Casey Crawford is a man who doesn’t like to sit still for too long. Moving briskly through the hallways of his company, the former NFL football player greets employees left and right with quick exchanges and an infectious grin. Finally, he lands in an oversized chair in his office. His framed Super Bowl jersey hangs on one wall while another is covered with inspirational quotes and the unusual mission for his company, Movement Mortgage.
Casey explains, “Our mission is to love and value people by leading a movement of change in our industry, in corporate culture at large, and in the communities where we work.” If that sounds like a tall order for a mortgage business, this 6’6’’ athletic entrepreneur says his faith inspired him to think beyond typical corporate goals.
“When I started this business in 2008, I thought that I’d make all this money and do all these neat things for God,” Casey says. “But the Lord showed me that was about building my kingdom. He turned my plan upside down and revealed a much greater vision with an audacious goal: Use love to transform business into a movement for change.”
BUSINESS MOVING MINISTRY
Fast forward eight years, and the determined tight end who used to move the ball down the field is moving mortgages and ministry light years ahead. Movement has grown from a small team of four to over 4,000 employees with more than 650 locations across 47 states. They’ve been recognized by Inc. Magazine as the fastest- growing mortgage bank in the country. And they have given away $27 million to charity through the Movement Foundation.
One of Movement’s biggest initiatives yet – the Movement Center – has sprung to life amid the crumbling blight along Freedom Drive in Charlotte’s depressed west side neighborhood. Rising from the shadow of the Bank of America Stadium where he once played for the Carolina Panthers, this 40,000-square-foot former hydraulic equipment shop has been renovated into a $3 million ministry center.
AN ADVOCATE AND AN ANCHOR
Casey admits that his unusual business model has been challenging at times: “You share these audacious ideas about giving with people, and you get a lot of blank stares.” But he found an advocate at NCF. “When I shared my vision with Relationship Manager Dan Glaze at NCF, he immediately understood. He validated my passion, and even offered creative ways to help facilitate it.” By helping him set up a Giving Fund, a supporting organization, and tax-wise gifts of business stock, Casey says NCF has been instrumental in achieving his giving goals. But it’s not the wise charitable planning that he values most. “There are a lot of donor-advised funds out there,” says Casey. “But for me, the most invaluable element of NCF is their spiritual alignment and our common vision of growing the Kingdom.”
Casey plans to take the Freedom Drive model and apply it in dozens of other U.S. cities in the near future. Casey says, “For Movement, investing in a real estate-based project such as this, allows us to continue to measure the success of our efforts by the number of changed lives around us.” He also hopes to set an example for other businesses. He adds, “What if big corporations had their name on facilities that meet people’s needs, not just on places used for entertainment? I would love to restore people’s vision of what it means to be a good corporate citizen.”
This is only the beginning of an even bolder plan. Over the next decade, Casey wants to give it all away. Casey plans to transfer 100 percent of Movement Mortgage’s shares to the Movement Foundation, even as they continue to operate the company as normal. After taking care of customers and employees, they intend for all dividends to be paid to the foundation.
“The vision is that everything beyond our capital requirements would be reinvested back into communities across the U.S.,” Casey adds. “People will come to us because we give them great service and great rates. But how cool would it be for people to know that because they patronize our organization, they’re helping reinvest in the community, doing good, and loving others. That’s the story I want to tell.”
GROWING UP GIVING
It’s a big story that Casey is writing with his brand of corporate love today, but his own story began quite humbly. He was raised in a middle class Christian family from Washington, D.C. where he grew up helping out in his dad’s hardware store. His mother worked as an HR consultant for some of the area’s largest corporations. On weekends, Casey followed his grandfather around, helping him salvage parts from junk cars and sell them to a scrapyard. They donated the money to churches or to buy clothes for the needy. “When you’re 9 or 10 years old, you just assume everybody does that stuff,” he says. “My granddad wasn’t a wealthy guy, but it was instilled in me that we had a social responsibility.”
A natural athlete, Casey grew up playing multiple sports and was drafted out of high school to play baseball for the Atlanta Braves. But he turned them down to play football at the University of Virginia. He went on to receive all-conference honors and signed as a free agent with the Carolina Panthers in 2000. He broke his nose in the team’s first preseason game but insisted on playing through the injury to earn a roster spot.
After Carolina’s 2001 losing season, Crawford was cut from the Panthers and ended up in Tampa Bay. He played in four games for the winning Buccaneers who were Super Bowl champs in 2003. But then seemingly at the top of his game, Casey decided to walk away from football after that season. He wanted more control over his destiny. He gave his Super Bowl ring to his father. And the $50,000 Super Bowl bonus became a down payment on a home in Charlotte, where he headed to start a new career in real estate.
CHANGING THE MORTGAGE BUSINESS
As a player, Casey had dabbled in house flipping. Eventually, he expanded into lending and development, setting up a joint venture with Toby Harris, a mortgage executive who would become his Movement Mortgage partner. After a large real estate deal went sour, Toby urged Casey to team up with him to create a mortgage bank in 2007, in Charlotte, North Carolina. And in 2008, Movement Mortgage was born.
Little did they know they were on the cusp of one of the largest financial crashes in history. They watched the mortgage market crumble, exposing the greed of Wall Street bankers. Lenders ed the business as it imploded from bad subprime loans. Under these circumstances it became clear that if any industry needed a movement of change, it was the mortgage business.
Casey knew they would have to rise above the status quo. “We are acutely aware that people are looking for ways that they’re being lied to or deceived,” Casey says. “The world doesn’t need just one more mortgage company. That mistrust is what fuels us.” As far as his business strategy goes, Casey saw a void in the market and decided to focus exclusively on serving real estate agents in need of reputable lenders for their buyers. This turned out to be the magic formula.
“We bring excellence to the process and integrity to the industry,” Casey explains. And his faith is a big part of that. He says, “God called us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We do it by taking care of customers. Putting them in mortgages they can afford, providing a pleasant experience, creating a company that actually cares about the other people on the team, and then we pour out the rest into the communities we serve.”
Casey believes that simple formula represents a stark contrast to what was happening 10 years ago. Casey says, “The mortgage companies were de ned by a lack of integrity, by putting families into loans they couldn’t afford with very convoluted paperwork. At a core level, we want to serve the American public in a better way.”
LOVE AT WORK
Movement is also serving their employees in a better way. “Another important part of our calling is to help those in need right here,” says Casey. “It’s wonderful to do things for people all over the country or the world, but first we need to love one another. Part of this happens through our Love Works Fund.”
The Love Works program gives financial aid to employees facing unexpected needs such as medical bills or crisis counseling. It began with an endowment of $100,000. Today, over 70 percent of their employees contribute to the fund out of their paycheck, with the company matching their donations dollar-for-dollar. “That’s what I encourage our employees to give to,” Casey says. “We try to love and care for each other.”
THE MISSION IS LOVE
Casey says his goal isn’t to wage culture wars. There’s no expectation for employees to profess faith or religious values. Rather, he says the mission is to spread love for others, both inside and outside the company. He explains, “Just like Jesus said, we want to let our light shine so that they may see our good works and give glory to the Father who is in heaven.”
On a national scale, Casey hopes to inspire other entrepreneurs to walk boldly in their faith and use their businesses to love and value people. He says, “It might be rare today to see companies give like we do, but we believe this is the start of a new movement in business. As human beings, something inside of us is attracted to a loving community. People are longing for it, and your business can be the place they find it.”
AN ADVOCATE FOR GIVING
Casey admits that his unusual business model has been challenging at times: “You share these audacious ideas about giving with people, and you get a lot of blank stares.” But he found an advocate at NCF. By helping him set up a Giving Fund, a supporting organization, and tax-wise gifts of business stock, Casey says NCF has been instrumental in achieving his giving goals.
He says, “God did not give me a prescription of how to navigate tax law, foundations, and all the structures we need to put in place for giving. So I started praying, and as He so faithfully does when you are trying to follow Him, He brings other parts of the body to help you in that journey like NCF.”