Baird & Warner

At Illinois' largest and oldest real estate brokerage firm, agents spend their days meeting neighbors and learning about local needs. President and CEO Stephen Baird wanted to give back to these communities, so in 2002 he created a donor advised fund. His employees have risen to the challenge, raising all the money and doing all the grant making themselves.

Baird established the Baird & Warner Good Will Network with an automatic contribution program, adding $10 per transaction. About 90 percent of the 1,500 sales associates participate. Half the funds are distributed to nonprofits chosen by an employee committee; the remaining half are distributed equally among the branch offices, which donate the money in their communities.

To date, the Good Will Network has raised more than $1 million. Nonprofits that have benefitted include La Casa Norte, which provides housing to at-risk families and youth; Deborah's Place, an organization that helps homeless women; and PADS, which offers emergency shelter.

Automatic deductions and a constant flow of small donations from multiple offices make for complex administration. That's why Baird is glad he set up the fund with the Trust, whose staff offers professional fund management and expert vetting of nonprofits.

"The Trust collects the money, invests the money and does all the administrative work in terms of keeping track of everything," Baird says. "We make decisions on where we want the money to go. It runs very efficiently, which is really what we looked for it to do. And I just like supporting the Trust. The Trust is a good thing for Chicago."


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