Real Estate With Purpose

Take a page from ERA Real Estate's playbook and create lasting philanthropic partnerships that bring teams together to focus on a common goal.

There are few professionals more intimately connected to communities than brokers and agents. So it’s only natural that real estate practitioners often become highly involved in charitable causes. Creating connections and getting involved with local organizations uplifts everyone involved. But how can business owners create lasting partnerships that are sustainable and have long-term impact?

ERA Real Estate is no stranger to community involvement. The company has a 35-year-old partnership with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, giving back to families in need. “We’ve raised nearly $35 million and donated countless hours to the cause through telethons, time spent at MDA summer camps, carnivals, and more,” says ERA President and CEO Charlie Young.


Young answered this Q&A for REALTOR® Magazine’s Broker to Broker, providing insights on how a significant philanthropic partnership works and how to get affiliated brokers and agents involved at the local level.


Last year, your company launched the ERA MDA Summer Camp Challenge. Tell us about that initiative and what came of it. 

In 2014, we introduced a revitalized brand for the ERA organization. We felt that was the perfect time to reinvigorate our support for the MDA as well. Knowing how strongly our brokers and agents respond to a challenge, we set a goal to sponsor 1,000 kids who have muscular diseases within three years so they can enjoy MDA summer camps.

We are not just sending kids to camp. We are giving them the opportunity to enjoy new experiences, make new friends, discover their strengths and passions, and build the confidence to achieve their goals. MDA Summer Camps offer the amenities and activities of a traditional summer camp, but are designed to meet the unique physical needs of these children.

At our 2015 ERA International Business Conference, I issued the challenge to our network, encouraging all offices to make a pledge of the number of children they wanted to send to camp, rather than pledging a certain amount of money. Because real estate is inherently local, we took a grassroots, community approach to fundraising — and team ERA truly rallied for the cause.

Within six months, we reached more than one-third of our pledge goal, and at this year’s conference, we revealed that we’ve already met 67 percent of our goal. That’s 673 children who can now experience MDA Summer Camp.

How is ERA Real Estate continuing its commitment to the MDA this year and what are your goals? 

Given the resounding support we’ve seen thus far, I reissued the challenge to our brokerages and asked them to help us reach 100 percent of our goal in two years rather than three. I believe we can make it happen.

To kick off the new year of fundraising, we hosted a “Riber Run and Dance Party” this week at IBC 2016, where we raised more than $23,000 for the MDA, in honor of the late Jeff Riber Sr. Jeff was a longstanding, well-respected member of the ERA organization and an avid runner who loved to dance and provided endless community support. We will continue to host fundraisers throughout the country, and our brokerages already have several creative ideas planned.

How are brokers and their agents getting involved in this effort?

ERA brokers and agents are incredible examples of dedication to giving back to the community. They have formed relationships with local MDA Goodwill Ambassadors, and that has made their efforts even more personal. For example, Robyn Erlenbush, broker-owner of ERA Landmark Real Estate in southwest Montana, sent 17 kids to camp by hosting the fifth annual Agents of Hope Carnival. Attendees played carnival games, enjoyed live music, and won prizes. ERA Shields Real Estate’s Bill Hurt has led his Colorado Springs team through dozens of MDA-focused fundraising campaigns, most notably the annual MDA Banquet and Art Show, which enabled them to send 40 kids to camp. With the guidance of brokers Doug and John Van Nortwick, ERA Sellers & Buyers Real Estate’s El Paso, Texas, office hosted an old-fashioned cookout and a golf tournament to raise funds. The company’s Albuquerque office held a raffle. Together, they succeeded in sending 51 kids to camp.

How does a real estate company go about choosing a nonprofit to support, and what are the benefits of such a partnership?

Having a corporate social responsibility program brings a team together to work toward a collective goal, forms bonds, and challenges brokerages to think creatively about fundraising and community relations.

Because real estate is dependent upon connections with communities, it is essential for a real estate company to choose a nonprofit that has local ties. That can be a national organization with local chapters, like the MDA, or a more regional organization, depending upon the size of the company.

While the real estate industry continues to evolve and ERA focuses on innovating to keep ahead of the changes, the core of what we as an industry represent doesn’t change. We help others in need, from finding the right neighborhood to buying and selling a home. Raising contributions for and awareness of charitable causes goes hand-in-hand with that mission. I recommend finding a nonprofit whose overall cause resonates with your team – whether that is health, education, poverty — because belief in the cause is the first step to creating true and lasting devotion to it.


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