Corporate social responsibility: Are you authentic?

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Businesses around the globe have turned the spotlight on their philanthropic efforts, and with good reason. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has a direct correlation to consumer and employee satisfaction. According to a 2013 study by Cone Communications, 90 per cent of consumers are more likely to trust and show loyalty to businesses who support causes. Likewise, 71 per cent of respondents stated they would take a 15% pay cut to work for a company committed to CSR, according to a 2014 study by Net Impact among graduate students.

While those statistics can account for the value and wide-spread adoption of CSR, there’s an emerging story that entrepreneurs are seizing upon. When we demonstrate good will through individual actions, those efforts serve as powerful networking and marketing tools. The magic happens when real people take real actions, through community initiatives that show authenticity to the cause. In this way, the efforts go beyond communicating the good things we do, by way of the actions we take.

Rebecca Permack, a real estate agent from Coquitlam, BC runs an annual Easter egg hunt that draws hundreds of families each year while raising substantial funds for a local women’s shelter. The event says a lot about Rebecca’s authenticity. It communicates that she cares about families, she is active in her community, and the safety of women and children are important to her. Every year through her Easter egg hunt, Rebecca meets new people, establishes valuable alliances through sponsors of the event, and has acquired new listings – even months after the event – as a result of her community outreach efforts.

Toronto real estate agent Patrice Gale takes another approach within her area. Patrice has run the annual Bedford/Wanless Community Garage Sale for Shelter for the past seven years. She devotes a significant percentage of her annual marketing budget to the event. She prints and distributes flyers throughout the neighbourhood encouraging residents to hold a garage sale on a chosen date in May. Patrice matches all donations received from the community, 100 per cent of which goes to a local women’s shelter. Like Rebecca, this event says a lot about Patrice. She makes important connections through the event, has established herself within the community, and earned listings.

Other REALTORS® have embarked on physical challenges to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes, building rapport with stakeholders and sponsors along the way. Running marathons, climbing Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain multiple times in a day, long-distance paddling, or hiking for eight days to the lost city of Machu Picchu in Peru are fine examples of how agents have chosen to meet a personal challenge to better themselves and contribute to an important cause at the same time. Others donate a portion of their sales commissions to a charity close to their heart, allowing them to promote their generosity on sign riders, in listing presentations, online and in conversations with people they meet.

To take a page from Scott Stratten’s book UnSelling, what matters in branding is what you do. Your brand isn’t what you say it is; it’s what your customers experience and tell others. Being authentic, committed to a cause, and visible with your good works is paying dividends for many entrepreneurial real estate agents.

The challenge for salespeople in every sector is to meet new people and establish a personal brand as a way of standing out from the fray. Choosing a cause close to your heart, and committing to actions that demonstrate how much you care, is a great place to start.

This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of REM magazine.

Shanan Spencer-Brown head shot (1)Shanan Spencer-Brown is the executive director of the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, which since its establishment in 1998, has raised more than $20 million in support of women’s shelters and violence prevention programs. Royal LePage was recently named 2015 “Outstanding Corporate Citizen” by the Canadian Franchise Association.

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