It's a little bit like the holidays when you give a gift, it almost feels better than receiving one.
About This Episode
Giving back is central to the business of many real estate professionals. Beyond just providing a new marketing platform, charitable giving allows agents to interact more closely with their communities, and affords them an opportunity to make a positive impact close to home.
In this episode, we analyze the link between real estate and philanthropy, including the recent trend of businesses building social currency.
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JON: In 2017, Americans gave $410.02 billion to charity. That was the first time the sum total of the nation’s philanthropic efforts exceeded $400 billion, and is 5.2% above the total from the year before. As you well know, our economy is pretty great right now. The historically-low unemployment, solid stock market, and favorable economic conditions likely all weighed in to the historic total that was donated, but is there something more at work? Perhaps a cultural shift, or a more pervasive feeling of we’re-all-in-this-together?
JON: Hello and welcome to Shop Talk: The Real Estate Show. I’m Jon Forisha and on this episode we analyze the link between real estate and giving back, and what it can mean for your business and your community.
JON: In real estate, everything you do is about serving your community. Your business literally comes from the community around you, but your whole job is also about creating community in both a literal and figurative sense. On The CE Shop blog, we’ve talked a lot about how essential real estate agents are to their communities, but going beyond just brokering the deals that result in houses changing hands, many agents make it a key part of their business to give back.
JON: It may seem absurd to a brand new agent that they’re expected to give back to their community before they’ve even sold enough houses to live comfortably in their new profession, but philanthropic events can also generate new business. Networking is a huge part of any successful business, and unless you’re a magician of a salesperson, you’ll have to come up with some creative ways for how to connect with new people and turn them into leads. Taking part in a charity near and dear to your heart is a great way to meet new people and get on their good side before you even discuss selling their house, but staying active in and around your community is also a fantastic way to stay top of mind.
JON: In any industry, a huge part of marketing efforts is to create brand awareness, and real estate is no different. It’s not easy to tell when someone is searching for a new agent. It’s not as obvious as a head wound or a missing eye or a tail, and since you never really know, then all you can do is constantly make yourself available and top of mind. Doing so by doing good in your community is pretty much the best possible outcome - and thus you have many agents making philanthropy a key part of their business.
JON: John Michailidis is the Owner and Broker at Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee in Florida, and like many real estate professionals, he’s made philanthropy a key part of his business. Here’s John:
JOHN: So our ultimate purpose, I'm looking at it on my wall. This is on the wall in my office. I'm in my home office now. This is the wall in our office. All of our employees, when they come on board with us, sign off on it. Not that they necessarily agree with everything on it. Everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to believe. I really, truly practice that. However, they also need to know what I believe since they're going to be working in my company. Right? So the ultimate purpose is to further God's kingdom through example and service. That's the first thing on our vision, mission, purpose for how does that express itself. So we have a few different charities that we contribute to financially, but absolutely, that is the purpose of my business. It's not to enrich me. Do I want to live a good life? Yeah, I want to have nice things. Do I want my people to be paid well? Yeah. But that happens by providing great service and to giving back to the community because everything we get is a blessing, in my personal opinion, from Jesus Christ. That's not everyone's opinion. And I get that.
JON: There’s a term called social currency that’s defined as the actual and potential resources from presence in social networks and communities, including both digital and offline. When a company takes a stance on something and their consumers then feel a sense of value when associating with that brand, it generates invaluable word of mouth. The term comes from Pierre Bourdieu’s social capital theory, which relates to increasing a sense of community, helping to form identity, and providing status and recognition.
JON: Without diving too far into the sociology rabbithole, let’s take a step back and apply social currency to the world of 2019. Blake Mycoskie was traveling through Argentina when he saw firsthand how difficult it was for poverty-stricken kids to get by without shoes. He went on to create TOMS Shoes, whose defining mission is to match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of shoes for a child in need. In 2014, Mycoskie sold half of the company, then valued at a total of approximately $625 million.
JON: Warby Parker is an eyewear company that has a similar model by donating a pair of glasses for every pair that’s bought. They’ve done research that shows that 624 million impoverished people around the world can’t effectively learn or work due to the severity of their visual impairment. Once they have glasses, their productivity rises by 35% and their monthly income increases by 20%. In March of last year, Warby Parker was valued at $1.75 billion.
JON: You can look at these two companies as outliers, but the idea of giving back is central to countless brands, both big and small. From Patagonia to Love Your Melon, Peak Design, United By Blue, and Pura Vida bracelets, there are a plethora of brands who have devoted their profits and efforts to trying to make the world a better place.
JON: In an age of stressful politics that feel absurdly slow compared to the immediacy of the internet, many people have chosen to take change into their own hands. A few years ago, the ALS ice bucket challenge swept social media for a good cause, and more recently the trash tag challenge has aimed to get people off their couch and cleaning up their local communities.
JON: We live in an age of computers in our pockets that can do basically anything we ask of them, and with our ever-connected world we’ve become more aware of the injustices both at home and abroad. And though your business likely can’t provide shoes or glasses for everyone who needs a pair, you can start small because a rising tide lifts all boats.
JON: Much has been said about the propensity of Millennials to pay more for experiences than things. As one of the first generations raised with the internet, many Millennials are on the prowl for more meaningful experiences - something beyond social media fakery and deals on cheap products. Armchair activism has been played out, and many young people are now taking matters into their own hands and either demanding change or making it happen themselves.
JON: And this is partly the reason that brands like TOMS have done so well, since you both get something out of the transaction and provide something for the less fortunate. Millennials make up 25.9% of the US population and 40% of them are donors in a monthly giving program. Considering that Millennials are defined as currently being between 22 and 37 years old and more disposable income almost always results in more charitable spending, these numbers will only grow.
JON: But let’s get back to real estate. Charitable Agents is an organization that pairs buyers and sellers with top-performing agents. At the end of the transaction, 10% of the agent’s commission goes to the charity of the client’s choice. Many successful agents end up creating their own foundation, which is actually what we at The CE Shop did in 2014 when we created The CE Shop Foundation.
JON: You’re likely thinking that you’d love to give back somehow, but that donating your fee - which amounts to your paycheck - is unrealistic. The nice thing about charity is that every little bit counts, even if it just means donating your time to making a difference.
JON: Michael McAllister is the Founder and Co-CEO of The CE Shop, and he often says that real estate agents are the heart of the community. The average agent closes 7 transactions a year, and each of those transactions touches at least a handful of people. Over the course of their career, an agent can have an enormous impact on their community, and conducting business ethically and charitably can leave an impression that lasts far beyond a business or even a life. Here’s Michael to say more:
MICHAEL: I think it's foundational, frankly. I, you know, I paused because I don't want to sound too philosophical or theoretical about the whole thing, but I do believe as humans we have a desire to give back. You know, I don't have the quote handy, and you wouldn’t let me use Google in the middle of our conversation here. But there's a great quote out there about, you know, we get what we, basically, the richness of life comes from what we give, not from what we get. And I think that's just a human element. I think everybody feels good. It's a little bit like the holidays when you give a gift, it almost feels better than - oftentimes it feels better than having received them. So I think it's foundational. And I do think that enterprise business has a responsibility to do it. You know, we started the Foundation in 2014 when we had a national presence with our business, and I was always raised that to whom much is given, much is expected. And I believe that. So as leaders in our industry, I felt like we needed to give back to the communities that have taken such good care of us. So I think it's foundational and then anybody who wants to begin giving back, it's, there's gotta be an emotional connection. There's gotta be an emotional connection to make it worthwhile. You know, so for us it was health and education and kids and that makes sense. Probably a little self serving, you know, I think we've got to take care of these kids or who's going to take care of us. Right? If they're not healthy and well educated, we're in trouble.
JON: As the heart of your community, you have a unique opportunity to create the world you’d like to see. From cleaning up trash to raising money for disease research or packing food for hungry kids, a little bit goes a long way. If the growing trend of social currency is anything to go by, charitable giving is only going to become more integrated into everyday business, and that’s great news! It won’t be long before realtors stop plastering their own face on benches and instead highlight how they give back to the community.
JON: That’s it for this episode of Shop Talk, thanks for listening! If you liked the episode, you can subscribe to and review us on your favorite podcast player of choice. Just like with giving back, every little review counts. Shop Talk is a production of The CE Shop.