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Philanthropy in Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Real Estate: Why It Matters

Traci Vogel
corporate philanthropy in architecture
©Jan Faye

Last weekend, more than 200 architecture, engineering, construction, and commercial real estate professionals participated in the annual Bike to Hope ride to raise funds for City of Hope’s cancer and diabetes research. Bicyclists rode between 50 and 100 miles through the rolling hills of Sonoma County, California, raising nearly $175,000.00.

This is the seventh year the AEC/CRE industry has turned out in numbers for this event. Bike to Hope is just one small indicator on the upward graph of philanthropy in the industry. Drawing on a long history of pro bono project work, architects, engineers, construction, and real estate professionals are finding ways to give back that speak to the profession’s essentially humanistic drive, through social and community service philanthropy.

corporate philanthropy in architecture
©Jan Faye

Why is this important? Commercial real estate and AEC firms are inherently team-based, collaborating across disciplines toward a goal. That goal — completing a building project — is more often than not a valuable one, but it is grounded in business. Social and community service philanthropy takes that strength of teamwork and infuses it with a greater meaning, beyond business, to touch on social values that can inspire strong bonds within the industry.

For Wally Naylor, Project Executive at Charles Pankow Builders, Ltd., Bike to Hope is just such an endeavor. Naylor has been fundraising for the City of Hope cancer care center for almost 20 years. His involvement was inspired by Charles Pankow, who was treated at City of Hope in the 1980s. Pankow helped found the Northern California Real Estate & Construction Council in 1986 to bring together a cross section of industries representing real estate and construction professionals, building owners, investors, and consultants on behalf of a single philanthropic goal: supporting the lifesaving treatment and compassionate care of City of Hope. To date, the Council has raised more than $10 million for cancer and diabetes research and treatment.

“Bike to Hope came out of a Spirit of Life dinner one year. We were talking to Joe Olla from NIBBI, about doing another event,” says Naylor. “None of us like to play golf anymore, so we thought maybe there was something else we could do, and Joe mentioned a bike ride.”

In 2011, Bike to Hope started with 25 riders and raised $25,000. The eventual goal, says City of Hope Philanthropy Development Coordinator Daniele Hurwitz, is to reach 300 riders and raise $300,000.

Drawing on a long history of pro bono project work, architects, engineers, construction, and real estate professionals are finding ways to give back that speak to the profession’s essentially humanistic drive, through social and community service philanthropy.

TEECOM Principal, Vice President Ben Shemuel has participated in Bike to Hope for the past three years. In this year’s ride, he raised $3,463.00, placing second in the list of top participants. Ben continues to participate for a multitude of reasons, including, “The unique combination of joining forces with others to support this unique institution, having the opportunity to chat in a relaxed setting with others in the local AEC community — and it’s a gorgeous bike ride.”

corporate philanthropy in architecture
©Jan Faye

Shemuel enhances his fundraising by taking advantage of TEECOM’s Matching Donation program, through which the firm provides matching donations to eligible nonprofits. With funds from TEECOM, his total contribution to this year’s Bike to Hope will be $4,963.00.

At Pankow, employees are given two paid days off a year specifically to participate in volunteer philanthropy. “The real estate industry here is really a community,” says Naylor. “We look at it like that and we feel we are a part of the community and want to give back to the community.”

What better drive could there be for giving back?

Learn more about TEECOM’s Giving Back initiatives.

Traci Vogel
Traci Vogel, Content Manager

With a background in journalism, Traci asks the tough questions necessary to translate engineer-ese to English. Whether she’s interviewing telecom staff about the mysteries of cabling or tweeting about tech trends, she thrives on the challenge of learning new things and always has her “reporter hat” on. She manages TEECOM’s digital marketing strategy and brand proposition with the goal of conveying the firm’s passion for integrating technology and architecture through people-centered design.