THE HOUSING INDUSTRY
Mortgage companies offer strong support for a variety of charitable initiatives
The Ellie Mae Classic
For the third year in a row, Ellie Mae is partnering with the PGA Web.com Tour to host the 2018 Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae, bringing together some of the world’s best golfers to benefit Bay Area charities.
Last year, the Ellie Mae Classic raised $50,000 for the Warriors Community Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Golden State Warriors, which supports education and youth development for underserved students. The Ellie Mae Classic also helps fund a four-year scholarship for an East Bay high school senior through NCGA Youth on Course.
The week-long Classic features two different Pro-Am tournaments, a celebrity shootout and four days of tournament play. As one of the qualifying tournaments for the PGA TOUR, the tournament draws 156 players vying for a place on the leaderboard, as well as the $600,000 purse.
The Ellie Mae Classic has provided some exciting moments for golf devotees. In 2016, attendees got to see Stephan Jaeger shoot a record-setting 58 in the first round, the lowest score ever shot in a regulation PGA TOUR-sanctioned tournament at the time. And last year, Golden State Warriors phenom Stephen Curry made his pro golf debut when he played alongside the professional golfers under a sponsorship exemption, delighting fans while showcasing his versatility.
For Jonathan Corr, Ellie Mae’s president and CEO, the tournament combines his passion for golf with his strong desire to make a significant impact in the community. For years Ellie Mae has fostered a work culture that encourages its employees to give back to charities they believe in and the tournament amplifies that reach.
“Our company has always been highly focused on our customers— we provide great products that make them successful. And that focus tends to attract a certain kind of person, someone who cares not only about their customers and their co-workers, but also who has a real passion and desire to share their good fortune with their community,” Corr said.
When the PGA TOUR approached Ellie Mae about a partnership, Corr realized the two companies had a shared vision for giving back. In 2017the PGA TOUR and its tournaments raised more than $180 million for charitable causes, topping 2016’s record amount by approximately $14 million. The all-time total generated for charity by the PGA TOUR is now $2.65 billion.
“The PGA is by far the most charitable and philanthropic professional association in sports today. There’s a purse that pays players and expenses, and everything above that goes to charity. I really connected with that,” Corr said. “We really wanted to have another vehicle to give back to the East Bay.”
Ellie Mae employees turn out in droves for the event, helping coordinate the event behind the scenes as well as playing a front-line role during the tournament week. Seeing Ellie Mae’s involvement has spurred other companies in the mortgage space to support the event as well. All of the proceeds from the Classic’s Community Pro-Am event go toward MBA Opens Doors Foundation.
Proceeds from the Ellie Mae Classic also benefit kids in Alameda and San Francisco counties through The Warriors Foundation, which provides tickets to Warriors home games and safe and clean recreation areas in low-income communities. But the most substantial effect is felt in the educational opportunities the Foundation makes possible, with $6.2 million in education grants so far.
“The Ellie Mae Classic has really been a great event for our entire organization,” Corr said. “We get a lot of employee volunteers who help out during the week and we also have many of our partners and customers come out. We are excited to build the event going forward — we want it to become one of the biggest charitable sports event in the East Bay.”
Ellie Mae Cares takes a personal approach to charity, letting employees have fun while making a difference
Like many people working at tech companies in the Bay Area, Moe and his fellow employees at Ellie Mae put in long hours that didn’t leave a lot of time to give back to the community.
Moe came up with a solution that would prove to be a game-changer for the whole organization by incorporating charitable activities into the fabric of work at Ellie Mae: Ellie Mae Cares.
Moe, who is now senior vice president of market strategy, started with a proposal to Ellie Mae leaders, including Founder Sig Anderman and President Jonathan Corr.
“I spent a lot of time crafting a presentation that would show how it would work, allowing employees from different groups to volunteer together and give back to the community,”Moe said.
“On slide two of a 20-page deck, Sig slammed his hand on the table and got up to walk out. I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not, but then he said, ‘Whatever you need, make it happen,’ and that was it. I never actually presented the PowerPoint — just the foundation slide was enough for Sig.”
Since then, Ellie Mae has sponsored at least one volunteer event every quarter for the last 10 years. Employees consistently rank the opportunity to volunteer through Ellie Mae Cares as one of their favorite parts of working at the company, a true win-win for the company and the community.
“When I wrote that proposal years ago, I knew there was a great deal we could do as a successful company to benefit different folks in need, but the one thing I missed in that, that I just didn’t know, was how much volunteering for even a day would do for our employees,” Moe said.
“It recharges us and makes us realize how fortunate we are. It gives us the extra juice we need as we sprint to the next challenge. There really is an intrinsic benefit to the employees, the community and the company— and it just takes one day.”
Ellie Mae Cares has worked with over 30 different charities over the years. All projects are pitched by employees to a committee of fellow employees that helps determine if the charity and activity is a good fit. For the quarterly projects, Ellie Mae’s criteria include working with 501(c)(3)organizations that can accommodate at least 25 volunteers.
“We learned very early that it’s the participation that makes a difference, so we don’t do any sponsorship unless it includes a volunteer aspect for our employees,” Moe said. “Any company can write a check, but without participation, people don’t feel like stakeholders. Through participation we’ve built stakeholders who come back to the office and talk about how it’s the best day they’ve had in three months.”
Ellie Mae Cares projects help a range of organizations, reflecting the scope of employee interests. In the fourth quarter of 2017, for example, the company hosted its first annual “Week of Giving Back” in which employees were able to donate time or money to giving back to their local communities with a goal of reaching 100 percent participation across the organization.
Over the course of one week, employees participated in events that benefitted the Eagan Food Shelf, Second Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Alameda County Food Bank, Blood Bank of the Pacific, Wheels for Meals, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Ronald McDonald House Charities and more.
Quarterly initiatives include a number of employee-run events, including an all-day bocce ball tournament, a poker tournament, a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction. The auction features a variety of items, from weeks in a timeshare, to homemade beer, jewelry and desktops that the company was replacing with laptops.
“When we do the silent auction, it gets uber-competitive. Everyone’s very much into getting Jeff Colsten’s homemade barbecue sauce,” Moe said. “We raise money but it’s much more meaningful than just asking employees to donate $20 bucks.”
In the fourth quarter of 2017, employees raised $30,000 through the bocce ball and poker tournaments, and the silent auction, which Ellie Mae matched to provide a total of $60,000 for charity.
One of employees’ favorite events last year was the Playhouse Program with Habitat for Humanity, where more than 150 employees built seven playhouses for a selected charity. Ellie Mae Cares chose Blue Star Moms, a Bay Area chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America, which identified kids whose parents had recently returned from deployment for the playhouses.
Ellie Mae Cares team members tried to out-do each other in tailoring the playhouses to each child’s personality. Moe said Ellie Mae’s UI team “went crazy” outfitting a zombie-themed playhouse for one of the kids,while a team led by Cathleen Schreiner Gates, executive vice president of sales and marketing, designed a candy-cane unicorn playhouse for a girl with leukemia.
“It was in the middle of August and it was like 105 degrees in the parking lot that day, but reading the stories of the families who were receiving these playhouses, and then getting to meet them when they came down from Travis Air Force Base, we got to see the joy on their faces,” Moe said.
Ellie Mae Cares is focused on local communities, but because Ellie Mae has multiple offices, local is a relative term. This winter Moe joined the Eagan, Minnesota, team in the Polar Bear Plunge, where volunteers jumped in a frozen lake to raise more than $10,000 for Special Olympics.
When the company hosts its annual Ellie Mae Experience conference, Ellie Mae Cares works with charities helping people in that local area. This year the company arranged for a mobile Build-A-Bear workshop that benefited kids through the Ronald McDonald House of Greater Las Vegas, Community Outreach of Nevada, CIS (Communities in Schools) Nevada, St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, and The Foundation for Positively Kids.
“We don’t have an office in Las Vegas, but for that week we want to embrace that community,” Moe said. One year at the Experience Conference, Ellie Mae Cares partnered with the Patrick Kelley Youth Foundation to build bikes for underprivileged kids. Ellie Mae set up a whole area of the conference floor to let its lender partners and other vendors participate.
“I got to meet the founder, who named the foundation after his son, and he didn’t understand why we would do this when we aren’t even from Las Vegas. I explained to him that even though we were only going to be there for seven days, we still wanted to be part of their community for that week. As I was explaining it, it really made an impact on me, to realize that this is who we are as a company now. That’s the mindset we have,” Moe said.
The depth of the company’s culture of giving back became apparent during a recent Circle of Excellence event, where Ellie Mae rewards top sales people with a trip to Hawaii. One of the executive sponsors wanted to incorporate an Ellie Mae Cares event into the trip for anyone who wanted to volunteer, but Moe was skeptical. Would attendees really want to spend vacation time volunteering?
“My first response was, this was not going to work — it was the wrong place and wrong time,” Moe said. “Turns out the only thing wrong was me.”
Given a choice of fun activities or working with Ellie Mae Cares, more than 100 employees and their spouses chose to work on rebuilding an historic reef used by native Hawaiians in sustainable fishing.
“They chose to move 40-pound rocks when they could have been sitting by the beach with a fruity cocktail. Don’t believe that your employees won’t want to volunteer. The demand is there, it’s just providing an outlet for them,” Moe said.
At Ellie Mae, that outlet includes not just the corporate-wide events, but the option for individual employees to volunteer at their favorite charity on company time. Volunteer time is built into EllieMae’s HR system to make it easy for employees to get that time off.
In October of 2017, Ellie Mae launched a Week of Giving Back, which encouraged all employees to give back to their communities during the same week. More than 70% of employees participated, resulting in 800 different acts of giving back to communities.
“Intrinsically, people have a need to give back, and companies that provide the opportunity will see amazing benefits,” Moe said.
Connecting youth with high-tech jobs
There is a serious shortage of qualified tech workers in the U.S., a trend that experts predict will result in 1 million computing jobs going unfilled by 2020. Those jobs impact a wide range of businesses, including mortgage and real estate companies, which are increasingly automating their processes. The shortage is especially apparent in Silicon Valley, the center of so much tech innovation.
Ellie Mae, the leading cloud-based platform provider for the mortgage finance industry, is headquartered in Pleasanton, California, a stone’s throw from both Silicon Valley to the south and Oakland to the north. The disparity in opportunity between those two areas inspired Sig Anderman, the founder of Ellie Mae who now serves as its executive chairman, to come up with a solution: train students from the Bay Area for lucrative jobs in the tech industry.
“You look at Silicon Valley, and that zip code has some of the highest earners in the country, and then you look at Oakland, where so many people live below the poverty line. Warren Buffett has said that he won the lottery because he was born at the right time in the right part of the world. I wanted to figure out what it would take to fill those open tech jobs with kids who didn’t win the lottery,” Anderman said.
Anderman spent a year researching programs across the country to find the best models for his inspiration. He talked to tech managers to find out what skills they required for entry-level positions, then talked to colleges and companies to create a path for those students. He talked to social workers, military recruiters and “anybody else who would talk to me,” Anderman said.
His goal was to find a way to take a high school graduate and train them within a reasonable amount of time for an entry-level high-tech job, which pays about $47,000 a year. The result was The Springboard Initiative, a unique nine-month workforce development program that aims to train and place 100,000 high school students in high-tech jobs by 2025.
The Springboard Initiative provides high school graduates not only technical training but also the soft skills they need to perform well in a high-tech environment. One of the most valuable aspects of the program is the specialized training that is adapted to individual employers, who then guarantee jobs for graduates. It also recognizes the valuable role of mentoring in a new worker’s job success.
Program features include:
The Springboard Initiative provides everything students need during the nine-month program, including computers, books, allowances for food, clothing and travel, and a $500 monthly stipend. The goal is to remove any financial obstacles so that students can devote all the time needed to succeed in the program.
The first students began the program in 2016 through the City College of San Francisco and were hired by Visa and Ellie Mae in a pilot program when they graduated.
“When we announced the program in the Bay Area, we had 100 applications. We picked 15 based on their desire to pursue this training and their economic circumstances — two of them were homeless,” Anderman said.
From that first class, two students moved away during the course and one got sick, but the remaining 12 graduated and got hired for jobs that started at a $47,000 salary. Two years later, all are still working in the industry.
The successful launch of the Springboard Initiative provided a great test case for the program, which is now rolling out nationwide. Utilizing community colleges makes the best use of a built-in infrastructure of buildings, teachers, administrators and counselors, allowing Springboard to focus on recruiting students and companies. The company hopes to place 4,000 students across the country this year.
The secret sauce is partnering with local tech companies to train students so that they are ready for jobs at specific companies when they graduate.
“Corporations need to understand that the way to develop talent is to build it yourself, not poach from other companies,” Anderman said.“We’re looking at a million open jobs — you can’t just move people who are currently employed around to new positions. You need to create a whole new pipeline.”
Currently Ellie Mae and Visa participate in the Springboard Initiative, with more companies joining soon.
For Anderman, the Springboard Initiative’s ambitious goal to train 100,000 students by 2025 is the culmination of a long entrepreneurial career, where he has defined success by more than just making money.
During Anderman’s research he connected with Year Up, a Boston company that had been training young people for 15 years utilizing community colleges — a model that solved the challenge of scaling the program nationally. In 2018, the Springboard Initiative combined forces with Year Up, which will train and place 4,000 students across the country this year.
“The great benefits of having more in the rearview mirror than the windshield is that it gives you a chance to reflect on what makes a life meaningful and happy. I grew up in very modest circumstances but I had a family and community who cared about me and I know how lucky I was,” Anderman said. “My childhood was luxurious compared to the things these kids go through in their lives. I am biased toward action, and this is my biggest venture ever.”
Castle & Cooke Mortgage’s Year of Service
How the lender’s 50 locations are impacting lives across the country
Lenders are tightly woven into the fabric of their local communities. They not only make it possible for people to buy homes, they often sponsor local youth sports teams and volunteer at everything from food banks to road races for a good cause.
Castle & Cooke Mortgage, based in Draper, Utah, decided to take that volunteer spirit and amplify it, launching a 2018 Year of Service initiative that involves every branch location. The lender experienced incredible growth in 2017 and employees wanted to show their gratitude to the communities that helped them flourish.
“As I reflect back on this last year, I’m overwhelmed with how much we’ve been able to accomplish. After the fortunate year we’ve had, I can’t think of a better way to express our appreciation than by ‘paying it forward,’” said Adam Thorpe, Castle & Cooke Mortgage president and CEO, when the initiative launched.
Under this program, at least one team from Castle & Cooke Mortgage chooses a particular week throughout the year where the team plans, performs and reports on a service project in their respective community. With 50 locations spread across the United States, the program lets Castle & Cooke Mortgage extend the reach of its helping hands far and wide.
The breadth of the service projects that have been accomplished so far is nothing short of amazing. In the first half of the year, 266 volunteers from Castle & Cooke Mortgage donated 577 hours to complete 27 different projects. These ranged from cleaning and organizing an animal rescue center, providing Easter baskets for children at a center for victims of sexual assault, and filling duffel bags for children in foster care.
“When CCM announced that this would be the year of service, my team immediately began planning their week,” said Kyle Swensen, Director of IT. “For us, being able to help those in our local community truly gave us a sense of purpose and satisfaction. The team brought so much passion for their week of service that we were able to contribute far more than we ever imagined.”
For some Castle & Cooke Mortgage employees, the projects were inspired by their personal experience. Lori Reed, a junior loan processor, had a child admitted to a children’s hospital with life-threatening pneumonia. Her family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House during that time, and when it came time to volunteer, she knew where she wanted to contribute.
“Having the opportunity to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House was the perfect way for me to say ‘thank you’ to an organization that has done so much for me and my family,” Reed said. “The generous support we experienced from the staff and volunteers at Ronald McDonald House was unparalleled; we never went without a hot meal and were able to stay by my son’s bedside throughout his entire stay. I am so happy that I was not only able to serve them in return, but to do it with my colleagues by my side.”
The Year of Service is still in full swing, and employees at Castle & Cooke Mortgage are inspiring each other with their project choices. And working on the Year of Service hasn’t taken away from the other charitable giving the company engaged in this year, which included financial support for Operation Underground Railroad, Augie’s Quest, Habitat forHumanity, University of Utah Women’s Resource Center, Nashville Patriot Fest and Wishing Well for Maui Students.
Jeff Norton, Director of Human Resources at Castle & Cooke Mortgage has seen the results first-hand.
“Focusing on service this year has been a wonderful way for our employees to share our internal culture of excellence. Watching different teams across the country perform service has been both motivating and humbling. It’s rewarding to do something that unites us nationally as a company, but focuses locally on the diverse and unique needs of each community,” Norton said.
Serving those who served
Companies step up to help veterans
Today’s affordable housing shortage is propelling an increase in homelessness nationwide, and the country’s veterans are among some of the most vulnerable to rising home prices,accounting for 11% of the total adult homeless population.
Some displaced or at-risk veterans are experiencing the lingering effects of PTSD and substance abuse, typically from a lack of social support networks. In addition, military experience is not always easily transferable to the civilian workforce, leaving veterans with a disadvantage when competing for employment.
In April, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veteran Affairs committed $43 million to address the needs of this population.
Our nation’s veterans deserve more than a life on the streets,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a press release. “There is no greater responsibility than to end veteran homelessness and to make certain that those who have served our nation have a home they can call their own.”
Providing sustainable housing for those who have served in our military is a cause that has been adopted by many in the mortgage and real estate business who see first-hand the struggle vets have in their own communities. We highlight a few of those efforts here, although we know there are countless companies doing incredible work in this area.
Grant Moon, founder and CEO of Home Captain, is an Army veteran himself. He created Home Captain to shepherd prospective homebuyers through the loan process. The company also military spouses job opportunities as concierge members, so they can take their job anywhere their spouse is stationed.
Home Captain also recently launched a VA Loan certification for Realtors that gives them four accredited continuing education hours. The certification helps Realtors understand the VA loan process and how to work with veterans.
Carrington Mortgage focuses on veteran causes through Carrington Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit that supports several organizations across the U.S.
Carrington’s veteran-focused Signature Programs focus on providing mobility, stability, purpose and prosperity for veterans returning from the post-9/11 conflict battlefields. CCF veteran initiatives include financially supporting the Veterans Airlift Command, building custom, adaptive homes for injured veterans through Carrington House, providing veterans with new entrepreneurship opportunities and supporting other nonprofits focused on assisting veterans’ return to civilian life.
BBMC Mortgage employs and supports active-duty military and veterans. In efforts to go beyond VA home-loan needs, BBMC launched the Patriots Charity Initiative in partnership with USO, The Mission Continues and the Headstrong Project, all nonprofits dedicated to providing aid for soldiers. For every qualified loan purchased through BBMC, the company donates $150 to one of the three charities.
IMG Financial Group and AmCap Mortgage team up each year to host the Annual Charity Golf Classic Tournament in Houston, Texas. The tournament benefits the Folds of Honor Foundation, a nonprofit that provides scholarships and assistance to the spouses and children of fallen or disabled service men and women.
Gateway Mortgage Group also supports Folds of Honor. In May of 2017, Gateway announced a partnership with the Folds of Honor Foundation where $5 donations are made for every mortgage loan through its retail branches nationwide. Since then, the company is on track to surpass $100,000 in donations.
Additionally, each month a local Gateway branch invites its customers, business partners and employees to an event co-hosted by Folds of Honor where a recipient of a scholarship or assistance shares their personal story and a Gateway representative presents a donation to the foundation.
“It is refreshing to see a successful company like Gateway who unapologetically leads by living the example of their passion to strengthen families,” said Major Dan Rooney, founder of Folds of Honor. “We are excited they have decided to stand with Folds for another year as we fulfill our promise to educate the legacy of our fallen soldiers.”
The National Association of Home Builders encourages its members to team up with Homes For Our Troops, a nonprofit organization that builds and donates custom homes. Homes For Our Troops has built more than 250 homes in 42 states with 95 active projects underway and more than 100 injured veterans on a waitlist.
“If we can get builders who can champion our cause in the communities where we are building, that in turn advances our mission and helps garner more funds to get veterans off the waiting list and into specially adapted homes,” said Patty Catalano, director of executive engagement at Homes For Our Troops.
The PulteGroup’s Built to Honor program partners with Military Warriors Support Foundation, Operation Finally Home, Operation Homefront and trade partners to construct mortgage-free homes to deserving wounded veterans around the country. Built to Honor has built 30 new homes worth more than $9 million from Michigan to Texas and Washington, D.C. to California.
With increasing interest rates and rising home prices, veterans are likely to continue to need both public and private help as they resume civilian life. Fortunately, the mortgage finance and real estate industries have demonstrated their continued commitment to this deserving sector of society.