By nature, real estate professionals are a generous lot.

by Melanie Kalmar

More often than not, giving back is part of their business plan. Quietly, they lift up communities by supporting nonprofits dedicated to making a difference in the lives of residents. They know that one good turn can inspire multiple others, because they see it happen every day in the industry, regardless of whether the housing market is up or down. Taking time to give back to those in need not only enriches their lives, but also sets an example future generations will want to follow.

Also in this issue

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Ask Tim Brigham about his charitable work, and he’ll admit he didn’t know what success felt like until he had the ability to help people — something he grew up watching his father do without hesitation. Brigham, a mortgage broker with Union Home Mortgage, launched the Superhero Collective with colleagues six years ago. The not-for-profit organization sends volunteers dressed in superhero costumes — he’s Batman — to bring toys to children undergoing treatment at hospitals, the goal being to distract them from their illnesses. Its biggest mission to date has been rehabbing and giving away a house to the family of a sick child, with the hope of making their lives easier.

“Real estate is unlike any profession — it takes real grit,” Brigham said. “That’s exactly what the charity landscape looks like.” He urges everyone to find a cause they’re passionate about and apply that same grit. “Just like your day-to-day, you can pick up the phone and make things happen… most importantly, if you do something insane, ignore the naysayers, put on your cape and get to work.”

Read about the companies that are doing just that, sans costume.

Helping individuals through tough times

Giving back became part of Guaranteed Rate’s core values when Victor Ciardelli, president and CEO, founded the Guaranteed Rate Foundation. Since 2012, the charity has donated over $4.2 million to upward of 1,400 individuals nationwide affected by domestic violence, homelessness, disabilities, medical emergencies and the unexpected loss of a loved one. Remarkably, Guaranteed Rate covers 100% of the foundation’s overhead, ensuring that every donation reaches someone in-need. Already this year, the foundation has donated $900,000 to over 40 recipients, $3.4 million to Feeding America and more than $620,000 for food for local pantries nationwide. It also raised upward of $53,000 for the foundation and for Chicago White Sox Charities. What’s more, employees have donated over $2 million through regular payroll gifts.

Fostering inclusivity

Stepping up to end racial inequities in America, the Dream Town real estate brokerage launched InspiRE, a company-wide initiative to help Black people, Indigenous people and those of color aged 18 to 23 to begin a career in real estate. The only caveat: Applicants must be enrolled in college or hold an associate degree. The program provides training, mentorship and funding for a licensing exam in leasing so as to inspire trainees to earn a broker’s license in the future. Each trainee — there are 12 to a cohort — is paired with an established Dream Town broker for six weeks, tagging along on property tours, in pitch meetings and at industry events. Recently, the first cohort graduated, and now all of its members hold entry-level positions in real estate. The next class begins in early spring.

Advancing racial equity

Intensifying its efforts to close the racial wealth gap in underserved Black and Latinx communities nationwide, JPMorgan Chase has introduced a five-year, $30 billion plan to create inclusive economic growth. In Chicago, Chase intends to advance homeownership among 8,500 Black and Latinx households on the South and West sides by heavily promoting its low-down-payment product, DreaMaker. It’s also doubling its special homebuyer grant to $5,000 to ease the upfront costs of buying a home; increasing closing cost assistance to $2,500 for those who refinance with DreaMaker; and offering an additional $500 incentive to buyers who complete its homebuyer education course.

Creating a legacy worth leaving

Supporting community organizations in need, victims of natural disasters and employees facing personal hardship is how Weinberg Choi Residential, Keller Williams Chicago-Lincoln Park, “creates a legacy worth leaving.” Every year on “Red Day,” Keller Williams’ offices across the country close for employees to volunteer at charitable organizations. Closer to home, its charity, KW Cares, provides financial support to Keller Williams associates and their families suffering from hardship caused by a sudden emergency. Its fundraising arm, KW Market Centers, has locations throughout North America that make all of the giving possible.

Making a positive impact on communities

Thad Wong and Mike Golden, co-founders of @properties, endowed the @gives back Community Fund in 2009 to bring agents, employees and colleagues together to support a different organization each year. Since its inception, @gives back has raised upward of $1 million for more than a dozen charities by hosting exciting fundraising events. This year’s recipient is SocialWorks, a nonprofit foundation started by Chance the Rapper to empower Chicago’s youth through arts, education and civic engagement. Among @gives back’s various fundraisers to support the nonprofit was a pandemic-friendly fall movie series at the Lincoln Yards Drive-In.

At d’aprile properties, they donate time and money to local charities through their charitable program, d’aprile Cares. “In the past we have attended galas, volunteered for Misericordia Candy Days, participated in several 5Ks, and countless other activities to raise money,” said Lindsay Miller, co-CEO of d’aprile properties. “One of my favorite things that we do is our annual Dogs of d’aprile calendar (all pets welcome!) that makes money for the charity, but also creates awareness. Last year we had three guinea pig sisters on the cover. It was a hoot!”

Paying it forward

Throughout the year, an “employee of the month” is chosen at Fulton Grace based on the results of a peer-nomination survey. In addition to receiving an award and gift from the Philanthropy Committee, the honoree is tasked with selecting an organization to receive a monetary donation in their name, paid for by Fulton Grace. “Through this joint effort, we are pleased to further connect with our top employees by engaging with a nonprofit near to their heart,” said Joan LoCascio, designated managing broker and executive vice president of Fulton Grace. “It’s truly a win-win!”

Providing relief during the pandemic

Good Will Works, formerly Good Will Network, is Baird & Warner’s philanthropic arm. It’s made up of agents, loan officers and staff who have volunteered thousands of hours assisting worthy causes. Since 2002, Baird & Warner has donated nearly $3 million to Chicagoland nonprofits focused on housing-related causes. In partnership with the Stephen W. and Susan M. Baird Foundation, Good Will Works has donated $289,000 to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. The fund supports agencies and individuals that help families access emergency food and supplies, as well as mortgage and utility assistance. It also provides direct financial aid to those dealing with COVID-related job loss.

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