There are two schools of thought when it comes to real estate agents publicly supporting charities. One school holds that this is a solid business strategy — it can help differentiate agents in crowded markets especially, and many clients like to feel good about helping good people accomplish good things. The other school, however, holds that incorporating a charity and your support of that charity into your real estate business is too risky. The world is too divisive as it is, and choosing a particular charity that you’re going to advocate for and financially provision above others can drive people away just as much as it can draw clients to your door.
If you’re on the fence about whether to support a charity as a real estate agent, consider the many nonpartisan, non-controversial options that are open to you, then have a discussion with your broker about any brokerage policies they might have. Agents who carefully select the charities they support and have backing from their brokers can find that supporting charitable causes can be an excellent way to elevate and differentiate themselves.
Why give back?
Many real estate agents want to give back to their communities or to organizations or networks that have meant a lot to them in their lives, but they are hesitant to indulge that desire because they’re worried that giving to certain charities could reflect poorly upon them. Today’s very divided political landscape means that if certain issues such as gun control or protection of the Second Amendment are high on your priority list, then you could wind up alienating a certain group of your client population.
It’s true that choosing an overtly political charity or cause is probably going to be a turnoff for a least a portion of your client base. Some agents are willing to sacrifice those clients in exchange for reaching others who align more closely with their views. Even if you’re not, though, it’s still possible to find charitable causes that are close to your heart and values without driving off a large group of people who might be otherwise very happy doing business with you. For example, someone who believes strongly in the Second Amendment might have grown up hunting and also have strong feelings about conservation and nature preservation, which are potentially more widely shared among the general population. And someone who’s a gun control advocate in private life might choose to support children’s causes or animal charities, which may overlap with their values.
Believe it or not, giving to charity can be a very smart business decision, depending on the market in which you’re operating and your client base. Millennials, in particular, tend to value companies and businesses that prioritize community health, so if you can show that you’re paying attention to social issues that matter and you’re contributing what you can to those causes, your clients will feel proud to affiliate themselves with you and your business — and could even start humblebragging about how great it is to support charity while buying or selling a home to their friends, which is only a win for you as their agent!
List your options
There have to be at least a dozen different ways to give back to your community or the world at large when you start to think about it, so even if you’re on the fence about charitable giving, spend some time making a list of the things you might be able to do that could provide good reputation points for your business and your name. If you’re serious about putting real ideas down on this list, you might be pleasantly surprised by the possibilities that arise.
Some different areas to consider might include:
Local organizations, charities, and support efforts
Start by listing different local opportunities for giving back that you can uncover or explore. Many agents might disavow the idea of helping out charity as a business differentiator because they think it alienates some people, but if you decide to help out local schools, food pantries, or natural resources by organizing school supply drives, grocery drives, or park cleanups, you’ll probably find that more people are drawn to you than repelled. Even clients who don’t have kids or who don’t use the park may appreciate your efforts to help out the community in which they live and could respond accordingly. Maybe you could even host some kind of gala event and donate the proceeds to a local group, such as a historical society that works to preserve landmark homes in the area. Even if you don’t want to advertise too many of your personal values to clients, there are ample options to give back to your local community that are laudable and will help you connect with buyers and sellers alike.
Think of the children
It’s really true that the children are our future, and even people who don’t have children can often appreciate your efforts to make things better for kids and help prepare our future leaders for the jobs ahead of them. There are countless sports teams and clubs to sponsor, and if you’re feeling really ambitious, you could also fund a scholarship to help a local child (or several children) go camping or take advantage of educational opportunities they couldn’t otherwise afford.
Home is where the heart is
A real estate agent sponsoring real estate-related charities makes a lot of sense! Whether you’re partnering with Habitat for Humanity or an outfit like Giveback Homes, or have some other home- or housing-related charitable outfit that you’re supporting, opting for the real estate charity can be a safe and easy way to show you care without risking too much. That said, it’s also relatively common especially because it is a little safer and more obvious. There’s nothing wrong with supporting real estate-related causes, especially if they’re close to your heart or there’s some intensely local housing issue that your support will help address, but be aware that it might be considered an easy option and make sure you’re giving equal weight to other charities.
Leverage life experiences
One great alternative to going with a real estate-related charity just because it happens to dovetail with your job is to think about your own personal experiences and see if you can make some kind of charitable connection that way. Perhaps you have a soft spot for animals and several pets, so it might make sense for you to focus on animal shelters and foster groups. Veterans may find that they want to devote some of their time and energy to veterans’ causes, while people who have suffered from certain diseases (or have seen loved ones suffer) could feel inspired to pledge some of their earnings toward that disease’s eradication. Real estate agents who have been victims in domestic violence situations may want to help out others by donating to shelters or offering seminars on how to achieve financial independence, for example. There’s nothing wrong with making a personal connection to the charity you’d like to support, so don’t be afraid of delving into your own experience and seeing what emerges.
Let the client choose
Maybe you know you want to offer some kind of charitable incentive or bonus to your clients, but you really don’t want to be the one to select which charity. You can always let your clients decide which charity will benefit from your generosity, which can be a nice way to involve them in the decision — and you can also give them an opportunity to claim a tax credit for the donation. This can really help set you apart in the eyes of your clients and give them something to talk about, once when they transact with you and again when tax season rolls around!
After you’ve outlined your options, decide whether you want to choose just one strategy, or perhaps try a couple of different ones. You will likely find that one is a better fit for your business than the other, but there’s no harm in doing some testing with different models before you decide whether you’re going to incorporate charitable giving permanently into your sales system and how, exactly, that will look for you.