Would You Let Elmo Sell Your House?

Elmo_1Saw an ad in the business section of the Boston Sunday Globe for WGBH Realty Perks, a new partnership between Boston's local public television station WGBH and HomeGift Realty, Inc.

Here's how it works: Realty Perks connects sellers with a realtor who has agreed to refund a portion of his or her fee to the seller and the nonprofit .  When the house sells the seller and WGBH each get a kickback.

But will sellers use the program?  I'm not sure they will.  It's a buyer's market and sellers may be unwilling to limit their choice to Realty Perks members.  When the market was hot and sellers only needed a warm body anyone would do.  Not now.  Of course, your preferred agent may already be a member of Realty Perks.

Notwithstanding the cash incentive to sellers, I'm also not sure that public television has the strong emotional connection needed to drive sellers to take that extra step and sign up for Realty Perks.  I could see this program working better with an organization to which people have a strong personal or emotional attachment: the hospital that cured their kid of cancer or even the college they went to.  But for many, Sesame Street just doesn't inspire the same type of commitment.  Hey, it's TV, not chemo.Wgbhsign2_4 

And while the cash to the seller is great--$1,000 if your house sold for $500,000--the fact that it's a mid-six-figure transaction and the realtor is still making $23,000 off the deal is a bit like getting a toaster for plowing your life's savings into a CD. 

The importance of donors having an emotional or personal connection with your organization is something I've seen firsthand.  Because the bulk of the patients Boston Medical Center serves are economically challenged--unlike the patients at other Boston hospitals--they aren't good prospects for philanthropy.  Consequently, we have to look beyond our patients for donors who admire our mission but have never been treated at BMC.  It's a more difficult sell because the connection is grounded in shared ideals, not shared experiences. (By the way, we're working on the latter.).

Given a similar opportunity with Realty Perks, I'd probably pass.  I simply don't have a large enough pool of deeply committed donors that would make the program successful.  I know I don't have them, but what WGBH doesn't know is that neither do they.

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