Imagine if a great feel-good story about your firm was featured in 78 media outlets with a circulation to nearly 71 million people across the United States. Even better, how would you like to invest $5,000 on a charitable project and see an additional $10,000 come back that you could re-donate? Better yet, picture all your associates and 10 percent of your resident base getting up and activated for community service that receives public praise from U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It’s all a reality for AvalonBay Communities. Last year the Alexandria, Va.-based REIT and its public relations agency reached out to USA Weekend (the weekend edition of USA Today), and secured one of only a handful of partnerships for the newspaper’s Make a Difference Day. Alongside powerhouse organizations such as NASCAR and the NFL, AvalonBay associates and residents devoted the entirety of Oct. 25, 2008 to local causes as part of the country’s largest day of national volunteerism.


Company: AvalonBay Communities
Program: Make a Difference Day
Primary Partners: USA Weekend, Newman’s Own Foundation, The Washington Times
Date: Oct. 25, 2008
Charitable Funds Raised: More than $30,000
Beneficiaries: Rebuilding Together Alexandria, Lifesource, Shelter, National Transplant Alliance, Lexington Education Foundation, American Red Cross, YMCA, Manna Food Center, Crown Point Elementary

“We had been looking to do something on a national level that could still impact local communities and also be fairly turnkey for our community managers,” says AvalonBay vice president of marketing Kevin Thompson. AvalonBay’s volunteer activities included joining a Lexington, Ky., school walkathon ($2,000 raised); painting an elementary school in San Diego (also raising $1,000 and donating 520 books); cleaning up 250 pounds of trash at a Long Island, N.Y., beach; collecting 23 pints of blood and 700 food items in Alexandria, Va.; and raising $10,000 for Corinne Lantz, a teenage AvalonBay resident paralyzed last February.

A winner for piggybacking a large ambitious program on an existing philosophy of outreach that got associates and residents alike involved in giving back. —Dave Woodward, CEO and managing partner, Laramar Communities

“It was a great opportunity for us to enhance the company’s core value of a spirit of caring ,” Thompson adds. “And yes, we got great public relations out of it. It was one of the most successful, and, more importantly, one of the most fulfilling adventures that the company has taken in many years.” To cap off the adventure, AvalonBay was named a top ten honoree for Make a Difference Day, receiving a $10,000 award from USA Weekend and Newman’s Own Foundation. The REIT promptly donated that money to the American Red Cross. A spirit of caring, indeed.