“If you’re in the luckiest 1 percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.” – Warren Buffett
Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Angelina Jolie. These modern-day activists promote human welfare and social reforms and help to save lives across the globe. We, as real estate investors, have the power to do the same. We can be humanitarians with our work.
What does it mean to be a real estate investor AND a humanitarian? At the macro level, most real estate investors provide one of the basic human needs — shelter. Rehabbers, like myself, invest in improving an individual house, a neighborhood, and ultimately a community. You might invest in single family or multifamily housing and provide clean, affordable housing for families. Perhaps you offer office space for people to work in. We run our businesses by providing a basic necessity for people. But is that enough?
Several years ago, the term “Social Capitalism” was introduced to describe businesses that see a problem and take a stand to build a solution that helps a greater cause. The company, in turn, becomes a source for good doing. My friends and colleagues, Josh and Lisa Lannon, are social entrepreneurs and real estate investors. Their motto is “We believe in triple-bottom-line philosophy: people, planet, and profit.” Many companies are adopting a similar philosophy and consumers are buying into it, literally.
Companies like Tom’s Shoes and Patagonia have built a business model that serves customers while simultaneously bettering a community and/or the environment. They developed a model in which they fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. This concept may be applied to a wide range of organizations, which vary in size, aims, and beliefs.
Even now, we have emerging hybrid corporate entities that blend features of nonprofit and for-profit corporations: Social Purpose Corporations and Special Benefit Corporations. This trend indicates a growing social consciousness for entrepreneurs to give back.
Now, let’s switch gears and talk about the micro level of humanitarianism in real estate because at its root, “humanitarian acts” improve the lives of individuals.
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates
It’s during major life events like the death of a loved one, divorce, or a life-threatening illness that we re-evaluate our lives and what’s important. For me, it was a car accident I was in 10 years ago. During my long healing process, I realized what mattered. Companies didn’t matter. Business didn’t matter. Money didn’t matter. What mattered was people. My family. My friends. My relationships. Those people in my life gave me hope, comfort, courage and inspiration to start over. This life-changing event put me on a different trajectory — to contribute to others in a meaningful way.
Anyone in real estate has heard the phrase “real estate is a team sport.” How does this apply to humanitarianism? I believe we aren’t paid for our time; we are paid for the value we create in others and for making a scalable impact in the world.
I started the Women’s Real Estate Network (WREN) to help other women succeed in real estate investing knowing that when women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. We influence each other. For example, I would not be a developer if I had not met a female developer at WREN who encouraged and mentored me. She opened my mind to possibilities I had never imagined. I will be completing my first fourplex in January 2020 and it’s been a crazy road, but there have been others who have helped, influenced, and guided me along the way.
The organization has several members that when they joined, lacked education and confidence to do what they dreamed of doing. Members of WREN feed that dream, arm them with education, and give them resources to get into action. We teach them the real estate principles they need to live by to be successful. Our team aims to lead by example with grace and integrity and to create ripples that ultimately inspire others, so a cycle of helping humanity develops. We are making money while improving the quality of life for many individuals and improving communities.
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar
Humanitarianism in real estate happens when investors lead their businesses with the mindset of not making money with every door they own, but rather by providing shelter for dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people who live behind the doors they own. Through our real estate investing businesses, we can also empower others to become socially conscious leaders, touching lives through every deal.