Habitat for Humanity International
There are two commonly held myths about Habitat for Humanity.
First, that former President Jimmy Carter founded the global housing nonprofit.
Second, that the organization gives homes away for free.
Neither, it turns out, are true. President and Mrs. Carter are indeed Habitat’s most famous volunteers, but they didn’t found the organization. And Habitat homes are not free. They are purchased by low-income homebuyers who help build them and then pay an affordable mortgage.
Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S., and in more than 70 countries. To date, Habitat has helped more than 29 million people gain access to new or improved housing.
For many years, a third myth persisted—one that was particularly vexing for the nonprofit’s fundraising and communications teams. Habitat for Humanity doesn’t need money, the myth went, because all the supplies are donated and volunteers provide all the labor for free. Habitat is a great activity for a Saturday morning, but it isn’t a cause that needs financial support.
Of course that’s not the case. Habitat depends on financial support to acquire land, employ contractors, secure permits and pay staff. While grassroots in history and culture, the organization—which helped serve more than 7 million people around the world in fiscal year 2019 and is the second-largest private homebuilder in the U.S.—depends on financial support from a wide range of donors, including major corporate partners.
To combat this challenge, Habitat has increased its focus on cause marketing and consumer fundraising. Since concentrating its efforts in 2017 around the theme of home through the organization’s signature “Home is the Key” campaign, Habitat has dramatically increased the scope of its corporate partnerships with business allies such as Nissan, At Home stores, Chico’s
FAS, and Google Nest. These cause campaigns, together with the long-standing support from other industry leaders such as The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wayfair and Whirlpool, fuel Habitat’s work in the U.S. and abroad.
Offering varied ways of engaging has increased Habitat’s appeal to corporate partners. Companies can organize employee volunteer days on a Habitat site, donate products for sale in Habitat for Humanity ReStores, or leverage major event sponsorships that offer national media platforms. Increasingly, partners that join Habitat through one channel end up deepening and widening their work with the organization over time.
“A core tenet of Habitat’s philosophy is partnership. Whether it’s working side-by-side with a future homeowner on a build site, or Habitat’s partnership with companies to enable our work, we believe that the world is changed when we work together,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “The Golden Halo award represents years of work by our team and that of the entire Habitat network to engage partners in meaningful ways that help us carry out our mission. We’re honored to receive this award which recognizes not only what we have accomplished, but what we still hope to do.”