Volunteers helping out at a food bank.
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KW Cares marks 20 years, offers model for brokerage leaders 

The fund has helped thousands of KW associates and their families. The nonprofit's CEO offers tips for other brokerages looking to follow their lead.

May 28, 2023
4 minutes

Key points:

  • KW Cares continues to grow and help more employees in times of hardship.
  • The largely employee-funded nonprofit has distributed more than $6 million to KW associates.
  • CEO Lexie Rodriguez offers tips for other brokerages interested in establishing an employee hardship fund.

When Lexie Rodriguez became CEO of KW Cares, a nonprofit that supports Keller Williams Realty associates and their families, one of her charges was to make the application process easier so more people could be helped.

That was about two years ago, and in 2022, KW Cares distributed 733 grants totaling $6.4 million, up 12% from the year before.

"Last year, we actually gave out $2 million more in grants that we took in donations, so we had to pull $2 million out of our reserves," Rodriguez says. "We definitely streamlined our grant application, and that made it fairly simple for folks to apply online."

The organization, which awards grants and provides resources to assist KW agents and their families during life-altering events, emergencies and national disasters, is celebrating its 20th year.

During those two decades, more than $60 million has been disbursed to thousands of people. "We're basically like Santa Claus during someone's time of greatest need," Rodriguez says. "We get to help folks when they are experiencing high anxiety due to a sudden emergency, and we're able to alleviate some of that anxiety by giving them a grant of up to $30,000."

KW Cares' impact goes beyond just KW associates. The organization supports three other nonprofits — MD Anderson Cancer Center, Homes for Our Troops and Ryan's Well Foundation — with donations.

And the grants received by KW associates often benefit their neighbors, too. For example, an employee might receive a generator after a storm, and others in the neighborhood might use it to recharge phones or put medicine in the refrigerator, Rodriguez says.

Nearly all of the funding for KW Cares comes from KW employees.

"About 80% of our revenue comes from what we call transactional giving," Rodriguez says. "Whenever an agent closes a transaction, they can elect to give a portion of their commission to KW Cares. To me, that's such a beautiful model."

How brokerage leaders can establish an employee hardship fund

It's a model Rodriguez thinks other brokerages can and should adopt, and she offers a few tips for brokers on developing a successful employee hardship fund:

Secure management support

"It needs to be deeply embedded in the company culture," Rodriguez says. "For that to happen, executive management at the very top has to support it. … The executive management team has to be the biggest champion of this nonprofit."

Remind employees regularly

"A challenge we face in this space is agent turnover. So, we are committed as an organization to regularly getting in front of folks to remind them about KW Cares and everything that's available to them through our organization, whether that's via email or company meetings or the onboarding process or even fundraising campaigns."

Make donating easy

"What we do at KWRI is we have what we call a 'set it and forget it' functionality on our CRM platform," Rodriguez says. "An agent can go in there and designate a donation from every transaction, maybe $20. And that donation comes over to us automatically."

Share the nonprofit's story

"The company needs to give the group opportunities to promote their platform and raise awareness and share its stories publicly with the company family," Rodriguez says. "That way, the agent or employee feels connected to the work that the employee hardship fund is doing."

The result of a robust employee hardship fund goes beyond the help specific employees receive.

"It helps all of the agents, associates and employees feel relieved that the company has their back," Rodriguez says. "They really do know and believe that the company is there for them in their time of need.

"Our tagline is family helping family," she adds. "And that's what we do every day."

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