Investing In Communities® (IIC) grew from a business experiment we began in 1995, when MAP was nine years old. We wanted to stand out in a very crowded field. Our hypothesis was: Could we create more business opportunities by giving away money every time we made some?
The idea was to let each client pick the charity to which we would donate part of our commission (after we were paid the commission by their landlord). It seemed like a perfect way to combine our business lives with our personal interests. We thought of it as doing business doing good. And, we wanted more tenant-rep assignments!
We got to work on our experiment. Because we are in a licensed profession, every aspect of our business activity must comply with the Illinois License Act. So we sought assurance that our experiment would not blow up the laboratory (that being MAP). We contacted the Illinois Department of Banks and Real Estate, in Springfield, IL which, in those days, oversaw brokers, and described what we intended to do.
A staff attorney there stated, “A licensee may give any part of its commission to the client from whose transaction the commission was earned. But, a licensee may not give anything of value to their client’s favorite charity.” We realized that we could remain in compliance with the Act by giving part of our commission to our client and asking them to give it to a charity of their choice. We decided to give 10% of our gross, not 10% of our profit.
The attorney also said there could be “no strings attached.” We could ask our clients to give our money to their charity, but we could not require it. We decided that when we entered into an exclusive agency agreement with a client, we would also give them a written pledge for 10% of our future commission and ask them to give it to a charity of their choice.
Now we finally knew how to move forward safely with regard to legal compliance. We were fortunate to be referred to Layton Olson, an attorney who for decades has specialized in legal matters for nonprofits. He suggested the name Investing In Communities for our adventure. We thought it was perfect!
Starting in 1995, we conducted our experiment with every client that was a charity (they have leases, too). We also made the IIC pledge with about 65 of our for-profit clients. But it wasn’t until after June 2010 that we began the practice of making every MAP transaction a deal that makes a difference. That’s when we launched the first website for Investing In Communities, which we had made into a completely separate nonprofit. By then, we had given $275,000 to charities serving a dizzying array of causes. Our journey had begun.
Next up: Investing In Communities® Takes Baby Steps