Builders Circle co-chairs aim to further Habitat for Humanity’s mission.
For nearly everyone in the construction industry, 2020 was a banner year. Projects from remodeling to new construction kept companies working as fast as they could get materials.
“We’ve been so blessed,” says Jenna Kimberley, Vice President of Kimberley Development. “Like most builders, we’ve had an incredible year. We can’t get houses in the ground fast enough right now.”
But that’s not the story at Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity. “Our volunteer hours dropped more than 50%,” says Executive Director Lance Henning. “The projects we were able to finish, we had to rely on subs to complete most of the work.” On top of the astronomically rising prices for materials, the cost of each Habitat home also increased due to labor costs, to the tune of an additional $20,000 per home.
That’s where Habitat’s Builders Circle members saved the day. “Builders Circle is Habitat’s high donor society,” says co-chair Kimberley. “It’s a group of individual donors who are passionate about Habitat’s mission and want to support that on an ongoing basis, giving $2,500 or more annually.”
“Builders Circle allows us to put funds wherever they’re needed. That helps fill in gaps like we had last year. We can’t pass on those added lumber costs and increased material prices. Our buyers are already paying what they can afford,” Henning says.
Other Habitat for Humanity groups across the country have something similar. However, Builders Circle is unique to Des Moines. It was started about five years ago as a means to bring like-minded individuals together to help Habitat advocate within the greater community.
“Through Builders Circle, we can educate folks who already share our belief in the importance of home ownership and providing a decent place to live for everyone, no matter their income level,” explains Henning. “It’s an opportunity for us to build long-term relationships with individuals who care about our mission as much as we do.”
Builders Circle co-chairs Jenna Kimberley, a long-time Habitat volunteer and current board member, and Josh Cook, CEO of Community Choice Credit Union, announced a new member goal at the group’s June meeting, their first month in leadership.
“We currently have about 120 Builders Circle members, and our goal is to have 150 by our September board meeting,” says Cook. “As Jenna said, a lot of people are doing really well as a result of the construction activity in 2020. This is a way to give back to the housing industry that matters to all of us.”
Volunteer hours at Habitat are slowly increasing as social distancing restrictions are lifted, more individuals are vaccinated, and companies are again promoting volunteer opportunities for employees. But those volunteer levels are only at 60% of normal.
To help promote the benefits that Builders Circle provides for Habitat, Kimberley and Cook started their tenure as co-chairs with big ideas and put them into action within weeks. “Jenna has been involved with Habitat for a long time,” Cook says. “I’m new to Builders Circle, but Community Choice had the perfect facility to host a kick-off event, so we got a team of people involved to make this really unique.”
Builders Circle is holding an exclusive party for members, prospective members, and invited guests to see what Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity can accomplish with the support of like-minded donors and volunteers (see “Curious about Builders Circle?” below).
Habitat’s Director of Advancement, Clara Bergan, says, “We’ll be taking guests on a bus tour of the Birdland neighborhood, where Habitat has completed 34 homes and repaired more than 100 more, because we’ve had such an impact there.”
“It’s an incredible, multiyear project that’s a model of what the city should be doing,” Kimberley says.
Learning about—and actually seeing—projects like that one is key to developing partnerships like those with Builders Circle members. “Yes, we’re asking people to give,” says Cook. “But this membership goal is more about making connections, asking them to give as much from the heart as from the wallet.”
Builders Circle members are not required to volunteer or participate in Habitat activities. But both Kimberley and Cook say current members give with their time as well as their finances.
“We have a special Builders Circle build project every year, and all Builders Circle members are included in that,” Kimberley says. “And there are other events throughout the year open to Builders Circle members only.”
Bergan says that donations can be made monthly, annually, online, or even with stock. “We work with our partners to make it as easy as possible for them to be a part of our mission.”
The effects of the COVID pandemic linger in ways no one expected, even positive ones, including dramatic increases in remote work options, exponential growth in online services, and phenomenal activity in the construction field.
But for organizations like Habitat that rely on volunteers and their generosity, a locked-down community also meant a near lockdown on their mission. Kimberley and Cook have made it their mission to change that.
Curious about Builders Circle?
If you’re interested in learning more about Habitat’s mission, the exclusive Builders, Blues and Brews event, or how you can be a part of Builders Circle, contact Clara Bergan at email@example.com.