Kris Lindahl Makes Generosity Fashionable
“Harry Potter had an Invisibility Cloak. What if there was a Generosity Cloak—something that made you instantly kinder and more compassionate?”
That’s the question Kris Lindahl loves to ask people. And it’s why the Minneapolis-based real estate entrepreneur has launched an apparel line based on two simple words that he thinks have the power to change the world: “Be Generous.”
The clothing line—and the movement it represents—have caught on fast. But while success in many areas has come quickly to Lindahl, this particular journey has been a lifetime in the making.
Breaking Point/Starting Point
It was December 2014, and Lindahl should have felt on top of the world. He was fishing on a sunny day in Florida. After just five years in real estate, he had risen to become Minnesota’s #1 agent by volume. And he was about to close on his 175th transaction of the year—15 times more than the typical agent.
Yet instead of joy, all Lindahl felt was exhaustion. “I was a total maniac,” he says. “Every time I had success, I would raise the bar even higher. But no matter how much I achieved, I still felt empty and stressed.”
That’s when he had an idea. He would solve his business burnout by hiring more agents and building a team-based practice, but the real issue was needing a greater sense of purpose.
“I remembered how good it felt as a high school student when I helped seniors after a flood in my hometown,” says Lindahl. “I remembered how much fun I had in college coaching youth basketball, even though I missed a lot of parties. And I remembered how blown away I was early in my career when I posted a photo on Facebook and vowed to donate a pair of mittens to a local homeless shelter for every like I got. The response was so huge, I ended up delivering over 2,000 pairs of mitten to seven different Twin Cities shelters.”
That’s when the real epiphany hit. “When I thought about the most fulfilling moments in my life, they all had one thing in common: helping others.”
The Birth of a Movement
After his fishing trip, Lindahl set out to develop a set of core values to live and work by. He presented eight to his real estate team, but one rose to the top: “Be Generous.”
He and his team fully embraced the new mantra. They raised money. They volunteered. They held fundraisers. They even developed their own annual charity event—The Great Pumpkin Giveaway—and set a Guinness record for the longest consecutive line of pumpkins (9,000).
When Lindahl launched Kris Lindahl Real Estate in May 2018, he and his company embraced Be Generous even more. There was the $5,000 company match for a local homeless shelter. Buying new band instruments for a family who lost everything in a fire. A $40,000 fundraiser for the family of a popular youth hockey coach who tragically died. They listed “generosity” in job descriptions as a requirement akin to knowing Excel. Lindahl even started a Real Estate Scholarship program to help people earn their licenses at no cost, which has now produced over 300 freshly minted agents.
After Lindahl ordered some Be Generous apparel on a whim, it sparked the Big Idea. “I noticed that whenever I put on a Be Generous shirt or cap, it changed me,” he says. “As a friend of mine said, ‘It’s hard to be a jerk when you’re wearing the words “Be Generous” on your chest.’”
Sensing another opportunity, Lindahl launched the Be Generous Project in 2019, where he now sells Be Generous-branded apparel to the public and donates the proceeds to community causes. “Our mission is to re-energize American Generosity,” he says. And in typical “go big or go home” fashion, he’s set a modest goal for himself. “We want to double charitable giving and volunteerism by 2030!”
Generosity In Crisis
Lindahl’s movement is timely. While charitable donations have seen a boost due to the pandemic and recent social justice movements, volunteerism has declined across every age group since 2005. In addition, social media has almost fetishized cruelty. “There’s a huge hunger for more generosity in our culture,” says Lindahl. “‘Be Generous’ taps into that and inspires people to donate their time, talents and treasures to others.”
Nothing brings generosity to the forefront like a global health crisis, and when the pandemic hit, Lindahl and his team responded immediately. They changed their real estate billboards to say “Be Generous” and promote local buying. They employed struggling Uber drivers to deliver groceries to seniors. And they launched a contest to help local small businesses by way of massive gift card purchases.
How does Lindahl know if his movement is having an impact? “We’ve already moved thousands of items on the website,” he says. “But what’s most gratifying is all the people I’ve interviewed for jobs who’ve said the reason they want to work for us isn’t the title or the pay; it’s ‘Be Generous.’ They want the opportunity to make a difference.”
As Lindahl is proving, the best way to spark generosity is to literally wear it on your sleeve.
Kris Lindahl is the founder and CEO of Kris Lindahl Real Estate, recently ranked by the Wall Street Journal and Real Trends as the #1 team-owned real estate brokerage in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and #12 in the country.