Long Time Caring

Long Realty Cares Foundation Marks 20 Years

By Loni Nannini

Twenty years ago, employees with the largest real estate company in Southern Arizona became agents of altruism: Long Realty Company broke new ground – not on a home, but on a foundation that has put millions of dollars into the community.

Since 2002, the foundation has funneled donations of more than $3.5 million to 300-plus nonprofits of all sizes throughout the region.

“The original premise of the foundation was to offer hope to those who needed housing or shelter,” said Steve Quinlan, who was president of Long Realty when the foundation was established. “That has evolved over time to include providing sustenance and comfort and serving other needs in the communities where we work and live. I am thrilled that it has been so successful.”

Beneficiaries over the years have run the gamut − nonprofits that support social services, health, wellness and research, youth outreach, education, animal care and rescue, and arts education and outreach. 

The list of grant recipients reads like a “Who’s Who” of regional charities; many are well known while others may be less familiar. All are reflective of the distinctive character of Tucson and Southern Arizona. Funds have also 

been gifted to service organizations, scholarships, schools and school-related foundations, including the University of Arizona Foundation, Rotary and Soroptimist clubs, and other foundations and organizations that support nonprofits such as Angel Charity for Children, El Rio Health Center Foundation, TMC Foundation and many more. 

Ultimately, Quinlan said, Long Realty Cares embraces the philosophy that supporting those in need is a longterm investment in Tucson and surrounding communities, including Green Valley, Sahuarita and Sierra Vista, as well as other areas that Long Realty serves throughout southern Arizona.

“It is important for each of us to give back to our community if we can afford to do that. It helps Tucson to be better. When Tucson does better, we sell more houses and it is great for businesses − not only for Long Realty Company, Long Insurance, Agave Title Agency (formerly Long Title) and Prosperity Mortgage (formerly Long Mortgage), but for other businesses and for the economy overall,” said Quinlan, who also recognizes that nonprofits themselves play an integral role in the region’s economic health. 

In fact, the nonprofit sector is ranked among Arizona’s top five nongovernment employers. It accounts for 7% of wages and salaries statewide, according to a 2016 study by the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits. 

A Core of Caring

Long Realty Cares was spearheaded by Quinlan and a core group of forward-thinking REALTORS® and executives, including now-retired Diane Weintraub, the late Christine “Wissy” Wendt and Rosey Koberlein, who was general manager of Long Realty Company at the time and is now the chair of Long Companies. 

The innovative group understood the power of cooperative philanthropy. 

“Long Realty had a history of support for community organizations, and we thought, ‘How can we leverage this to increase the contributions and expand the reach of that support?’ One way to do that was to get even more agents engaged in the process,” said Quinlan.

After extensive research and planning, they implemented a process that enabled agents to contribute to the foundation during closings on sales transactions for homes and properties. Agents can choose to gift a percentage or flat fee from their commissions on sales. They can also opt to make annual donations. Long Realty Cares then sends acknowledgement to clients that a contribution to the foundation has been made in the client’s name. Long employees also participate by having contributions deducted from their paychecks.

“This is a feel-good situation for consumers,” Koberlein said. “They appreciate that their sales associate is philanthropic-minded and that part of the sales associate’s commission went to the foundation to support nonprofits. Some clients are so impressed that they then make additional donations to the foundation themselves.”

Shortly after it was formed, the foundation began funding monthly grants − most range between $500 and $5,000 − to local nonprofits. In 2017, it added larger “Annual Significant Gifts” of between $20,000 and $65,000 in an effort to “go above and beyond” the monthly grants with high-impact gifts. 

All gifts are made possible by more than 500 donors who have contributed at various levels over the years. Benefactors have donated up to $4,999; Patrons have gifted from $5,000 to $19,999 and Champions have donated between $20,000 and $49,999. Visionary Contributors have donated between $50,000 and $100,000 and include Christine and Russell Long − whose grandfather, Roy, founded Long Realty in 1926 − and Koberlein, who is gratified by the foundation’s momentum. 

“I honestly had no idea when we started this that 20 years later we would have contributed $3.5 million back to charities in communities around the state. I could not have imagined that it would grow this much,” Koberlein said.

She credits the success to the inherent generosity of those who make real estate their careers. 

“It is within the DNA of REALTORS® to give back,” she said. “As a REALTOR®, your business base is your community, and you receive income from your community. Giving back to that community is critically important for how you live your life.”

A Testament to Community Commitment

In retrospect, Koberlein is particularly impressed that the foundation has maintained its mission through decades of local, national and global economic fluctuations.  

“For six of the past 20 years, we were in a serious recession during which real estate transactions and average sales were reduced by 50%. Those were challenging financial times, but agents and employees continued to contribute to the foundation to support nonprofits. It is a testament to their community commitment,” Koberlein said. 

That commitment was also tested during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The foundation rose to the occasion by providing emergency grants to nonprofits that were struggling due to decreases in donations and loss of volunteers while simultaneously experiencing increased need from clients. The quick response by the board of directors filled unique needs through the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona; YMCA of Southern Arizona, which requested support for development of an after-school care program for first responders; the Educational Enrichment Foundation, which used funding to provide laptops for students during distance learning; and Mending Souls, which made face masks.

“This was extra funding for these nonprofits when everything was uncertain and money was tight for everyone,” said Foundation President Thom Melendez. “Moving forward, we want to ensure that we have reserves so that we can consider emergency grants if needed again in times of financial distress. 

Changing Lives, Saving Lives

Today, Long Realty Company boasts more than 1,400 licensed real estate sales associates in more than 40 offices, including 27 affiliate real estate and property management companies statewide. The business ranks in the top 30 of independent real estate companies in the nation based on the Real Trends 500 Survey, and its affiliation with the Long Realty Cares Foundation is a distinct attraction for many agents and employees, Melendez said.

Melendez joined Long Realty in 2017 after a 10-year career in the nonprofit sector that included a role as major gifts fundraiser at the University of Arizona. He joined the board of directors for Long Realty Cares in 2018. 

“I know the gifts from Long Realty Cares Foundation are significant to nonprofits and I like the fact that the foundation gives to so many different organizations in Southern Arizona,” Melendez said. “I will never be a millionaire, but I know that my gifts through the foundation have a broader impact because they are combined with the donations of others.”

That impact is facilitated by the diverse 17-member board of directors, each of whom is appointed to a three-year term. Board members represent offices throughout the region. Board members are also affiliated with offices in Sahuarita, Sierra Vista and Green Valley and corporate, title and mortgage offices. 

“Long Realty and the Long Realty Cares Foundation is here to positively impact people’s lives: That is our  ‘Why,’ ” said Long Realty CEO Reneé Gonzales. “Whether it is in regard to buying or selling houses or making donations on behalf of clients or on behalf of nonprofits, we strive to make a positive impact on people’s lives.”

Long Realty agents represent varied backgrounds and cultures, ages, education levels, religions and economic status. The intent is for the board to open windows into different areas and neighborhoods and to better understand the unique needs in the communities that they represent, ultimately proving more effective in the foundation’s mission to provide basic needs, comfort and sustenance. 

“When people join the foundation board, there is an enormous sense of pride that they are participating in the distribution of dollars they know their colleagues worked hard to earn,” Koberlein said. “They are serious about being good ambassadors for those funds so they have maximum impact.”

As president, Melendez is not a voting member, but he is diligent about meeting with local organizations to monitor need in the community. He is constantly in search of new nonprofits while promoting awareness about the foundation and encouraging fellow board members to do the same.

“I learned a phrase in philanthropy that stayed with me: ‘It is about changing lives and saving lives,’ ” Melendez said. “My vision is that the foundation will continue to change lives and save lives in our community.”

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