the organization need to buy or sell property, they know where to go.
Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson is managing partner at Windermere Group One in Richland, Wash. The brokerage is a member of Windermere Real Estate, which is comprised of 300 offices and more than 6,000 agents throughout the western United States.

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