A Lesson in Giving

Mark Reetz and Homes by Fleetwood turn theory into practice.

Too many times we look back at the classes we took in high school or college and wonder what the point was. That science fair project on the evaporation rates of different liquids? Not a concern in your daily life. That essay on symbolism in Moby Dick? No one has ever asked about that at a dinner party. That semester you spent learning to square dance in PE? You’ve never needed to remember that.

But Mark Reetz of Homes by Fleetwood took his schooling to heart in more ways than one. And the Animal Rescue League of Iowa can’t thank him enough.

Lesson 1: Take good notes

About eight years ago, Reetz went back to school to get his master’s degree in business.

“I’d owned my own business for quite a while, but I felt the business degree would help me be a better owner and businessman.”

The 84 weeks of night classes at William Penn University, completed while he was still running his business, culminated in a community-oriented thesis project. “The assignment was to come up with a business plan for a company or project that benefited the community,” Reetz explains. “It had to include a marketing plan, a business plan, a whole fictional presentation for faculty members that demonstrated what we’d learned about running a business.”

Lesson 2: Study hard

Reetz had always admired the Animal Rescue League (ARL) and the work the ARL does, so he chose to create a project that honored the group. “Since I already owned a home construction business and I knew how that worked, I thought, ‘Why not combine the two?’”

So he designed a project that used the proceeds from the construction and sale of a home to benefit the ARL. “I did a lot of research into the process, the timing, how it could all work and did this presentation for faculty as if I were really trying to sell the idea. And for the next seven years or so, I kept thinking, ‘Why not do it for real?’”

Lesson 3: Apply your research

Having studied the marketing implications and practical considerations of doing a charitable project of this scope, Reetz knew a lot of elements had to come together in the right way for the effort to be successful.

“The timing had to be right because if you try to promote a home in a brand-new development, it’s a lot harder. It needed to be in a good development, but on one of the last lots so the neighborhood was more established and familiar. And it needed to be done outside of the peak construction months so subs and suppliers had the ability to support it without taking away from their other projects. But it needed to be completed before winter because cold-weather delays can add several thousand dollars to the cost of construction.”

Also, Reetz had to work closely with the ARL to determine the best way to set up the donation.

According to Stephanie Filer, Manager of Special Gifts and Partnerships for ARL, “There are two typical types of partnerships we do. One is where the ARL is simply the beneficiary of a donation or proceeds from an event. The other is where we partner with the donor to promote and participate in the fund-raising event.”

Both parties determined that the simple beneficiary relationship was the most appropriate for the project. “We’ve helped with some of the promotional items, and we’ll participate in any activities he wants to do at closing. But Mark’s the expert, so we’ve left the construction and sales processes to him,” Filer says.

The home, which should be move-in ready by the first part of January, is in the Sterling Trace at Easter Lake development and is one of Homes by Fleetwood’s most popular floor plans. The 3-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot ranch sold just days before Christmas.

“It’s subject to sale,” Reetz says. “But we have an accepted offer. It’s a great home—gas fireplace, hardwood floors in the living spaces, carpeted bedrooms, full basement stubbed for a full bath.”

Filer says, “One of the reasons this project was an easy decision for us was the long-term relationship we’ve had with Mark. He’s been a donor for years and participates in nearly every fund-raising event we hold. We knew he wasn’t doing this to promote himself; it was because he cared about what we do at the ARL.”

Reetz says this project has been a long time coming. “Other than my church, the ARL is the organization closest to my heart,” he says. “I’ve been a regular donor and supporter for a long time, but the sun, moon, and stars didn’t align to do this project until just this year.”

Reetz believes when you’re blessed, you should be blessing others. “You know, I’ve been taught that to whom much is given, much is required. After putting together that plan for my thesis project, I knew I wanted to do it for real,” he says.

You learn a lot of theories throughout your years in school—theories about life, economics, and history. But they say you haven’t really learned something until you can teach it to others.

Mark Reetz may have learned how to put a business and marketing plan into practice as a result of his master’s coursework, but he’s teaching others about giving at the same time. That’s a valuable lesson.