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The Value of Volunteering 06/2011

There is something compelling about an individual who chooses to make a statement by civic action- by sharing the most valuable commodity of all - their time.  

While volunteering is ultimately about giving back, it also presents a rare opportunity to visibly translate words into action. Building social capital in client-centric business lends context to integrity in a way that no marketing plan can.

With CREA reporting last year that over 65% of Realtors indicated that they participated as a volunteer in some capacity, clearly members of this profession are throwing down roots in their community- and are giving back.

 Here at Canadian 1st Realty, we use our social capital by sharing our volunteering experiences on Facebook to inspire and stay in the forefront. This makes for valuable content in general. Our team of administrators manages these contents for our realtors.

An expression used in our real estate office in Maple Ridge is actually a quote by Winston Churchill, who said, “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.“

Live Where you Work, Work Where you Live

Sukh Sidhu, President of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, with over 28 years  experience as a Realtor- as well as  many years of  volunteer service as a member on various industry related boards- and as a prominent member of the Indo-Canadian community, is well aware of the mesh between volunteering, visibility and client-centric business. 

“Realtors care about bettering their community. They live where they work, and work where they live... It is about setting the stage for future business. Real Estate is people business, built on trust. Buyers and sellers trust you to help with the biggest purchase of their lives. In my experience, volunteer work builds that trust. People already know you, they trust you. They call who they already trust.”

There is no denying the far reaching impact of volunteering- both in acts of corporate citizenship, and in smaller, private acts, underscoring that making a difference is not about size or scale, but about commitment and directed action.  Volunteer Canada lists in their mission statement, “Every action counts and  people should be able to contribute in ways that work for them... voluntary organizations play a fundamental role in community health and vitality and are essential agents in building social capital.”

Volunteering Works

In theU.S., the National Realtors Association has recently awarded the third annual Volunteering Works awards. These awards identify Realtors who have made an impact in their individual communities in truly grass roots style. 

True to the entrepreneurial spirit of Real Estate, these Realtors have assessed the communities in which they reside and/or work, and have identified need- and have taken it upon themselves to create solutions to the problems. This underscores another point- impact and social change does not necessarily have to reside in large-scale efforts.  Big or small, it is about passion and action combining to make a difference.

For example, this year’s award recipients made their contributions relevant to social requirement. Causes included assisting parents with care giving for children with special needs, issues of abuse for women and their families, childhood literacy, substance abuse, support for divorced fathers to foster and maintain relationships with their children and providing real-life support in the way of repairs and home maintenance to allow seniors to stay in their own homes.

"Realtors play a significant role in building communities," says National Association of Realtors President Ron Phipps, broker-president "Volunteering Works highlights NAR members who are volunteering their time to answer a need in their community. We're proud to help them grow their efforts so they can serve even more people.”

While awards may seem contrarian to the concept of altruism, they help legitimize good works- as well as encouraging others to get involved. These awards seem less about identifying people and organizations, and more about getting the word out that people are making differences in their own communities- and is also about creating momentum in the volunteer movement.

Benefits: Personal and Otherwise

While volunteering your time is meant to benefit the organization that you are supporting, there are definite benefits to be reaped individually, and as part of a team. 

Shanan Spencer-Brown, Executive Director of the a Shelter Foundation, says that the positive results from volunteering are numerous: “There are a range of benefits.  There is an opportunity to meet with diverse people, connect with the community, and build skills and career experience. People often welcome this break from routine- and see volunteering as a fun and creative experience- it is emotionally and intellectually rewarding.  There is the chance to pursue new interests and/or hobbies...of course, the best reward is that it feels good to help others.”

In terms of team building, there is much to be reaped from the experience of volunteering as a group. Camaraderie, working towards a common goal- in this case helping others, can be both immensely appealing, and productive- particularly in industries where business for self is the operational situation.

A Shelter Foundation’s recent “National Garage Sale for Shelter” that raised over $400,000 in support  of  women’s shelters and  ending violence against women and children, exemplified the concept of Realtors throwing down roots- and throwing their collective backs into a cause- with real, measurable results.

Says Spencer- Brown:  “In terms of team building and volunteering, coming together for a cause that resonates with your entire office is a great way to forge strong relationships with your colleagues, and to learn from one another. Volunteering as a team also gives you greater capacity to help -- more people coming together to volunteer in support of a cause means greater potential to effect meaningful change; in addition, it means greater potential to raise awareness for the cause which can lead to an even greater number of volunteers.”

There is no question too, that volunteering represents an excellent opportunity for networking. You have a chance to meet and connect with large groups of people in a different context.  And in a “people business “, face time is great time.


One of the challenges facing Mortgage and Real Estate Professionals is translating concepts like commitment, hard work, trust and accountability into real life situations to enhance brand.  If your marketing plan is the theory behind your branding, volunteering provides a unique opportunity to visibly demonstrate these qualities. 

Says Spencer- Brown: “Volunteering demonstrates commitment to giving back. It is about demonstrating that you are connected to the community.”

While you should devote your time to a cause that matters to you personally, there are definite benefits to participating in an established event, because these events often receive more media coverage- which can assist further in the expression of brand.

Spencer-Brown agrees: “Of course, there are additional benefits to being connected to a large, established event (like the Garage Sale for Shelter) because of extensive media coverage. There are benefits for offices too for branding, in aligning with a high profile event.”

Play it Cool

Never, ever, confuse a volunteer event with the boardroom.  Being a volunteer is first and foremost about caring and connecting with the community. If, in the process of donating your time, you happen to cross paths with potential business- then great. If not, this is one of those times that asking for business may have the opposite effect.

Also, this underscores the point, that to be true to the spirit of volunteerism, motivations must be altruistic. Generating business is a pleasant by-product.

 Sidhu comments: “Don’t promote business/listings (when volunteering). Do your work. When people need you, they will find you. Don’t push your agenda. Realtors are professional, and as part of the process, business will come in.”

Pick a Cause that Fits

While it often makes sense to align yourself with a cause that is employer-backed, it is often most productive to choose a cause that matters to you as an individual- although it is worth pointing out that the two are not mutually exclusive either.

What personal involvement in a cause does essentially is raise the level of personal investment, says Spencer- Brown: “The experience will be more rewarding and more meaningful if you have personal experience. You are better equipped, and are better able to speak to the cause- and you likely will show more empathy. Also, you are more likely to be more committed to the outcome, and will likely derive more personal satisfaction.”

In fact, the potential impact of choosing a cause that fits is so important, Volunteer Canada has now released a digital tool to help prospective volunteers understand and verbalize their volunteer needs.

“Creating an opportunity to address a disconnect between what Canadians look for in volunteer experiences and what organizations offer, ” Volunteer Canada has created the Volunteer Quiz ( VQ, ) which allows prospective volunteers to be classified under one of six personality types : Rookie, Roving Consultant, Type ‘A’, Groupie, Juggler, and Cameo.

The intent here is to match volunteers with organizations and types of volunteer work that they are likely to stick with in the long term, trying to move episodic volunteerism into an ongoing commitment.

“All Canadians have a role to play along a broad spectrum of engagement – everything from quick bursts of volunteering on mobile handsets to front-line volunteer aid in war-torn regions of the world,” said Ruth MacKenzie, President and CEO of Volunteer Canada. “The VQ can help boost volunteer engagement, but it’s essential to maintain a balance between episodic and long-term volunteering.”

To give an example of these volunteer personality types, the Groupie- much as it sounds, enjoys the group aspect of volunteering with a team, and the bonding and camaraderie that ensues from that experience.  The VQ then recommends for this personality type to seek out opportunities with large organizations with short-term or one-day volunteer activities. The Roving Consultant, meanwhile, seeks work on specific short-term projects with real need for a specialized skill set.

As they say, charity begins at home- but for Real Estate and Mortgage professionals, that adage should be extended to include the entire community in which they work and live, because of the myriad of personal and professional benefits in supporting the community by being a volunteer. 

And as Winston Churchill said, “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give. “

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