Cause Marketing Master Class from the CRE Companies Who are Getting it Right

Cause Marketing: “A relationship that bridges commerce and cause in ways that benefit both parties.”

According to a Social Impact Study by Cone Communications, 89% of consumers say they are very likely to switch from one brand to another that is associated with a good cause. And when price and quality are almost the same, nearly the entire population would opt for the brand associated with a cause. With that said: If you were lined up next to a similar Class and priced office building down the street, how would you stack up?

CRE organizations are just starting to really reap the benefits of Cause Marketing (supporting a non-profit or socially responsible cause where both parties cross-promote the relationship for mutual benefit). For a long time, it’s been all about sustainability and green initiatives. Which is great, but often not something that constituents can get actively involved in. The added benefit of many cause marketing initiatives is that they tangibly tie your building, team and tenants to the local communities in which they live and work.

Let’s start with the common misconceptions:

  1. “You can just write a check and be done with it.” The whole idea is to get people involved in the experience.
  2. “Cause Marketing (CM) is just for B-to-C companies.” CM is for any organization that wants to attract and retain customers. Yes, GAP did an amazing job with its Product (Red) campaign and entire brands like TOM’s and Warby Parker have popped up with a mission to donate 1-1 for every purchase. But many stand-out companies that don’t sell a “product” have developed Corporate Responsibility Programs.
  3. “You need a lot of resources to start a cause marketing program.” False. It’s pretty easy to find ways to use resources you already have available. See Below.

Establishing Your Program:

There are basically four simple components to any good Cause Marketing Program.

First, pick an organization that you believe in and that relates to your CRE business in some way. For example, maybe it’s an organization focused on providing housing for families in need (see the CBRE example below) or utilizes some of your vacant space for a good cause (See the Forest City example below).

Second, don’t make it all about the Benjamin’s. The best thing you can do is to get your team and tenants involved. It will foster stronger relationships within your building, community and the organization that you are supporting.

Third, create a plan for joint promotion. Does the organization you’re supporting have a blog, newsletter, or press release they can mention you in?

And finally, define a few ways you can market the partnership to your community. Maybe you need to educate people on the cause you are supporting. Or maybe you can publish an annual Corporate Responsibility Report. But do create at least one campaign to get the word out.


Some Examples from CRE

Cushman and WakefieldMake Room for Corporate Responsibility on your Website

Cushman and Wakefield established its own registered charity, Schools Around the World (SATW), which partners with schools wherever C&W operates and aims to help young people who are limited by their domestic, social or financial circumstances. They prominently communicate their social and community objectives on the “About Us” section of their website. Not every organization has the same resources as C&W at their disposal, but if you do already have a website, it will cost you virtually nothing to add a section on Corporate Responsibility (of course, that would require you to define your program first!).

“We are committed to the communities in which we live and work. We understand the impacts we create on the local community in the everyday running of our business.“

Commercial Real Estate Property Managers Give Back To Local Community

CBREGet Social

CBRE is focused on improving housing opportunities for those in need (their signature program is Birthday Cakes and More for Homeless Children) and donated $8M in employee and CBRE charitable contributions in 2013. CBRE Cares is the company’s corporate giving and volunteerism arm in the U.S.

What sets CBRE’s program apart is a modern and social communication style. While they do publish an annual Corporate Social Responsibility Report, they also create an Infographic Version for easy consumption (because, let’s be honest, not many tenants are actually going to read the full report).  They also have a separate and active Twitter Account for CBRE Cares: @CBRECares

Corporate Social Responsibility and CRE


CBRE Corporate Social Responsibility

Forest CityUse What You’ve Got!

Sometimes it’s as simple as creating a program around what you already have available- office space! Forest City provided Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.) with office space for its “My Summer Job” youth employment program.  Y.O.U. provided summer job opportunities for 3,189 youth across Cuyahoga County at 559 worksite locations ranging from community organizations, urban farms, churches, and schools to retail businesses and health care facilities. 172 youth were hired to work beyond the Summer Jobs Program.

CRE and Philanthropy

RMZ Corp: Directly Support the Quality of Life of Your Local Community

RMZ Corp identified parks in conjuction with local authorities where they could install high-quality outdoor fitness equipment from donated from the Menda Foundation. Equipment such as Upper and Lower Limb Equipment, Duel Walking Equipment, Waist Stretching Equipment, Leg and Arm Exercise Equipment were all installed at the park.

Building Engines CRE Property Management Platform

Two Great CRE-Specific Organizations to Consider joining in 2015

Investing in Communities (IIC)

Investing In Communities is a truly unique social enterprise that basically enables individuals and businesses to fund non-profits for free through brokered real estate transactions. You can search the IIC database and find registered brokers who have pledged to commit a percentage of their commission to the non-profit of your choice! You can also invite your preferred RE professional to join.

Building Impact        

Building Impact was co-founded by long-time Building Engines client Kevin McCall of Paradigm Properties, making giving back convenient by bringing volunteer events and donation drives to participants in office and apartment buildings to help them become more civically engaged.  Building Impact makes it easy to strengthen relationships with tenants while building a sense of community in your property, all without extra work for the property manager.  You pick what you would like to get involved in and Building Impact will connect you with the organizations in need and bring it right to your door!

How We Give Back

At Building Engines, we are so grateful for the growth we have been experiencing and are always looking for ways to stay connected to the local community and give back where we can.  We just completed our first year with Building Impact, which included a Corporate Day of Service with the Boston Parks & Recreation Department and at the Pine Street Inn Homeless Shelter. Going back to what I mentioned above about “using what you’ve got,” starting in 2015 we will be gifting our Property Management Software to Pine Street Inn for use in their transitional shelters and affordable housing.

Wherever you are at in your Cause Marketing Program, make 2015 the year you push yourself a little further. Set some goals – and start small if you need to. Just DO something. The payoff is big – ties to the community, a sense of loyalty from tenants and staff, and the positive influence you get from being a brand that cares.

Maybe 2015 can be the year you add your name next to The Real Estate Organizations below as one of the World’s Most Ethical Brands!

Building Engines CRE Property Management Platform