Realtors, would you give to charity in exchange for leads?

April 19, 2011

Leads for charity?

Recently launched Investing in Communities (IIC) , built from the ground up by real estate broker Michael Pink is a nonprofit platform that “connects socially conscious clients with socially responsible professionals” in what they call “market-driven philanthropy.”

Despite philanthropy becoming more a part of the American culture and less a part of high society or hippie life, nonprofits in the real estate space are sparse. Consumers are looking to buy energy efficient bulbs and cars, recycling, becoming more educated on toxins, volunteering is on the rise, and the internet has been a major catalyst in educating and connecting non profits with consumers and businesses.

IIC replaces lead-generation and referral fees with philanthropy. When Realtors receive a lead through IIC, you don’t pay a referral fee, you pay 10% of the commission to the nonprofit selected by your client.

Nonprofits like Chicago House (HIV services) promote IIC to their base and word spreads organically.

IIC charges Realtors $150 annually to “keep the lights on” because they’re a nonprofit and receive nothing from the commission. We assume this goes toward staff and marketing and it seems like a reasonable cost.

So the ultimate question:

In Austin, Laurie Loew of Give Realty has been giving 25% of every commission to charity for years and has openly encouraged others to follow suit. When in practice, Benn gave 10% of all commissions to charity and we know of select few who do the same, but most do not. Perhaps agents would be more inclined to give to charity if they didn’t have to work for the lead?

So the ultimate question is, would you give 10% of your commission to a charity in exchange for a lead? Tell us in comments your thoughts!

Visit the Investing in Communities website or their blog.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.


  1. I think this is a great idea, no matter where the client comes from. I donate a portion of my total annual sales to my favorite causes: adoption and the foster care system. I encourage all agents to do the same…it doesn't have to be much, but every little bit counts. I gather that more agents would do it if the leads were a given.

    • Rachel, I think most Realtors are naturally philanthropic, but for those that are not, the incentive of a lead could help!

  2. I love the idea and approached my local SPCA about contributing 10% of commissions generated off of "I saw your info at the SPCA or on the website" but their fears were how to track the lead source as to know which deals apply and don't. How would I get ICC to contact local non-profits because I see a huge opportunity here in Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads VA. Thanks!

    • IIC has been made aware of this article, hopefully they will contact you via your website or you could contact them via theirs. I love the idea!

    • Hi Andy,

      We're glad you see the opportunity for IIC to benefit you and your community! IIC is always looking for qualified NGOs to join our roster of outstanding Partners. You can refer NGOs you care about to IIC by visiting the "Refer an Nonprofit" page at

      You can also notify IIC of a prospective Partner in your community by emailing us at info at

      All IIC Members will soon have access to a Member Toolbox containing materials that can be shared with prospective clients, as well as NGOs that Members would like to see participate in IIC.

      Thanks Andy!

  3. Yes, Lani, I would. However, what if I'm uncomfortable with the charity my client picks? Certain political groups come to mind.

    • I totally understand, but it's almost like being a taxpayer and worrying where refunds are going- food? entertainment? political parties we don't agree with? If people want to give money, they're going to give. But YES, if someone wanted to give to Westboro, I'd be really disheartened if I were an agent.

    • The question sfvrealestate raises is a good one. IIC accommodates this concern by allowing Members to specify on their Member profile any preference for / exclusive commitment to a certain IIC NGO Partner or focus area.

      For example, if you wish to donate exclusively to Environmental organizations, or to exclusively support a specific IIC Partner focused on Cancer research, you may elect to do so. Placing this information on your profile page enables prospective clients know your preferences upfront.

      Hope that helps!

  4. My experience shows that REALTORS® do give back, socially or politically; they tend to volunteer to their cause quite generously.

    • Hi Chris! I agree that many agents already give and what I enjoy about the IIC concept (who I'm not affiliated with in any way) is that instead of paying standard lead gen companies, they seek to take those proceeds and give to charity. That is totally in line with the standard agent ethos, like you said.

  5. Absolutely! I do give to charities, however if I could cut the cold callers and businesses that currently sell leads to me and give that same money to charity then that is even better!

  6. Just checked it out- doesn't seem as though my $150 a year is going very far to market my services to prospective clients. Great idea in theory, but what are the chances that anyone is going to find this site???

    • I think the mission ends up being organic growth through the charities- so if American Cancer Society was a partner, ACS would have on their site/emailers, "use IIC agents for your next purchase and 10% of their commission comes to us" kind of deal.

      Now if that $150 went toward prequalifying leads, I think 100% of the agent population would jump on that bandwagon, don't you?

    • Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Lani more or less hit the nail on the head, but let me expand a bit further. IIC has 154 NGO Partners, with more joining daily. Many of them choose to notify their supporters of IIC through their website donation page, or "other ways to give," etc. Aids Foundation of Chicago is a good example:

      IIC also provides materials for Partners to share IIC with their corporate and individual supporters.

      Though IIC is growing daily, we're still a new kid on the block. That's why the "clock" on your IIC annual Membership doesn't start ticking until there is at least one IIC NGO Partner signed up in your region. If you join IIC a whole year before there is an IIC NGO Partner in your community, then your $150 is good for two years of Membership!

      Finally, IIC participates in strategic publicity initiatives with our Partners as appropriate – such as Coaches vs. Cancer's recent national convention.

      The beauty of IIC is the benefit it offers all participants – Members, NGOs, and clients. We think that enlightened self-interest will prove to be a very powerful source of exposure for IIC and its Members.

      To learn more, visit

      Thanks Ryan!

  7. I support numerous charities already, but I would absolutely contribute more this way. If this existed in Canada, I would be very interested in them contacting us.

    • Cliff, add your email to the comments if you'd like, they'll be checking back in (use format name at domain dot com if you'd like). Cheers!

      • Thanks Lani. I'll contact them with the info above in Andy's post.

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