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RISMEDIA, October 25, 2010—It’s hard to focus on anything but the business of listing and selling real estate, particularly in the midst of one of the deepest real estate downturns most of us have seen in our careers. NAR’s existing-homes sales report for July 2010 confirmed there’s a long road ahead toward a more stabilized housing market and economy. The 27% decline from June wasn’t entirely unexpected, yet we were definitely hoping for better.

But there’s another key report that many of us don’t follow as closely, and it shows an equally troubling trend in this down market. The Giving USA 2010 Annual Report on Philanthropy puts charitable giving in 2009 at $304 billion, down 3.6% from $315 billion in 2008. The $11 billion shortfall is no small difference to the countless nonprofit groups that depend on donations to continue serving the underserved.

As real estate professionals, our success depends on the well-being and health of our communities and the people we help. While it might seem that charitable donations are an easy trim from your budget in these tough times, don’t do it. You really can’t afford to stop giving.

According to the Cone 2010 Shared Responsibility Study, 81% of consumers surveyed are interested in a business’s social and environmental efforts, including donations and outreach to nonprofit organizations. Corporate responsibility and goodwill don’t go unnoticed.

You want consumers to think of you when they think of citizenship, just as much as good service, expertise and other marketable traits. And charitable giving doesn’t always mean writing a check; your time can be just as valuable. Simply lending your reputable name to a cause can also generate more support for that group and bolster your own profile.

In nearly 20 years of supporting cause-marketing partnerships, I’ve learned that there’s no gesture too small to make a difference when it’s done with sincerity. And being a good business citizen, whether you’re a small-business owner or you lead a corporation, means giving in good times and bad. You just might inspire others to give back, too.

Margaret Kelly, CRB, is chief executive officer of RE/MAX LLC.

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