The unexpected IIC adventure we have been on for the last 22 years has not been without its challenges. We learned numerous lessons along the way. Investing In Communities continues to help a wide variety of charities and people, but there are always pitfalls.
Lesson #1 – No Strings Attached
We are almost certain that two for-profit clients kept our charitable donation for themselves. That, of course, was unexpected and, well, sad. But it was only one aspect of IIC that we wanted to improve. Beginning in 2007, we made systemic improvements to address that issue, and instituted other measures to maximize the impact of our business experiment.
Lesson #2 – Competition & Why Real Estate Brokers Became Generous
When I pitched charity-prospects on using MAP for their upcoming leases, I included our IIC pledge. Here’s how it went, more than once…. The Executive Directors, with whom I met, were always blown away by the IIC part of my pitch. “Wow, that’s really great,” they would say. “I can’t wait to tell my board chair. Call me in a week or two, so we can get started!” When I called, I would learn that a board member had been skeptical, never having heard such a pledge from a broker. “I’m going to ask the broker that my company used what they think of this IIC.”
When our competitors learned what we had proposed they usually said, “Oh, we’ll do that too!” That insight was like a light going on in our heads. We began to think IIC might have a bright future—a much bigger one than just being part of MAP Real Estate!
In 2007, we formed a separate IL nonprofit corporation called Investing In Communities (IIC), which sat dormant until we launched its first website in June 2010. That’s when we stopped making distributions through MAP and began to make them through IIC, the nonprofit social enterprise. By then, we had made a number of improvements to the system and we’ve kept to make it better.
Since 2007, while IIC has been a nonprofit, it is the opposite of a charity. And, long before that, it stopped being just a way for us to create business opportunities. IIC became our passion. IIC gives us a sense of relief. Through this platform, we can finally do what we’ve always wanted to do—help others. As IIC scales, we hope the amount of good will exceed our wildest dreams.
Higher-ups in the industry, including those at the Chicago Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors, have told us that the IIC model could prove valid in other countries, more than 50 of them, where large US residential and commercial realty brands have a significant presence. That’s because in those countries the US market practices around commissions, referral fees, and strong competition have all become the norm.
We’ve now given over $500,000 of our own commissions to our clients’ chosen charities. IIC is our baby and we’ve personally paid to raise it. That’s only fair. Each year it changes and gets bigger and stronger. It’s been a wonderful and rewarding experience to watch it grow, helping others along the way.
Next up : Investing In Communities begins to Grow Up