A Message from the President with Mike Theo: It All Starts with a Solid Foundation

 Mike Theo  |    August 06, 2014

A strong structure, be it a home or a commercial building, starts with a strong foundation. For that structure to serve its function and remain viable over time, a solid foundation is essential. The same is true with any successful and vibrant organization. With that image in mind, we set out a year ago to remake a stronger, more active, more impactful statewide Wisconsin REALTORS® Foundation — and that new organization and effort is about to launch. With your help, our new foundation will enrich individuals and communities across Wisconsin, and in so doing shine a spotlight on the deep commitment of REALTORS® in every corner of the state to give back to their communities and improve individual lives.

The Wisconsin REALTORS® Foundation Inc. (WRF) has existed for decades, primarily investing segregated endowments to fund higher education scholarships for REALTOR® children and for REALTORS® looking to advance their careers by attending the Graduate REALTOR® Institute (GRI). Moving forward, these important scholarships will continue, as they have for many years, to brighten the lives of hundreds of students of all ages.

The foundation’s new vision will build on this strong tradition of investing in education to additionally support meaningful charities and causes that improve the quality of life of individuals and communities across the state. We hope to do this by carefully selecting worthy charities and causes and marshaling the human and financial resources of REALTORS® statewide to advance those causes. This effort will begin in September at the WRA annual convention where the WRF will sponsor the “Home Stretch” 10k Run & 5k Run/Walk to raise money for The Wounded Warrior Project, a charitable effort to help military veterans and their families cope with combat-related injuries sustained in defense of our country. This year’s race is open to the general public, which will help maximize our fundraising ability and efforts. 

In future years, the WRF also envisions playing the role of “force multiplier” and providing additional support to charitable causes already supported by local board and/or individual company foundations. Our causes could span the gamut from helping homeless children to advancing affordable housing to enhancing employment skills to improving schools to improving local parks. The sky’s the limit. 

The new WRF vision also includes industry-specific research projects intended to better understand our markets and inform our policy discussions and help us continue efforts to create the best real estate markets possible. The WRF will partner with programs like the Graaskamp Center for Real Estate at the UW-Madison School of Business and the Marquette University Center for Real Estate and Economics Department, among others. The goal is to realize better policies through better data. 

By investing in these three major areas — education, charitable causes and real estate-related research — the new WRF will be advancing the important WRA strategic goals of demonstrating REALTOR® support for our communities and the industry’s support of our economy. 

Success for this reconstituted foundation however depends on you. For the first time ever, the membership dues bill you will receive later this year will offer the opportunity to contribute $10 to the new foundation and this new charitable vision for the future. It is our hope that you will take advantage of this simple annual method of support. Moreover, the form will allow you to contribute more if you so wish. While some have worried that adding this voluntary contribution could hurt the voluntary contribution to RPAC — the REALTORS® Political Action Committee — which is also present on the dues form, I don’t believe so. I believe REALTORS® will see the value of both and understand both are equally worthy of support. 

The vision and structure of the new foundation is the product of a dedicated and diverse task force led by past WRA Chair Renny Diedrich and current Chair Steve Lane. We owe them all a sincere debt of gratitude. During their deliberations, I asked brokers and staff alike, whether they thought we’d have problems raising funds since so many REALTORS® have already given so much to their board, company and personal charitable causes. To a person, they all said no. As one major broker said to me, “the capacity and generosity of REALTORS® is literally boundless because they truly care for people and their communities.” From what I’ve seen over my 30 years at the WRA, I couldn’t agree more. You’ll be hearing more about our new foundation and how you can help, and when you do, I hope you will consider helping out. Together, let’s start a new chapter of helping others help themselves.

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