Agents of Change: How ERA King created a ‘culture based on giving’
Everett King learned the value of giving back from his father. When he took over the family real estate business, he imparted that lesson to his agents.
Jack King taught his son Everett a lot about the real estate business. But the most important lessons he imparted had less to do with making money than about making a difference in people's lives.
"He told me, 'Everett, you don't have the right to an opinion in your community if you're not doing things to make your community better.'"
King took his father's words to heart and today, the community work has grown right along with the company his father founded, ERA King Real Estate in Birmingham, Alabama.
Now with offices in 11 markets, the King Team has twice won the ERA Circle of Light Community Award and notched thousands of volunteer hours while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for community organizations.
And this year, they're getting more serious, launching a new charitable organization, King Team Foundation.
Josh Wright, CEO at ERA King Real Estate, serves as foundation president, and Gina Jackson, who handles public relations for the company, sits on the board and also leads marketing for the foundation.
Community work started simple but 'grew out of control'
King was the third agent at his father's company when he started working there in 1978. At first, his community work consisted of making donations when people would come to his office and ask.
"And then it just grew into this monster," he recalls. When his father died in 1990, the company had just six agents. But as it expanded to new markets, King launched the "12 Months of Giving" program, with each office developing a plan for what they would do for their community each month.
"That helped a lot," King said. "Then it kind of grew out of control." With no desire to cut back on their community involvement, the team decided to launch the foundation. "It just had to get more organized as we went along."
Jackson says the foundation will help ERA King agents do more. "By having a nonprofit, you can bring in more businesses," she said. "We just looked at what we were doing and wanted to take it to the next level."
Empowering agents and doing what 'touches our hearts'
Besides the organizational and fundraising benefits of a functioning nonprofit, Wright said one goal of the foundation is to give the company's 200 agents more of a voice. One agent from each of the offices will serve on the board with him and Jackson.
"Rather than just our brokers and our managers making decisions, having agent input was very important in this endeavor," Wright said.
In addition to volunteering in food banks, building homes with Habitat for Humanity and other independent projects, ERA King has two major fundraisers each year. The first is a charity golf tournament in the spring, raising money for the United Cerebral Palsy of East Central Alabama.
The second major effort, the Megan Montgomery 5K run, started much closer to home. The race raises money for prevention and education about domestic violence and is named for the daughter of ERA King agent Johnny Montgomery. Megan was murdered by her estranged husband in 2019.
"We want to do what's personal and touches our hearts," she said. "We don't just want to throw money out there to say, 'Hey we did something.' We want it to mean something. We want it to be life-changing."
That means the King Team Foundation will continue to do hands-on work in local communities as well as raise and distribute money.
"It's about being out there and actually seeing the faces of the kids whose lives we are trying to change," Jackson said. "That's what we want our agents to experience."
'Our culture is based on giving'
Wright said the foundation hopes to expand the major fundraisers and add new ones so every one of the company's 11 markets has its own major event each year.
"Our culture is based on giving," he says. "It's just the way we do things around here. …This is the life we live. It's not just for show, it's not just for gain, this is something we live by, this is something we speak about at every one of our sales meetings."
King says while he hopes the foundation expands the company's reach and gets more agents involved in decision-making, the real goal is much simpler. "We want to make our individual communities better than they were before we got involved."