There are two types of community involvement that real estate agents typically gravitate toward. First, there are the agencies and individual agents that give money to a cause and consider it “community involvement.” Their websites typically boast that they’ll give “$100 from every home sale to the Breast Cancer Foundation!” or “Fifteen percent of my commission to the local humane society!”
That sort of giving is admirable, and a boon to the charity recipient, but although the agents like to call it “community involvement,” it isn’t. Cutting a check to a charity, again while laudable, takes five minutes of one’s time and is more appropriately called “community giving.”
The type of community involvement that other agents gravitate toward is hands-on volunteerism: the boots-on-the-ground, belly-to-belly, nitty-gritty of community involvement.
While neither of these types of giving back to the community is necessarily “better’ in the main, the latter is hands down better for your real estate business. Quite frankly, the type of giving back that puts you face-to-face with groups of people who may turn into clients is good for business.
Gasp! Community giving in the real estate world isn’t completely altruistic?
Well, not completely.
Sure, it may start out as a selfless desire to give to others, but side benefits of community involvement include the fact that it’s an awesome way to generate leads, get your name linked to the community, and increase your brand and public persona.
But that side of the coin is a dirty little secret that agents don’t typically talk about.
Agent Linda Lougee, of Realty of Maine, isn’t ashamed to speak about what volunteerism has done for her business. She works with the local Chamber of Commerce and with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. She joined both out of a desire to give back to those who helped build her business and to the community at large. What she found was the perfect networking vehicle.
“I think you have to network,” Lougee says, even when volunteering for a higher cause.
Lougee isn’t referring to that habit of constantly selling themselves that many agents have. This type of networking involves subtle reminders that you’re a real estate agent, and helps keep your name top-of-mind with other volunteers or civic club members.
Mike McCann, a broker from Nebraska, doesn’t pull any punches when describing how his volunteerism has benefitted his real estate business. Although being a volunteer soccer coach is the activity that brought him the most leads, helping out at church has its benefits as well.
“One time I volunteered to help set up the tents at the church picnic, and the priest was impressed with how I was with my son and bought a house using me. [It] made the other 14 or so agents in the parish a little jealous. They should have volunteered,” he relates in an ActiveRain blog post entitled “Volunteering … Get Involved and Make Money.”
Find a Volunteer Opportunity
If you’re ready to get involved in your community, whether out of the goodness of your heart or to network for leads, finding an opportunity is easy.
If you currently don’t volunteer your time to any organization or are looking for additional opportunities, there are several websites with volunteer opportunity databases, sorted by zip code.
- A great first stop is at VolunteerMatch. Here you can search by zip code and enter keywords to narrow the search for results more specific to your interests.
- Agents who are 55 years of age or older, especially those specializing in the boomer niche, might want to try out Get Involved!, a program sponsored by Senior Corps.
- All for Good, a service of Points of Light, has a huge database of community service opportunities.
- All 1.35 million worldwide members of the granddaddy of all civic organizations, Lions Club, share one belief: “Community is what we make it.” You can find a club in your area at the Lions Club International website.
- Rotary International not only offers help locally and worldwide, but membership offers tremendous networking opportunities, according to Pete Sinsky, a Rotarian from Wisconsin. “Rotary provides an environment for developing strong friendships and business relationships.” Visit the Rotary International website to find out how to get involved.
- Kiwanis International offers volunteer opportunities to help children and families in your community.
- Smaller groups that cater to different ethnicities may be ideal for the agent who specializes in a certain ethnic market. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, for instance, can steer you toward local groups that offer help to the Hispanic community. If you market your business to Pacific Islanders, contact the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs to find out how you can get involved. Larger cities and communities have nonprofits that cater to a wide variety of ethnicities.
- The average age of members of some of the larger groups, such as Kiwanis, is 50, which may be uncomfortable for younger agents. The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, serves people between the ages of 18 and 41 and tends to draw more toward the younger end of the spectrum – late 20s and early 30s. The junior chamber not only provides opportunities to perform community service, but offers leadership training and opportunities to improve business skills.
Tucson, Ariz. agent Kim Murray tells a story about her volunteer work for an annual golf event in her target community, Dove Mountain. “There were over 400 people at that party, and while I didn’t meet all of them, I certainly did meet a lot,” she relates in an ActiveRain blog post. “In one day’s work, I mixed and mingled with my target community and demographic. This would have been difficult to do if I were going door to door as the Dove Mountain community is segmented between an active adult community and single family residences,” Murray continues.
“In addition to all the above listed networking, I came away with a deeper attachment to the community as a result of the wonderful people I met on that day.”
Just as some agents are focusing their real estate businesses to a precise niche, some are doing the same with their community involvement. The opportunities to volunteer at a hyper-local level are endless:
- Volunteer to coach a community athletic team. Soccer, baseball, football, tennis – whichever sport you’re good at, the leagues will most likely welcome your talents.
- All schools can use some volunteer help, so find out the needs of those in your farm area.
- Churches are great places to volunteer, especially one in your target area.
- Community theater groups often need volunteers, and it’s a great way to meet locals.
Whether an agent’s motives are humanitarian or professional, getting involved in the local community at a volunteer level offers a variety of benefits, including the opportunity to network for new clients.