With all the talk about a hot housing market and changes on the horizon thanks to increasing mortgage rates, it can be hard to forget that these market-wide changes have a real effect on real people, especially those dealing with loss or health problems in their families. Mortgage Bankers Association’s charity, Opens Doors Foundation, recognizes the individuals who make up our housing market and the struggles they go through. Deborah Dubois, president of Opens Doors, sat down with HousingWire to discuss the increasing impact Opens Doors has made in the lives of families who risk losing their homes while they care for their loved ones. Here, Dubois shares her plans for the very near future of the foundation, like the Annual Appeal, and celebrates the big wins of the past few years.
HousingWire: In the roughly ten years since Opens Doors was established, what have been the biggest wins for the organization?
Deborah Dubois: Wow … where to begin! I’d say we’ve had big wins in so many areas of the Foundation. We have gone from providing 37 mortgage grants to families in 2012 to more than 3,000 mortgage and rental grants in 2022. We’ve provided more than 12,000 rental assistance and mortgage grants to nearly 10,000 families that hail from every state in the country. In December 2021, we provided more grants to families in that single month than we did in all of 2016. And we’ve nearly tripled our fundraising in the last 5 years — a testament to the MBA members who have adopted our mission and nurtured our foundation.
HousingWire: How can housing industry professionals get involved with Opens Doors?
Deborah Dubois: There is a multitude of ways that housing industry professionals can get involved. The best way is to make a commitment to support the Foundation with an annual gift, which in and of itself can be done in a variety of ways. A number of companies and individuals donate during our annual appeal in early September or at the end of the calendar year. Some companies want to get more actively involved, so they engage their whole team through corporate campaigns that energize and rally employees around our cause. One great example is Lennar Mortgage’s Annual Derby Campaign, which last year raised more than $93,000 in a span of 30 days from hundreds of Lennar Mortgage employees across the country.
Still, other companies choose Opens Doors as their charity of choice for fundraising at their annual meetings or conferences. In addition, we’ve had companies host events specifically for the purpose of raising funds for Opens Doors. But the very best way to get involved with Opens Doors is to simply reach out to me at [email protected]
HousingWire: The list of companies that donate their time and money to Opens Doors is vast and includes well-known names in the real estate industry like Radian. What housing industry organizations would Opens Doors like to partner with next?
Deborah Dubois: Honestly, we’d like to partner with everyone! Our mission is grounded in what housing professionals do every day. That said, there are a number of big companies in the industry — both on the commercial and the residential side — that I think would be ideal partners, not just because they have the funds to give, but because Opens Doors offers company leaders an opportunity to show the community at large that they care about people and the double bottom line, and that giving back is not just a line in the budget, but part of the holistic backbone of a company.
We are certainly fortunate to count a number of big names — Radian, Wells Fargo, Rocket Mortgage, Mr. Cooper, PennyMac, CBRE, Grandbridge, CMG Financial and so many more — as prominent supporters, but we are equally grateful for support from companies like SWBC Mortgage, Essent Guaranty, Ocwen Financial, Amerifirst Home Mortgage, Lennar Mortgage and so many others.
Every single dollar we get makes a difference for a family with a critically ill or injured child who needs a little help to stay in their homes.
HousingWire: In 2021, Opens Doors raised more than $4 million for families to stay in their homes while their children were receiving life-saving medical care. What are the goals for 2022?
Deborah Dubois: We were gifted with a $1 million donation from a wonderful individual at the end of 2020. That donation allowed us to create the Pandemic Relief Fund, which doubled our support to families impacted by the pandemic. In 2022, we set an ambitious $3.2 million goal, but as of July, we’ve bested that goal by about $1 million. We’ll be equally ambitious in 2023!
HousingWire: Are there any upcoming events Opens Doors will be participating in or hosting? What details can you give us about those?
Deborah Dubois: Our biggest “event” of the year is our upcoming 2022 annual appeal. It is not your typical “event” but rather a one-day email campaign that brings together the leaders of the MBA membership, including those on the MBA Board, RESBOG, COMBOG, industry titans at Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Rocket Mortgage and so many more. We’ll launch on Tuesday, September 6, and welcome all members of the housing finance industry to participate! In addition to our annual appeal, we’re looking forward to one of the most important events of the year — the Annual Convention Reception in Nashville on Monday, October 24 — which is open to all donors and friends of Opens Doors.
We’re also excited that in September, the law firm Morris, Manning & Martin will host a fundraiser on behalf of Opens Doors at District Winery in DC. We would love to have members of the industry at that event.
HousingWire: Anything else you’d like to add?
Deborah Dubois: I think the most important thing to underscore is that when members of the housing finance community give to Opens Doors, they make a real, tangible difference for families with critically ill or injured children who are living on the fault line between housing security and eviction/homelessness. The best way to reflect that impact is in the words of an actual Opens Doors family:
“Thank you very much for your generosity and compassion. I can’t even begin to articulate how much of a relief it was to have a month of rent covered while my son was fighting for his life in the Children’s Hospital ICU. I appreciate you being there in our time of need. Thank you.” – An Opens Doors Family