Agents of Change

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Agents of Change Partners is a real-estate referral, social purpose business that directs two-thirds of their revenue to the non-profit organization of the homebuyers choice. It's a new business model they believe will become mainstream.

The Problem they’re trying to address?

A huge and dysfunctional financial stability and sustainability burden has been placed on the non-profit sector in Alberta (and across North America). The majority of organizations and initiatives within the sector are forced to spend excessive amounts of time raising money and reporting on piecemeal funding from grant-writing and campaigning - leaving less resources for delivering impact.  

Agents of Change wants to strengthen civil society by fostering financial independence, sustainability and resiliency within non-profit organizations.

The Innovation

While Agents of Change may be a real estate referral business at its core – it’s what they do with the referral revenue they receive after a successful match and transaction that’s where the innovation lies.

According to Tracey Wood, co-founder, here’s how it works for the everyday home buyer or seller:

  1. Agents of Change custom-matches home buyers and sellers according to each buyer’s unique needs .  This part is free and  ensures a match with a professional agent who has been interviewed and vetted with their specific requirements in mind.

  2. When the buyer or seller buys or sells a home, Agents of Change receives 30% of the commission earned by the agent in exchange for the privilege of the referral – a common industry fee agents are used to paying already.

  3. Instead of banking the entire amount, 2/3 of the referral fee received by Agents of Change (the equivalent of 20% of the commission earned by the agent) is directed to a non-profit chosen by the buyer or seller. The result is an average contribution of about $2,000 to a non-profit that is meaningful to the home buyer or seller, at no cost to them.

Hearing Tracey describe the way Agents of Change is attempting to shift the way we make our biggest life purchases and sales, and the way we fund non-profits at the same time, she gets the same question over and over again: why wouldn’t everyone buy or sell their house this way?  

According to Tracey - there’s even more to it. Agents of Change is attempting to address another capacity gap with Alberta’s non-profit sector by working directly with non-profit organizations to help them understand the power of a mobilized network. They coach non-profits to leverage their social capital and capture 20% of the commissions being generated by the real estate transactions of their various stakeholders, including staff, board, clients, donors, volunteers, etc.  These transactions are happening all around them, all the time - why not turn them into a new, sustainable revenue stream?

Finally, Agents of Change also creates shared value in the private sector by acting as the real estate referral agency when businesses buy/lease/sell property and relocate staff - again contributing 20% of the commission earned by the agent back to the company’s community investment initiatives, or any non-profit organization of their choice.

Barriers

One of the biggest barriers standing Agents of Change’s model faces - is the traditional, ‘stuck’ way people decide to donate and invest. Agents of Change is not a non-profit organization, but rather a social purpose, for-profit business.  Due to this legal designation, says Tracey, obtaining sufficient financing to further develop and scale their model has been extremely challenging. They find themselves in a frustrating ‘no-man’s’ land for financing:  on the one hand, funders used to giving grants/donations to non-profits are unwilling (and often unable due to their charter restrictions) to redirect those dollars to a for-profit enterprise, regardless of the potential for long-term impact in the non-profit world; and on the other hand, venture capitalists aren’t interested in investing in a business that can’t promise a sufficient (i.e. 20%) return and a relatively short-term exit strategy.  It has been a challenge to find funders interested in a blended return.

While Agents of Change was grateful to receive $112,500 in debt financing from an enlightened venture philanthropist to fund its initial development, difficulty obtaining additional funding has since led to some major capacity issues.  Agents of Change’s services are in high demand, but they need more staff (they currently have two unpaid staff - the co founders Tracey and Duane Wood) and funding to increase their social media and marketing presence, grow their network of Non-Profit Partners, and develop their network of corporate partners

Impact

Agents of Change is disrupting the status quo in the real estate world by shifting the way people in Alberta (and across North America) think about buying or selling real estate AND how they can use that transaction to have meaningful impact in their communities.   

In their first 18 months of operations, Agents of Change has:

  • Earned $150,000 in revenue and directed $100,000 back into the non-profit sector, 95% of which stayed in Alberta.
  • Generated an average contribution of $2,000 to a non-profit organization for each real estate transaction.
  • Signed up over 60 non-profit partners.
  • Had a 100% success rate with matches.
  • Developed their program prototype for corporate partners.

What’s Next?

At this time, about 40% of the home buyers and sellers who contact Agents of Change do so because of the significant social impact generated as a result of each real estate transaction.  For them, the impact is the most important part.

However, approximately 60% of home buyers and sellers that come to Agents of Change to be matched with a great agent do so solely because of their expertise as a real estate referral service.  For them, the free match with a great agent is the key driver.  Of these, approximately half, or 30% of all clients, have no affiliation with a non-profit organization and are unsure what to do with the money they raise through their transaction.  Agents of Change wants to partner with the affordable housing ecosystem in Calgary (and eventually beyond) to start pooling that money and directing it towards exploring creative and transformational ways to tackle the challenge of affordable housing.

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