CMP had the easy job: Tally mortgage industry contributions to charity in 2011. But, as Vernon Clement Jones found out, the really tough work fell to brokers
If Chris Dopp had let business dictate this year’s charitable giving, the broker might be handing out frozen chickens instead of hundreds of big, fat 10-pound turkeys, with all the Christmas trimmings. As it is now, he’s upping last year’s largess in consideration of those challenging times – not only for mortgage brokers but the communities they serve.
“In terms of business, I’m having a worse year than I did last,” says the principal broker for The Mortgage Centre – Elite Mortgage Group in Collingwood, Ont. “As a result, I’m increasing the number of turkeys I give away this Christmas to 250 turkeys instead of the 225from last year. I mean if I’m having a tougher year, what about those who need the help?”
It’s a question mortgage professionals from one end of this country to the next have asked themselves this year. Their collective answer, according to CMP’s own calculations, was just under $1 million in cash and in-kind contributions to more than 40 different charities.
Getting that money into deserving hands was in many ways the biggest challenge – from hosting community fundraisers to barrelling across country on motorbikes to climbing Africa’s highest peak. Make no mistake: those journeys were also a big part of the fun.
“On the bucket list of most Canadians is to drive straight across country and see every nook and cranny of it,” Michael Beckette, president and CEO of Mortgage Alliance tells CMP. “To be able to do that with this year’s MAC Rally of Hope and raise $110,000 for the breast cancer cause is just phenomenal.”
Beckette’s team of industry professionals, and more than 150 bikers from across the country, rode their way to that record-setting figure this summer, criss-crossing 7,500 km of highway and six time zones. Between July 17 and 29, they’d pass by hundreds of communities, stopping only to pick up riders and rev up their resolve at community events, which poured their proceeds into the same kettle of cash bound for The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
The Rally’s efforts in 2010 translated into the third highest fundraising event for the foundation in 2010, when the final 2011 contributions are tallied, should place it in this year’s second spot.
Praise from the recipient of that giving – like the many other non-profits receiving broker channel help – has been just as tremendous.
“We are so proud of the MAC Rally of Hope riders’ dedication to the breast cancer cause and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation,” says Diane Gordon, VP of national development for the organization’s central office. “This vital support will allow the foundation to continue funding research, education and awareness programs in support of our vision of creating a future without breast cancer.”
This year, brokers increasingly found themselves going and doing the extraordinary in an effort to give back to their communities, even as many of them struggled to maintain revenue streams during a year marked by unprecedented levels of competition and an all-but stagnant share of the overall mortgage market.
The result has been to plant the broker channel’s flag as an industry focused not only on building relationships with clients, but also with those who may never walk in looking for a mortgage.
In October, Vancouver’s Jacqueline Baker climbed her way to her own personal fundraising goal as part of an expedition to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, Africa.
“I climbed for children who are sick,” says Baker, a broker with Dominion Lending Centres Total Mortgage & Leasing. She would ascend the range’s tallest peak – all 19,341 feet of it – stretching out her arms in triumph on the last day of the climb.
All 100 per cent of the funds raised have been earmarked for cancer research, patient care, education and advocacy for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Summits of Hope Endowment fund.
Other members of Canada’s broker channel put Africa in their sights as they ramped up giving in 2011.
“It’s really amazing what you can do there,” Kelly Price, of Mortgage Protection Plan, tells CMP. “I think the year’s budget for the school Benesure sponsors is about $50,000.The real trick is not so much in providing the money, but in providing the right infrastructure and teachers and lots of ongoing monitoring.”
It’s something MPP parent Bensure has focused on, helping gifted students at Eta College in Cameroon prep for the postsecondary education that will allow them to give so much back to their communities. Those dividends are already pouring in, says Price.
Closer to home, broker and CAAMP board director Scott Ede rode alongside Beckette in that rally ride ‘cross country.
As it is for so many brokers, his charitable energies were directed at cancer – a common threat binding too many Canadian families.
“Being a 13-year survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I have spent most of my waking hours giving back to the ‘cancers’ in some form,” he tells CMP, pointing to the kind of volunteer work brokers spent more than 50,000 hours at this year, alone.
Brokerages and broker networks have been just as eager to get out in the community, in the process elevating public awareness of an industry still struggling to explain itself to many consumers.
“RMA has been supporting Fit Active Beautiful Foundation for the past two years,” says CEO Ron De Silva. In addition to being the lead sponsor of its FAB 5K Challenge – an event focused on helping girls in Grades 6, 7 and 8 train for and complete in five-kilometre runs – the brokerage’s staff and mortgage professionals raise money through several events and volunteer on the non-profit’s committees.
It’s the same kind of commitment brokers across the country have shown this year, backing lender charitable campaigns like MCAP’s celebrated Key to Hope.
Through that program, the monoline has seen brokers and their clients channel their collective support for Habitat for Humanity. The organization, of course, aims to help get families into safe and affordable homes that they then own. More specifically, MCAP borrowers have added specified donation amounts to their mortgage payments. MCAP has then matched those funds, effectively doubling the impact. Brokers haven’t been left out of the loop.
“I participate in MCAP’s Key to Hope program for a minimum of $500 and whatever they get for Habitat when they took from our commission in June,” says
Laurie Furness, an agent with The Mortgage Centre RDM Financial. “I am sure (it’s) not that high, but every bit helps.”
According to MCAP’s senior vice-president John Thompson, the Key to
Hope and other programs will raise nearly $500,000 for Habitat for Humanity in 2011.
“People want to make a difference and if they know that they can add a dollar to their mortgage payment and MCAP will match that, then they realize that they can make a difference,” says
Thompson, who is also chair of Corporate Social Responsibility at MCAP.
MCAP also supports other charities that its employees are passionate about.
The company hands out five grants per quarter to charities their employees are involved with, as well as giving one paid day off a year to volunteer.
“We want to foster healthier, more educated, stronger, well-built communities,” says Thompson. “So, MCAP and our employees together with our brokers and our customers combine their efforts in order to really make a difference.”
Adding up contributions, both big and small is a challenge for an industry celebrating independence and with more than 15,000 individual brokers and agents plying their trade across the country.
Still, broker organizations are increasingly finding a common thread among mortgage professionals intent on sharing their success in very tangible ways.
“Together, we have raised $100,000 for various charities this year,” says The Mortgage Group’s Mark Kerzner, pointing to recent broker campaigns raising tens of thousands of dollars for disparate causes such as clinical trials for multiple sclerosis liberation therapy and an SPCA in Kelowna. “Corporate philanthropy efforts are very much engrained in our corporate culture because as a company and as individuals, we feel very fortunate to lead the lifestyles we do.”
On the micro level – where most of the channel’s charitable works get done –individual brokerages like DLC BTB in Niagara Falls are winning community praise for the time and energy its mortgage team puts into helping others pull up their boot straps
The challenge has been to strike a balance between building strong brokerages and even stronger communities.
As one of the owners of Verico Gibbard Hoffart Financial Group, Gabe Hoffart in North Vancouver has worked the frontlines for more than a handful of charities this year. As the main organizer of the fifth annual Broker Lender hockey tournament, he, along with industry veterans Mike Ashe, a Mortgage Centre VP, Gary Pabla, with D+H, and Kristina Morrison and Cindy Ricketts at First National, raised over $11,000 for Canuck Place Children’s Hospital. It’s just one of the many unsung contributions inspiring other brokers.
“I am quite sure if Gabe was digging ditches in Hope, B.C. he would be up to the same thing,” says business partner Karen Gibbard.
It’s exactly what colleagues and clients were saying about Dopp as he ramped up his annual spending spree for that Christmas dinner giveaway. He and a tray load of volunteers, many of them Realtors, will work at an assembly line for the 250 Collingwood families expected to pick up not only that 10-pounder, but a five-pound sack of spuds, a dozen dinner rolls, a couple of cans of vegetables, an apple pie and something to wash it all down with.
Like so much of the channel’s charity in 2011, it’s aimed not so much at building a book of business, but contributing to community.
“I’m helping people who are down on their luck,” Dopp tells CMP, “and that’s why I’m helping them. I’m not counting on them to come to me to arrange a mortgage.”