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Planning for impact

How the IREM Foundation aims to drive impact through the real estate management profession

By Journal of Property Management

The IREM Foundation has an impact strategy, technically referred to as a “theory of change.” The origins of this model are debated in various circles, though the framework has been around for more than 50 years and serves as a tool to evaluate program outcomes in nonprofit organizations.

What does this have to do with real estate?

Just as real estate managers need to stay on top of market trends and economic forces, nonprofit organizations need to understand how the landscape is changing among donors and the populations served by the organization. Investors measure ROI and a suite of other metrics, but measuring societal impact through a charitable organization can be murky.

You’ve likely heard the saying “What gets measured gets managed,” and if that’s true, it’s important to clearly define what to measure— so that the right insights drive impact for the right population.

Where is the IREM Foundation positioned to achieve impact?

At the IREM Foundation, we believe that well-managed real estate leads to thriving communities. Real estate makes an impact on the world in several ways. Real estate drives economic value in a community and can provide adequate, affordable housing and clean and safe schools, hospitals, public buildings, and neighborhoods. Real estate has long served as an entry point to meaningful career paths with high earning potential. Estimates suggest nearly 90% of a person’s life is spent inside a building, so well-managed real estate can contribute significantly to its occupants’ overall health and wellness.

In 2022, the IREM Foundation Board of Directors narrowed their impact strategy focus to two specific areas: “Access to careers” and “Sustainability in the built environment.” Below is an outline of the impact the Foundation seeks to create and a summary of the work we’re currently doing.

Access to careers

Problem statement: A lack of access to high-potential careers for those living in low-income, urban communities contributes negatively to a widening socio-economic gap.

IREM Foundation impact: Increased entry into high-potential real estate management career paths by people living in economically disadvantaged urban areas throughout North America over the next 10 years.

Our goals: Growing support of programs that increase the awareness of real estate management careers, as well as participation in industry education, training, and job fairs, specifically among individuals ages 16–26. While the Foundation supports a variety of programs with different demographic targets, we believe we have the potential to make a significant impact on those living in economically disadvantaged communities.

What we’re doing: Funding grants that support the work of organizations with similar goals.

  • Urban Alliance’s Property Management Pathway: supporting paid internships for high school seniors under a leasing or maintenance track.
  • University of Wisconsin-Stout: funding CPM and ARM exams for seniors studying property management.
  • IREM’s Student Leaders program: building engagement with IREM among college students interested in real estate management careers.
  • Career Opportunities in Real Estate (CORE): supporting an online credentialing program for underrepresented groups preparing to enter jobs in the real estate industry.
  • Conference exposure: enabling IREM participation at conferences like HBCU Career Development Marketplace, DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), and Future Business Leaders of America.

In 2024 and beyond: We’re seeking to grow partnerships and funding in the following areas:

  • IREM Foundation Diversity Scholarship: This scholarship provides IREM training and certifications to individuals who identify as belonging to a marginalized population.
  • High school and university outreach: This new pilot program targets career awareness and engagement.

Sustainability in the built environment

Problem statement: Commercial and residential real estate generate a significant proportion of total greenhouse gas emissions.

IREM Foundation impact: Increased adoption of green initiatives within commercial real estate over the next 10 years.

Our goals: Increase participation in sustainability education/training among real estate managers and adoption of sustainability-focused resources and programs in commercial real estate.

What we’re doing: Offering grants that increase innovation and adoption of green building practices, recognizing exceptional performance in sustainability, and participating in knowledge sharing and educational events.

  • Elaina’s Sustainability Fund: The fund awarded its first grants in 2021 to support innovation and adoption of sustainability measures in commercially managed real estate. The fund has supported more than 10 projects, ranging from a solar panel installation at a school in Nigeria, to innovation around automated waste sorting in Rwanda, to installing a community garden at a senior affordable housing community in Philadelphia. In 2022, the fund supported a grant to train owners and operators in Trinidad and Tobago on sustainable tourist accommodations. The fund also helped Demi, a clean tech startup on a mission to make composting mainstream, launch a micro pilot targeting urban dwellers.
  • Jackson Control Sustainability Awards: Launched in 2023, these awards recognize excellence in sustainability and encourage the adoption of the IREM Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) certification. The IREM CSP provides a framework for owners and operators to achieve measurable sustainability goals and is a great solution for previously hard-to-certify properties.

Last year, nearly 30 properties were recognized as top performers, and five were selected as finalists in various asset classes.

In 2024 and beyond: We’re expanding to knowledge-sharing and education.

  • Advocacy Impact Day + ESG Summit: We’re partnering with IREM to offer a two-day event, Feb. 27–28, in Washington, D.C., delivering environmental, social, and governance (ESG) education and an opportunity to learn from lawmakers about emerging ESG legislation. Participants will have the opportunity to meet with their representatives on the Hill and to network with Jackson Control Sustainability Award recipients, who will be recognized during the event’s luncheon.

As lawmakers set targets for greening commercial real estate properties, IREM members are valuable subject matter experts who should have an important voice in helping to define and influence realistic approaches and targets. 

How to get involved
• Talk to us about becoming a partner or sponsor
• Attend the Advocacy Impact Day + ESG Summit event
• Apply for a grant to fund DEI or sustainability initiatives
• Get the CSP certification for your property
• Earn the IREM Skill Badge: ESG
• Apply for an IREM Foundation scholarship to achieve your CPM, ARM, or ACoM

Journal of Property Management

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