Two oversized bulletin boards hang in the office of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Corridor, each covered in letters, cards, photographs and certificates.
In the middle of one is a quote paraphrased from Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.”
“It’s our why,” broker/owner Alissa Gardner said. “It’s why we do what we do.”
Gardner isn’t talking about helping people buy or sell property but what happens after a transaction is finished.
Gardner is the creator of Commission of Hope, a giveback program in which she and her agents in her Center Point office donate a percentage of their commissions to a nonprofit or charity of their client’s choice. The agents aren’t required to participate and those who choose to do so determine how much they want to give, but Gardner has yet to experience pushback from anyone.
“You attract what you are,” Gardner said. “When you are generous, you attract generous people to work for you.”
It has a ripple effect Gardner has experienced on a personal and professional level.
Gardner grew up participating in youth philanthropy groups, like 4-H and FFA, so she’s no stranger to helping others, but her acts of generosity took a personal turn in 2011.
“I was going through a divorce, and it was a rough time,” she recalled.
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Determined to come out on the other side the best version of herself, Gardner sponsored a child in Uganda, focusing on the positive impact she could have. During this time, she also applied for her first passport, though she had no plans to go anywhere. That changed when she had her passport in her hands.
“I went to Uganda,” Gardner said.
She met her sponsor child, Lazaro, and his mother for the first time in January 2013. She returned for her second visit in 2015 and her third in 2018. She and her husband, Chad, and their five children, still sponsor Lazaro, who is now 14. She also now sponsors a 17-year-old girl, Rebecca.
Commission of Hope combines Gardner’s strong feelings about generosity with her need to do the best she can for her clients.
“What could easily be a surface transaction goes deeper,” Gardner said. “Suddenly, we have this conversation about where they’d like their donation to go.”
Some clients choose to make their donation to causes they have a personal connection to, such as the ALS Association, Operation Smile or Beat Cancer Today. Others have told her to make the donation to a cause she supports. But that’s not the point of Commission of Hope.
“Not everyone cares about what I care about,” she said. “I see Commission of Hope as an opportunity for people to support organizations they might not even know they can help. If I have a client who is unsure, I’ll ask them to tell me what their passion is and help them pick a nonprofit that matches it. They might not have an organization (in mind), but they have something near and dear to their heart.”
From churches and schools to local chapters of national organizations to international outreach, the donations have spanned the globe, opening people’s hearts. It isn’t often someone who’s just bought a house has the finances to make such an impact. Gardner relishes the opportunity to make one of their first memories of their new home a positive one.
“Unfortunately, generosity in the business world is rare,” Gardner said.
She’s more than happy to buck the norm. And if one act of generosity inspires another, then another and another, then all the better. After all, there are plenty of people who want to spread generosity but don’t know where to start. They may have the time but not the money, or maybe they have some money, but no idea what to do with it.
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“It’s really important to have the conversations and actions that inspire people,” Gardner said. “We just need good stories. We need to tell them, we need to share them.”
HER QUOTES about generosity
“That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.” — Simone de Beauvoir
“The more you give to others, the more you get in return.” — Dave Thomas
“Your greatness is not what you have, it’s what you give.” — Anonymous
“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” — Khalil Gibran
HER BOOK SUGGESTIONS on generosity
“The Power of Giving: How Giving Back Enriches Us All” by Azim Jamal and Harvey McKinnon
“Giving It All Away … and Getting It Back Again: The Way of Living Generously” by David Green and Bill High
“Everyday Generosity: Becoming a Generous Family in a Selfie World” by Drew Formsma and Brad Formsma
“Your Next 24 Hours: One Day of Kindness Can Change Everything” by Hal Donaldson and Kirk Noonan