Give Back

Like many real estate agents, I’ve spent all of my adult life — and a good chunk of my adolescence – volunteering. Most of my free hour contributions are primarily community-based.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours over the years supporting housing causes, focused on all rungs of the housing ladder, from homelessness to transitional housing to subsidized housing to the magic of first-time homeownership. I even launched and headed up a highly successful $1.5 billion housing program in Seattle.

I’ve been blessed to be involved in hunger relief fundraising projects and nonprofits that support STEM education and outreach since the mid-1980s.

Little has brought me more personal pride and pleasure than helping pay it back. Or is it paying it forward? There’s an incredible feeling you get when you give back to your local community,

When my partner at WAV Group, Victor Lund, wrote a story about suggesting ways NAR and others could work towards solving homelessness using Cause Marketing, I wanted to chime in on the subject.

Victor asked, “What if REALTORS® collected contributions at open houses?” When I was at Great Western Bank in the 1980s, we wanted to add a line on every mortgage payment for a donation that would go directly to ending homelessness. A minimum $1 donation box would be pre-checked, and other donation levels as well. The bank would match $1 for $1 up to a total of $100,000 a year. We ran into technical challenges that put the idea on mothballs, and it died when the bank merged.

Five years later, we discussed the same idea at Fannie Mae. Same obstacle: technology and the politics behind fund distribution. As a result, I have found that grassroots efforts have been more effective.

After reading Victor’s piece, I also immediately thought of firms like Seattle’s own Windermere Real Estate, and its Windermere Foundation. For every home sale completed by a Windermere associate, a portion of the commission goes to the Foundation.

The Foundation has been directing dollars to homelessness and other housing causes for three decades. The totals are staggering: $38 million has been raised funding more than 500 local organizations. Today, Windemere is on television with ads talking about how its Foundation is directing its dollars to help solve homelessness.

The same thing is true for another stellar brokerage, NP Dodge. They have a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Dodge Cares, that is run by its agents and supports charities. They support local nonprofits that provide shelters for the homeless, help to prevent homelessness and domestic shelter for those who cannot stay in their home because of domestic abuse. Like Windermere, NP Dodge matches up to $250 per donor and raises more than $50,000 a year.

Talk about paying it back! I am also convinced that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of local efforts in communities across America where real estate companies are doing their part to give back.

At WAV Group, we would love to hear your stories about how real estate individuals – and firms – are paying it back in their communities. We are especially interested in how you or your firm is focused on housing nonprofits and homelessness. We would love to share not only what you are doing, but how you are doing it so others who have not yet been inspired to give back will.

We all know from our personal experiences that one person can make a difference and often does, but so can real estate companies and those in PropTech. Let’s collectively share the best ideas. Let’s create a resource of best practices of how real estate firms are paying it back across our nation so we can bring others aboard this boat. Not just a few features stories — let’s collect hundreds of them.

A major crisis like homelessness is complex, and solutions are vexing. It involves more than just housing, as there are health and mental health components as well as employment challenges.

But Victor is right about this: the real estate industry can genuinely make a difference if we marshaled our collective resources. Let’s take our ingenuity, time, talents and yes, dollars, to come together and address America’s homelessness crisis, together. While one person can make a difference, imagine what we could all accomplish together.

Email your story to We’ll start gathering your stories of how you are paying it back in your community. Hopefully, we can help inspire others to do the same.

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