Planning Your Holiday Events

It is the start of the long holiday season and time to consider your plans for parties, special events and other activity.

Holiday events don’t have to be expensive or time consuming to organize. You can adapt what other loan originators have done or develop something entirely on your own.

Halloween—Wearing a costume while visiting Realtor or other offices is one of the easiest things to do. “Holidays are a great time to celebrate and get in front of your Realtors and business partners,” said Amanda Sessa, SWBC Mortgage Corporation, Boulder, Colo. “Each year I try to go into Realtor offices to deliver candy and/or Halloween trinkets. The mood is light and engaging around Halloween and dressing up for the deliveries makes the visits even more memorable.”

Food Collection—Cindy and Geoff Worrell, Prospect Mortgage, West Wareham, Mass., are known for hosting and supporting a variety of events including food collection. “Our office has had a grocery shopping cart on display all year so that clients and friends in the community can donate food and we match the items collected,” Cindy said. “We know that people are hungry every day and not just the holidays so we support the collection of food all year.” The food is collected for the Damien Food Pantry and the Council on Aging in Wareham to fill their shelves at the Senior Center Kitchen. “It is done year round with a special emphasis on the holidays” added Geoff.

Toy Drive – Holding a toy collection campaign is a popular way to support deserving organizations. “We collect lots of toys and gift cards for our December Toy Drive for families in need through a local foundation (Dick Melloni Youth Foundation),” said Cindy Worrell.  “We match each client’s donation with one toy and our company matches each donation as well. Over the last decade, our family has also used the day following Thanksgiving to go shopping for children who are battling cancer at Mass General Hospital in Boston.  This is a special program that we have supported over the past decade.  We have a couple of huge Santa sacks filled with toys and gift cards and we deliver them to the head of Children’s Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital with an appreciation luncheon for his office and other staff, along with a special inspiration music compilation that our daughter Ashley creates and shares with the patients.”

Parties—While parties and other formal events require more planning time and a larger budget, they are generally well received by your professional associates and customers. “As you approach the holiday season, it is an opportune time to host a cocktail party for your business partners,” said Sessa. “I have taken advantage of the holiday cheer in December by hosting client appreciation parties and other gatherings.”

As the fundraising arm for the local Habitat for Humanity (Buzzards Bay Chapter), the Worrells host a Holiday Gingerbread Gala at the Marion Music Hall in early December. “There will be a gingerbread contest, silent auction along with music from local choirs and the volunteer help by Tabor Academy students who have their campus close by,” said Cindy.

You can share expenses with a Realtor firm or other co-host and negotiate a reasonable rental fee for the venue. As an alternative to the traditional (and more expensive) holiday party, you can invite customers to drop by your office for an after work open house. Provide refreshments and special activities for children.

Pictures with Santa—Bliss Sawyer, Security Home Mortgage (and Mortgage Marketing Strategies), Orem, UT, adapted an idea that one of her coaching clients shared. “This is a customer appreciation event and a marketing opportunity with your Realtors,” she explained. “We’ve invited a large real estate office to do a joint customer appreciation event where Santa and Buddy the Elf are available for pictures.  They are excited and willing to split costs for refreshments and other items. Loan officers and Realtors who want to take part in this are giving $30 each for door prizes.”

In addition to the photo taking, the event includes refreshments, a table for kids to write letters to Santa, games, and a canned goods collection for donation to the local food bank.

A Few More Ideas

In addition to the above holiday activities, consider the following:

*Turkey Giveaway—Partner with a Realtor, builder or other partner and give turkeys away.

*Serving the Homeless—Invite your staff/others to join you in serving the homeless on Thanksgiving. Most communities have one or more social service agencies that host these meals.

*Christmas Trees for Customers—Arrange for a Christmas tree discount at a local nursery. Invite customers to pick out a tree and enjoy hot cocoa and cider refreshments. It’s a great way to show thanks to customers and a good promotion for the nursery.

*Christmas Caroling—This may seem like an “old fashioned” idea, but it can be a festive way to entertain a neighborhood and strengthen ties with your carolers—Realtors, builders and others. You might perform in an area where a new customer recently moved.

*New Year’s Eve—Create a family-friendly party at a community center or other location. Have a committee of young people plan special activities for their group.

This is a busy time of the year for loan originators and their teams; rushing to close loans and develop plans for the new year. However, it is also an ideal opportunity to recognize customers and strategic partners, socialize at a holiday gathering and give back to the community.

David Robinson is Associate Editor of Broker Banker.

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