Real estate agents -- who have never curried high favor on anyone's consumers' perception poll -- are embracing the concept of social cause marketing. Giving back to the community makes sense, they apparently have learned, at least as far as a marketing tool.

Putting cynicism aside, welcome Philanthropy Realtors to the neighborhood. Members of the group, which is headed by Miguel Gonzalez of Keller Williams Realty in Los Angeles, donate 10% of their profits on the sale of a home to the seller's favorite charity or non-profit organization. Just to guarantee that the agents' pledges are sincere, the purchase contract stipulates that 10% is paid out of escrow directly.

"I have personally battled cancer and won," said Gonzalez, "but I also lost my dad to the disease. He taught me to try to give back to others." And so the group was born.

The idea of social cause marketing -- where a for-profit business partners up with a non-profit for their mutual benefit -- has proliferated over the past few years. The term is often used more generally to refer to a marketing effort where, in exchange for your business, a part of the proceeds will be donated to charity. One of the first partnerships dates back to 1976 when the Marriott Corp and the March of Dimes teamed up in 67 cities throughout the Western U.S.

The idea was conceived by Bruce Burtch, who is now a nationally recognized catalyst for cause-marketing programs and the guy who coined the phrase, "Do well by doing good."

Which is precisely what real estate agents hope to do.

Philanthropy Realtors' Gonzalez adds, "We need to stop thinking just about making a lot of money, but what the money can do to help others less fortunate. To me the idea of paying forward really works and hopefully Philanthropy Realtors will help others to see that."

Keller Williams has a long history of encouraging its agents to give back to their community. On May 13, Keller Williams will be having its annual RED Day (RED stands for renew, energize and donate) where agents from across the country donate their time to local charities. The Beverly Hills office is sending 20 agents to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and build a home in Lynwood, Ca. More than 25,000 agents nationally participated last year, donating more than 130,000 hours of community service.

Keller Williams also pledged to raise $1 million for a pet rescue. KW agent Sandy Zelagans, an active member of the Los Angeles pet rescue community, gives away a rescue dog to qualified home buyers when she closes a sale. In Austin, Texas, agent Sev Champeny of JB Goodwin Realtors donates 5% of all commissions to rescuing Greyhounds. He owns two himself.




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