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Are you looking to use your real estate career as a platform for your philanthropic vision? Perhaps your team is looking for a meaningful way to give back. This was exactly the idea behind a recent Better Homes and Gardens campaign to crowdfund an 80-home El Salvadorian community. By partnering with the non-profit New Story, BHGRE is working to bring the dream of homeownership to hundreds of people in Ahuachapán, El Salvador, through the development of a crowd-funded community.

“This relationship is special,” says Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate President and CEO Sherry Chris. “This is not a brand giving a check to create houses for people in need and calling it day. This alliance is fueled by our brand, our brokers, affiliated agents, clients and beyond.”

So how does it work? Utilizing tools provided by New Story, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate franchisees and affiliated agents are able to set up personalized fundraising pages to contribute to a single family home or a portion of the community, which they can share on social media or through other marketing channels. Parties can make a 100 percent tax-deductible donation toward the construction of a Ahuachapán family’s home. Once $6,000 is raised, construction will begin on the house with the family’s help.

Donors can see precisely where their funds are going and track the progress of their fundraising. This gives members of the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate network a way to be directly and personally involved in the development of the community, with their own friends, family and sphere of influence adding to the achievement of this important goal.

“The creation of this community in El Salvador will be at the hands of each and every person who participates in fundraising efforts,” says Chris. “We also aren’t simply building houses –we are building futures and empowering families to create better lives for themselves along with a sustainable community.”

Currently, Ahuachapán residents live in dilapidated tent structures, making living conditions dangerous, resulting in harmful impacts on individual health and well-being. With life’s basic needs unmet, families are living in survival mode, precluding children from attending school and parents from holding and maintaining jobs to empower their financial future. During the construction of the community, all labor and materials will be sourced from the area, effectively creating jobs and injecting capital into the local economy.

“Together, we are committed to changing the way individual people can make a global impact,” says Brett Hagler, CEO and co-founder of New Story. “We want to share human stories through a digital, social experience to change the trajectory of the lives of deserving people around the world. Together we are able to develop a sense of pride and accomplishment for many in need. We aren’t just providing houses, but rather security from environmental threats and a haven so people can strive for a better future.”

The great thing about utilizing a platform like New Story instead of traditional crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter is that 100 percent of donations raised will be directly applied to the construction of the homes in Ahuachapán. Unlike other crowdfunding platforms, which take a percentage of monies raised, New Story’s operational costs are funded separately by a group of private donors, called “The Builders.”

“As real estate professionals, we help people live their best lives in the homes and communities we serve, and now that commitment extends much further,” says Chris. “Whether someone donates $5 or an entire house, which is approximately $6,000, they know the exact family they have helped an even see a video of that family moving into the home they helped create. It’s a full circle process that we can all get behind.”

Paying It Forward
Another unique thing about New Story is that the philanthropy doesn’t end when a new resident moves into a home. Instead, New Story utilizes a “Pay-it-forward” method. Once a new home is built, each new homeowner will receive a title and deed to their home, along with a no-profit, no-interest mortgage, complete with a personalized payment plan to help the homeowner pay off the loan over time. This money will be reinvested into the community by funding additional homes and community infrastructure.

“Families in Ahuachapán are paying the cost of their home back each month in affordable monthly payments at 0 percent interest,” explains Hagler. “We call it ‘Paying it Forward’ because 100 percent of repaid funds go toward building more homes for El Salvadorian families living in poverty, exclusively funding the building of additional homes within the community. One home equals another home for a family in need. The reason the pay-it-forward model is so important is the home ownership and dignity a family gains from having their own home, the sense of pride of having something that is your own that can’t be taken away from you. It is the core reason why leaders in the real estate industry are our perfect partners.”

“When we launched the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate brand our first goal was to build a brand that speaks to the future of the industry,” says Chris. “Our network has done that by fostering collaboration and sharing to move the industry forward. We also wanted to build a brand that helped enrich the lives of the people and their families. I believe this alliance with New Story takes our commitment to those ideals to the next level. What will be achieved—now and in the future—as part of this relationship will be one of the great hallmarks of our brand.”

Launched as part of the Y-Combinator Summer 2015 class of start-ups, New Story was also honored as the 2016 Realogy FWD Innovation Summit winner in June for presenting the most innovative technology product or service designed for the real estate industry among the 15 emerging technology companies who were finalists.

“This BHGRE partnership will build an 80 home community for families living in life-threatening conditions, a sturdy and safe home will completely transform their life, but it doesn’t stop there,” says Hagler. “This community we’re building will be around for generations to come, will provide better access to education, healthcare, and income opportunities and will have a far-reaching impact on families, this community, to the point that it will start shaping society.”

“I can’t wait to see what our power can do for so many impoverished families in El Salvador,” says Chris. “We believe home is the foundation of a happy and healthy life, and we’re aiming to positively impact as many families as possible.”

For more information, visit www.bhgre.com/newstory.

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