Blake Andrews, the founder of Giveback Homes, a venture that brings philanthropy to the real estate industry. Image credit: Giveback Homes
Creativity has rebooted business. Discover how through this ongoing series featuring unique products, services and technologies, as well as the personalities who have turned their dreams into our realities.
Image credit: Giveback Homes
Can Giveback Homes help on the reputational front? It couldn’t hurt. In one recent survey, Choice Home Warranty found that more than 67 percent of Americans said they didn’t trust real estate agents. In the land down under, Aussies rank real estate agents 28 out of 30 when it comes to the most ethical and honest professionals—ahead of just ad men and car salesmen, according to Roy Morgan Research.
Meanwhile, Giveback is working to stand out itself. Some agents have already printed off between 800 and 2,000 door hangers to advertise their affiliation with the social enterprise, which has led those agents to a handful of clients.
Some high-profile clients have also helped boost contributions and visibility for the startup. Richard Jefferson, an NBA player for the Utah Jazz, had long worked out with Giveback Homes’ first member, Nick Schneider, and heard about the agent’s multiple contributions toward building homes in Nicaragua. When Jefferson sold his San Diego home two years ago and recently moved to L.A. he used Schneider.
“Everyone in the southern part of L.A. is some sort of real estate agent,” says Jefferson. “I knew Nick and multiple other agents in the area [and] I thought there has to be a way to help other people versus being in a bubble of how much can we flip a house for or buy it for.”
All told, Schneider, 35, says he’s donated close to $20,000 toward the construction of six homes, including $5,000 from a 2.5 percent commission cut from the purchase of Jefferson’s multi-million dollar home. Although contributions like these are small relative to home prices, “when it comes to giving back, every dollar counts,” says Rumeet Billan, a colleague of mine at Humber College in Toronto who introduced and taught a course on social entrepreneurship. “To be a social enterprise, there is typically a percentage that goes towards the social cause… but this is different,” she adds. “People want to work with organizations that are giving back.”
Even so, some consumers may be skeptical of social businesses that do not require a minimum level of contributions. In these cases, execs like Andrews can take other steps to help consumers “determine the difference between good marketing and a good company,” says Trish Nixon, a senior associate at the MaRS Center for Impact Investing in Toronto. “Diligent reporting on impact metrics can help ventures mitigate risks around perception and transparency.”
While Giveback Homes has yet to break even—“we’re far from it,” admits Andrews—it isn’t looking to ramp up its membership to just anyone in the homebuilding community. The company has 100 members currently and plans to keep rosters limited, accepting only 20,000 members in the U.S to avoid diluting membership. “I’d rather have less membership, because they’re willing to give more, instead of 2 million members and only 10,000 or 20,000 are really giving back.”
(Neil Parmar, entrepreneur.com)