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Ways housing professionals can give back during coronavirus outbreak

In my last article about crisis leadership, I quoted Albert Einstein’s classic line, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” That quote continued to ring through my mind this week, as I thought about how many ways people are coming together to support one another on a local and global level during this pandemic. 

Kristin Messerli,
Columnist

At the beginning of the month when many loan officers post on social media about how many loans they closed, I read posts instead about how they were stepping up their community support. Rather than seeing typical sales messages from leaders on LinkedIn, I read humble and inspirational posts about coming together as an industry. 

Even China has begun sending resources to the United States to support our fight in the pandemic. In times like these, we realize our interconnectedness. We live in a global economy whether we like to believe it or not, and lenders especially go hand-in-hand with the wellbeing of their communities. 

How giving back drives business growth

In addition to charitable giving, some strategic impact marketing can pay dividends back to the company. While the purposes of this article are to highlight a more philanthropic approach, I want to recognize the opportunity businesses have to connect with their consumers through social impact branding. 

Millennials, in particular, tend to be more socially conscious consumers, in which they express loyalty to businesses that align with their values. According to a study by Cone Communications, “more than 9-in-10 Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause.” This generation of consumers votes with their wallets and digital voices through brand loyalty, customer reviews, and social media posts. 

For example, today I saw a colleague post on Instagram about a fashion company, Gravitas, that created and donated hundreds of masks for hospitals in New York City and are currently selling them with a buy one, give one model. I shared her post and encouraged my network to buy from them because I want companies like this to exist in the world. During a time of high stress, all consumers will remember the businesses and leaders who demonstrated leadership in their communities. 

Ways we can give back

When I started asking my network for examples of community outreach during COVID-19, I was overwhelmed with the response. Here are a few examples shared by leaders in the housing industry who are paying it forward. 

1. Prepay for professional services

Consider paying in advance for professional services that you would otherwise be paying for during this time. Examples I have heard from the industry include: 

  • Haircuts
  • Personal trainers
  • Housekeeping
  • Lawn care
  • Golf pros (or paying the golf pros instead of the country club dues) 

2. Support local pet shelters

Local pet shelters have reduced staff or shut their doors entirely, and they have had to cancel ongoing fundraising efforts. Consider fostering a pet or donating to a local shelter. They have some programs available to support people who cannot afford to continue feeding their pets as well. Here is a website to find an animal shelter in your area. 

3. Support local restaurants and delivery professionals

When your only option is to eat at home, it can be tempting to always cook. However, if you want to see your favorite restaurant on the other side and support your local economy, consider regularly ordering in. 

  • Order your favorite takeout using a meal delivery app such as Postmates, UberEats, or DoorDash. Many of them are waiving their delivery fees and offer contactless delivery. 
  • If you don’t want to order takeout, consider purchasing a gift card to enjoy when social distancing has been lifted. 
  • Leave a big tip! 
  • Donate from a local restaurant. One loan officer, who said he works with a lot of doctors, stated he was bringing pizza from a local pizzeria by different Emergency Rooms each week for their nursing staff. Another loan officer and real estate agent donated 300 meals from a local restaurant in a drive-thru event

4. Identify needs in your community and rally support

This suggestion was inspired by hearing about a collaborative effort to support local businesses and furloughed community members, led by James Duncan of Thrive Mortgage. James started a Facebook Group (Central Texas Business Alliance) for the purpose of bringing together locally-owned businesses to find resources if they needed support or find new hires for those whose demand has increased.

James said that when he didn’t see a resource like this available, he thought he would start his own. “My hope is that it becomes a place where people can share encouraging stories and celebrate our successes as neighbors.”  

5. Support the homeless 

One woman noticed the homeless community “seemed a little more overlooked than usual,” so she made sandwiches for her and her husband to hand out on their walk to work. She emphasized how careful they were to follow social distancing procedures in doing so. 

Another way to support your local homeless community is by donating or volunteering with homeless shelters or organizations that are actively meeting their needs. 

6. Help flatten the curve (but not the spirit!) 

One of the most important ways you can give back to your community is by helping to stop the spread of the virus with social distancing. However, “stay at home” measures don’t have to prevent you from socializing. 

Ginger Bell has released several podcasts with the hashtag #flattenthecurvenotthespirit talking about ways to maintain positivity. While we stay at home, remember to reach out to those you know may be extra isolated or feeling low. Organize Zoom happy hours, FaceTime loved ones or colleagues, and be careful about how much negative news you share in your networks. 

Giving back (even if it’s just a phone call) can have a huge impact on your own spirit during these times. If you haven’t watched it yet, check out the viral video series by John Krasinksi, in which he shares “Some Good News,” and enjoy the inspiration! 

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