The folks at Portland, Ore.–based Windermere Stellar love the holiday season. It allows them yet another opportunity to give back to their communities in Oregon and southwest Washington. In 2016 alone, the company raised $361,011 in cash donations and $214,284 worth of in-kind contributions to go toward supporting low-income children and families throughout the region. Brokers and agents spent a cumulative 5,102 hours volunteering at local organizations last year.
The company was recently honored with the Portland Business Journal’s corporate philanthropy award, ranking number one among large-sized companies (with $50 million to $100 million in annual revenue). Through the Windermere Foundation, donations and contributions were made to 41 local charities.
Joan Allen, co-owner of Windermere Stellar and co-chair of the local chapter of the Windermere Foundation, explains how community involvement has become a priority at the company.
What are Windermere Stellar’s biggest fundraising efforts?
The majority of our offices compete to raise the most money for the Windermere Foundation in a friendly year-long contest called “Rise to the Challenge.” This entices agents in each office to organize fundraising events together, which could be extravagant, like a gala auction or golf tournament, or simple, like a sale for the public or giving $5 to the Windermere Foundation for every person that visits an agent open house. Agents also make sizable donations to the Windermere Foundation themselves. Of course, a significant aspect of our fundraising is that most agents elect to give a portion of every commission to the foundation. It provides a steady, reliable sum to our charitable mission.
How do you get agents and office leaders motivated and involved?
The agents are the heart and soul of the Windermere Foundation. A committee of agents—one representative from each office—meets every other month to review funding requests from charities and discuss fundraising and communication ideas. These representatives communicate with the agents in their offices, sharing information with them and giving kudos for their generosity. Our concept would not be so successful if it weren’t agent-driven.
We’ve been doing this for so long that it’s been ingrained into the company culture. Leadership and agents understand on an instinctive level that community involvement is what we do as an extension of our roles as real estate professionals. For example, during our managers’ retreat, we created paintings of homes in the style of three different artists as a collaborative group activity. We displayed the paintings at our company holiday gala, where artists helped attendees write down the meaning of “home” as an icebreaker. The notes were pasted onto each painting, and the artists added finishing touches before they were auctioned off at our January kickoff meeting, fetching several thousand dollars. The proceeds went to the Windermere Foundation.
Can you describe how you keep your company culture at the heart of your business?
Our company culture is enviable. It is made up of career-oriented professionals who put their clients’ interest before self-interest, and they are proud to work in an environment that is true to our stated values: “Integrity, Professionalism, and Community.” In our estimation, “community” is a big word. It incorporates the community of our offices, our company, and the greater real estate community. We view philanthropy as caring for the community in which we live, and our agents know that addressing issues and taking care of those who are less fortunate benefits us all.