My 5: Frank McKinney, Humanitarian, Entrepreneur, Author

July 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, My 5, Slideshow

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked author, entrepreneur, humanitarian, and builder Frank McKinney two questions we ask all our interviewees. McKinney is the entrepreneurial builder of Acqua Liana, a triple-green certified home for the super rich as well as the founder of Caring House Project Foundation, which builds comfortable homes and villages for the poorest of the poor in Haiti. He is also the author of five books, including The Tap. Following are his responses. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

Entrepreneur, humanitarian, and author, Frank McKinney. Photo: Courtesy Frank McKinney

My 5

BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save protect the planet?


1) Use facts, not fear, to educate.

2) Listen intently to the younger generation.

3) Know that saving the planet also means saving money.

4) Move the residential greening of America beyond the “national anthem stage” (as opposed to the 1st or 5th inning).

5) Continue to incentivise entrepreneurial minds that have a self-sustaining favor through the rewards of capitalism and free enterprise.

2 Minutes with the President

If you had two minutes with President Obama, what would you say to him?

Business: Re-read the Constitution as if you were reading it for the first time, and never remove free market incentive.

Philanthropy: Never forget Haiti, and allow me to share my practices, applications that worked in Haiti for 7 years prior to our hearts breaking on January 12.

Frank McKinney

Founder of Caring House Project Foundation

Author of The Tap

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Posts

Part 1: Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

Part 2: Self-Sufficiency – The Best “Return on Donation”

Part 3: From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap

From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap

Frank McKinney strides toward the camera on opening day for one of the CHPF villages. Photo: Courtesy Caring House Project Foundation

There’s no doubt that Frank McKinney stands out in a crowd. His long, flowing, blond hair sets him apart from most business types he deals with. His daredevil actions put others in awe of his tolerance for risk-taking — and his successes. And his creative ways of approaching both his business and his charity work draw others to his door. Frank McKinney also knows how to market himself, his business interests, his books, and the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF).

But everything that McKinney does these days is centered around a concept he paraphrases from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” In Part 3 of our interview, I talk with McKinney about how he puts that into action through CHPF and the homes he builds in Haiti, and about the messages he shares in his book, The Tap. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

Children in one of the CHPF villages share their thanks with Frank McKinney. Photo: Courtesy Caring House Project Foundation

On his Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF) web page, author Frank McKinney writes, “In The Tap, I share the most important spiritual principle of my success in the business we are all in, the business of life. I explain how God has tapped me (and taps everyone) many times in life, answering prayers and presenting life-changing opportunities.

The Tap shows how to sensitize yourself to feel then act on your life’s great ‘Tap Moments,’ embracing the rewards and responsibilities of a blessed life.”

Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF), McKinney’s charitable creation, is the embodiment of his acting on the Tap Moments he writes about. CHPF builds homes for the poorest of the poor. And McKinney himself is responsible for raising most of the funds that sustain it.

Funding Opportunities

One of his fund-raising activities includes running the Badwater Ultramarathon. Badwater is a race that he describes in The Tap as traversing “135 miles nonstop through the Death Valley desert and over three mountain ranges, all on black-top pavement.” It’s beyond grueling, and of the 90 elite athletes invited to participate from 16 countries, only 65% typically complete the two-day (or longer) race. McKinney describes one purpose for his participation (and I’m paraphrasing here) as “suffering a little for those who suffer a lot.”

The CHPF website also offers potential donors several options for supporting parts of a village, including monthly payments. Providing half the cost of a community center, for example, requires a donation of $2,292 per month for 12 months.

A television crew films the rescue of another Haitian earthquake victim. Serious needs still exist in Haiti, long after the earthquake. Photo: Courtesy Caring House Project Foundation

Or, McKinney suggests, “Let’s say you want to build a house for $2,500. A lot of people can’t afford that. So you make 12 donations of $208 per month. That was at the request of a lot of donors who said to our executive director,  ‘We can’t afford a whole house. Can you cut it up into payments for us? We’ll be glad to make it a part of our monthly tithing.’”

Want to purchase an entire village? $125,000 will build 50 homes for 400 residents. Or, break it into payments of $10,417 per month for a year.

While that’s far out of reach for most of us, there are much smaller donation opportunities available. For only $11 per month for a year, you can save a single life by contributing toward a water management project. The full project (“Pumps | Wells | Storage tanks and sanitation units | thousands of lives touched”), for those with greater resources, can be funded for $36,750.

McKinney and Florida firefighters performed search and rescue in Haiti's devastating earthquake. The heavy concrete of multiple-story buildings trapped thousands of residents. Photo: Courtesy Caring House Project Foundation

CHPF is also raising funds for earthquake relief. As the foundation’s executive director, Kimberley Trombly-Burmeister said to me, “You can’t be sustainable if you aren’t alive. The need for food, water, and sanitation is continuing long after the earthquake.”

If you’d like to support CHPF’s earthquake relief efforts, you can do so with as little as a $10 donation per month or a one-time contribution of $250, $500, or $1,000.

You can also provide shelter for an orphan for $35 a month, or build an entire orphanage for $80,000. The choices are limited only by your budget and your imagination, as CHPF offers flexible payment plans and a wide range of funding opportunities.

Survival to Thrival

There’s another, far more unusual, fundraising project that is unique to Frank McKinney. As he says, “Let me put on my other hat for a minute, my for-profit hat, my real estate hat. We came up with a very novel way to raise money for our charity. That is, we don’t do black tie events. We don’t do golf outings. We don’t do cocktail parties.

Donors on one of McKinney's "Survival to Thrival" trips gather in front of a CHPF home. Photo: Courtesy Caring House Project Foundation

“I either sell a lot of books, and the proceeds from my book sales go to fund the charity, and it’s a wonderful source of income, or we provide experiences. We’ve had various events with names such as “Frank McKinney’s Palm Beach Experience: From Survival to Thrival.” There’s a photo at the bottom of the CHPF website that shows a group of people who were part of one of those experiences in Haiti.

“At the time, I was training to run the Badwater Ultramarathon. I wanted to show our donors and the media metaphorically that, in training for this very, very grueling race, I choose to suffer a little voluntarily for those who are suffering a lot. What I did was I ran across Haiti from a village we had just started. It was a village that had been washed out by 2008’s hurricane, and so there was the survival element. I ran to a finished village, which was 25 miles away that was representing thrival.

“And our donors got to come. First they started here in South Florida. Many of the people in that picture are business people and real estate people, and they aspire to do what I do for a living. They love coming to see the mansions. But to come to an event like that Frank McKinney Palm Beach Experience, they had to donate to build one house.

“So they’re immersed in what they think is the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They get to come to my own personal house and have dinner. They get to see the beautiful homes I’ve built over the years, even the newest house, the world’s largest and most expensive certified green home on speculation at $22.9 million. They get to see all that, and they’re so intoxicated with the sensory experience that they’re having.

“Then, within 12 hours, they’re on a plane and landing in the poorest suburb of the poorest city of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. And that is part of their experience. I wanted to move them from rich — what they think is rich — to enriched.

“There’s nothing like it out there. And I’ll tell you, to a person, when CHPF’s executive director, Kimberly, sends out a questionnaire asking, ‘How was your experience? What could we do better?’ et cetera, when 99 out of 100 come back, there’s no reference to the mansions that they saw. Everything is about what they saw in Haiti. So that picture on the website was that event, ‘From Survival to Thrival.’ All of those people in that picture were donors who helped build this village.”

A Life on Solid Footing

McKinney describes his own journey from “rich to enriched,” in his book, The Tap, the proceeds from which benefits his Caring House Project Foundation. It’s an inspiring read that encourages reflection on what is most important in life. Recognizing — and acting upon — what McKinney calls Tap Moments is a large part of the message of the book. But there are other messages as well.

As the author describes in detail the monumental effort it took to run his first three Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathons, he uses his failures and successes to remind readers that we all have the power to change the course we’re on. Here’s a paragraph I found particularly meaningful in the last chapter of the book:

Remember that any of life’s meaningful endeavors follows a course not unlike the physical trials I’ve described to you in this chapter. Think about your relationships, your professional pursuits, your beliefs or philosophy of living, your engagement now with The Tap — anything that you consider important. You probably started out with a kind of giddy infatuation, and in time, you started to encounter difficulties. If you had the discipline and endurance to stick with it, you learned the invaluable lessons of how to deal with those difficulties. You now realize that more of the challenges that you face are created in your mind than in reality, and that this is where you have the most power to change things. Your fears can grip you, or you can overcome them. You can let their hold on you grow tighter, or you can face them and break free. You can succumb to self-doubt and perish, or you can find a way out and flourish.

The Tap is a book worth reading. Photo: Courtesy Frank McKinney

Frank McKinney’s life looks glamorous — and parts of it surely are. He builds homes for some of the world’s wealthiest people. He has the experience most of us will never know of being surrounded by luxury and incredible beauty as he walks through the homes he’s built.

But his daily life belies the image. He lives in a relatively modest home that he shares with his wife, Nilsa. His 20-year marriage, he says, is sound, his relationship with his daughter, enviable. This man who holds up Evel Knievel, Willy Wonka and Robin Hood as heroes, takes risks, both in business and in life; yet his personal life appears to be on a solid footing. He seems to have figured out how to achieve and maintain a balanced life. And he shares that knowledge in The Tap.

The Tap teaches the reader to try to dovetail the professional and the spiritual highest calling,” McKinney says. “The Tap is my first spiritual, inspirational book. And I think because its message is so simple, it’s doing really well. As it does well, so does our charity benefit.”

The Tap, as well as McKinney’s four other bestselling books are available on his website, at local bookstores, or by ordering from Amazon. I found The Tap to be an interesting and enjoyable read filled with uncommon wisdom. Though I’ve not yet read McKinney’s other books, if they are anything like The Tap, they will be well worth reading. I encourage you to read The Tap, then share it with others; it’s a message worth passing on.

The Small Print

Blue Planet Green Living received a complimentary copy of the book discussed in this post. Other than the review copy, we received no compensation or incentive for reviewing the book. No one influences the content of any of our reviews other than the writer. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Blue Planet Green Living is an Amazon associate. If you choose to purchase this book or anything else by clicking on our Amazon link, we receive a very small percentage of your sale, which goes toward the operating expenses of this website.

For more information about our review policies, please visit the Policies link in our top navigation bar.

End of Part 3

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Posts

Part 1: Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

Part 2: Self-Sufficiency – The Best “Return on Donation”

Part 3: From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap (Top of Page)

Self Sufficiency — The Best “Return on Donation”

Haitian children in one of the Caring House Project Foundation villages now have safe homes to live in. Photo: Courtesy Caring House Project Foundation

“We are one global community,” says builder, author, entrepreneur, and humanitarian Frank McKinney. “There are so many places around the world that do not have the social service net to protect the indigent like we have here [in the U.S.]. So we took our ministry, if you will, to Haiti.”

This is Part 2 of a three-part interview with McKinney, author of the book, The Tap. He’s a complex individual living a dichotomous life, as described in Part 1. Using the sale of the mansions he builds, he funds the charity he founded, the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF), which constructs villages for some of the world’s poorest people. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

“We realized the dollars would go so much further by creating self-sufficient villages in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” Frank McKinney explains. “Commencing in 2003, and by the end of 2010, we will have built 15 self-sufficient villages in Haiti. We were there seven years before the earthquake took place. And we’ll be there many years after.

“We realized we could touch a life with shelter for about $500 internationally. So we sold two of the domestic houses [described in Part 1], kept one, and took whatever proceeds we had and stretched those dollars further internationally.”

Simple Design for Sturdy Construction

Asked about the strength of the Caring House Project homes to withstand Haiti’s devastating earthquakes, McKinney says, “By default, when we built our villages to withstand the hurricanes, we had no idea we were building to withstand an earthquake, too. But fortunately, the simpler the design, the better.

Caring House Project Foundation buils schools, hospitals, orphanages, and community centers as well as homes. Photo: Courtesy Caring House Project Foundation

“The standard structure we build is a one-story house, one-story community center, one-story church, one-story school, or one-story orphanage with a concrete foundation, concrete walls with steel rebar in them, and a light metal or zinc roof.

“But when I went over there on a search-and-rescue mission 40 hours after the earthquake hit, what I witnessed was a tremendous number of buildings that had collapsed under the weight of an ill-supported, heavy, concrete roof. If there was rebar, it was insufficient.

“And if it was there, besides insufficient, it was very old and very corroded. When a Haitian family builds a house, they leave rebar exposed for a generation, until they have enough money to put a second story on their house. And so then, when you put the weight of a heavy-duty concrete roof over the top, it’s a recipe for disaster.

“We had 11 villages — 8 finished, 3 under construction — when the earthquake hit. Only one had minor, minor cosmetic damage and no injuries. Even if the buildings that we had built had collapsed, which they didn’t, what would have collapsed would have been a corrugated zinc roof. They’re very light. Nobody would have gotten injured from the weight of something like that.”

McKinney tells me that Caring House Project Foundation has built 850 homes housing up to 6,800 family members in Haiti alone. When I ask about the capacity of the homes he builds, McKinney replies, “A typical Haitian family has six to eight residents. And that could be of the same family or an extended family. The houses that we build are quite small; 500 square feet is about the average size of a home. There’s a front porch, two interior rooms, a kitchen-type room, and then typically a latrine or a bathroom attached to the back of the house.

“In the bathroom there’s always a toilet, or an area in the event that running water is ever brought to the villages. There’s a well, or there’s a ditch that the residents use for clean drinking water. And then, obviously, there’s a latrine for them to use the restroom.”

I ask McKinney how Caring House Project Foundation chooses the communities that receive the homes. He replies, “Typically, we will partner with an organization that has the human resources on the ground. They will tell us where a new village would be needed.

“We never have to buy the land. It’s usually donated by private individuals or by the government. So, we go over, and we perform a site inspection, just to make sure.

“I’ll never forget, four or five years ago, we had a choice of two plots of land. And I chose one that just by sight was maybe two or three feet higher elevation than the alternative site. And wouldn’t you know, that was the year, 2004 – 2005, when all the heavy rains and the hurricanes came through. A lot of the Haitians had drowned in the low-lying areas. Just because we chose that one area that was a little bit higher, our village was unscathed.”

Partnering with Local Organizations

Choosing a site is something that a builder like McKinney would be particularly good at. “But how could you know, among the millions of Haitians, who would be deserving of a CHP home?” I ask.

Residents gather outside their new home. Photo: Courtesy Caring House Project Foundation

“We get proposals from partners over there who know a lot more than I would know as far as the need is concerned. What we’re really good at is master planning a community. We combine the orphanage with the school, with the clinic, with the community center, with the clean drinking water, with the renewable food, and with the new houses, all in a campus-like setting. And they’re very small, close-knit, almost like a college campus.

“Then we partner with other entities — relief organizations like Operation Rescue the Children, the Haitian Health Foundation, and Food for the Poor. One thing we don’t have is overhead — or a lot of overhead. I have one executive director, and that’s really it. I don’t pay anybody on the ground. I don’t take volunteers over there, either. If I did, I would be taking a job away from a country that has an 80 percent unemployment rate.

McKinney’s organization generally “funnels the money” through their partner organizations. “I want to make sure that the entity we’re working with is trusted, because of the corruption factor, especially in Haiti. “

One such partner is the Haitian Health Foundation, a grassroots organization that has worked in Haiti for 30 years.

“I really like them,” he says. “They were just building hospitals, and we got them to think in terms of the whole self-sufficient village concept, and encouraged them to embrace it. They’re so well respected. They know the terrain. They know the culture. So they would be the ones that would be kind of our eyes and ears on the ground.”

“Who owns the homes when they’re finished?” I want to know.

“The people selected to live in them receive the homes without obligation,” McKinney says. “We are not involved in the selection process. Typically a local church knows the needs of the families — who is most deserving, who has gone through hardships. We would have no idea.

“Our only caveat is that they are not able to sell the homes. They can’t rent them. They have to keep them within the family. And our partners obviously can’t sell them to anybody. They have to be deeded. They have to be given.

“One of the most enduring characteristics of an entrepreneur is survival. And when you take away the need to survive for somebody or some group of citizens that have been forced to survive, they flourish! Just imagine, a man now has a place he can call home. He can go out and get a job. Once that need for shelter has been taken care of, we go back, three, four, five years later, and it’s amazing how well these villages are flourishing.”

Yielding to the Statistics

There are many considerations involved in designing a village for people in another nation. McKinney says, “I yield to the statistics. And what I mean by that is if the average age that someone’s going to attain in Haiti is 47.1 years, then I know that there’s going to be a lot of orphans. So we build an orphanage. If the infant mortality rate says that there’s a 22 percent chance that a child will not see his fifth birthday, then we need to be building clinics. The same thing holds true for the daily wage rate of the average Haitian being less than two dollars. If I import concrete, I’m not helping that statistic. We’re buying mixed concrete, concrete block, steel, the metal roof, the wood framing. And all of that is bought locally.”

McKinney stands with a family who has just moved into their new home. Photo: Courtesy Caring House Project Foundation

Doing such an ambitious project as building a village requires on-the-ground support. And that, says McKinney, starts with a competent project manager that the local people look up to.

“In most cases,” he says, “those people are clergymen or priests of some kind. Some of the best project managers we’ve had were priests. They were knowledgeable about building. They knew the ins and outs of what the residents needed. And those are the ones who tend to decide, along with our partner organization there, who is worthy of the homes.”

Caring House Project Foundation focuses its efforts primarily in Haiti, but has also completed building projects in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Indonesia. In the Haitian villages they build, CHPF includes an agricultural element as well.

McKinney says, “We tend to introduce the most basic agricultural products like pregnant goats and chickens and pigs. Right now, in our new villages that we’re building, each person will get a goat and two fruit trees — a mango and an avocado tree — because those are the two trees that the Haitians won’t cut down for their firewood. The caloric and nutritious content of those trees far outweigh the benefit of cutting them down and using them for charcoal.

“And then each village gets a mule. The mule is the ‘workhorse,’ so to speak. So a village that has 50 houses will get 50 latrines and 50 goats, 100 trees total, and one mule for this one small village.

“One project we built is a fishing cooperative. We provided boats and motors and fuel. The Haitian waters, if you get away from shore a little bit, are teeming with sea life. We provided a building where they grind the fish, clean the fish, freeze the fish or refrigerate it. Then, after everybody else’s little three-inch shiner fish has gone rotten in the sun by 11 a.m., our people bring out their nice, clean fish at noon. They can charge a little bit more money for it, and they can be self-sufficient that way.”

No Annual Funding

But self-sufficiency has to be learned. As many charitable organizations find out, simply giving “things” — even new homes — to people and expecting them to know what to do to take care of them is a recipe for failure. So, I ask Frank McKinney how CHPF helps the recipients transition to life in the villages it builds.

“Typically, groups of women provide training,” he says, “with the most basic of hygiene and just teaching the way to live a clean life. They teach the children, and teach the villagers how to manage their money.

“We don’t get into annual funding of our villages. That’s not our deal. You sink or swim on your own. We’re in the self-sufficiency business, not the charity business. We’ve provided everything for that village to succeed, and it’s up to these women, in many cases, to train the villagers not to blow the chance they’ve been given.”

End of Part 2

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

The Small Print

Blue Planet Green Living received a complimentary copy of the book discussed in this post. Other than the review copy, we received no compensation or incentive for reviewing the book. No one influences the content of any of our reviews other than the writer. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Blue Planet Green Living is an Amazon associate. If you choose to purchase this book or anything else by clicking on our Amazon link, we receive a very small percentage of your sale, which goes toward the operating expenses of this website.

For more information about our review policies, please visit the Policies link in our top navigation bar.

Related Posts

Part 1: Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

Part 2: Self-Sufficiency – The Best “Return on Donation” (Top of Page)

Part 3: From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap

Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

Acqua Liana faces the ocean, with the intracoastal waterway behind. Photo: IBI Designs

Frank McKinney isn’t just a man, he’s a full-fledged brand. His name is synonymous with the most expensive, most lavish homes built on speculation in the world. In typical style, Frank McKinney’s Acqua Liana direct oceanfront estate is a not only a $22.9 million masterpiece of architectural design and luxury, it’s also arguably the most environmentally friendly home for the super rich that’s ever been built. As you might guess, Frank McKinney doesn’t do things half way.

But this interview series isn’t about Frank McKinney, builder to the world’s elite. It isn’t about Frank McKinney, extreme athlete (he’s that, too, running an ultra marathon across Death Valley each of the past five years — in his mid 40s). It isn’t even about Frank McKinney, daredevil and showman, dressed as a pirate and descending a zip line at one of his luxury home unveilings. It’s about Frank McKinney, humanitarian.

Blue Planet Green Living interviewed McKinney by phone from his oceanfront treehouse office in Florida. This is part one in a three-part series about McKinney, his Caring House Project Foundation, and his book, The Tap. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

Frank McKinney calls himself “dichotomous,” and to my eye he is exactly that. He not only builds mansions for the world’s wealthiest people, but as founder of Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF), he also builds homes and villages for some of the world’s poorest. A grandstander at the lavish unveiling of his multimillion-dollar homes, he also meets with the poorest among poor as his equals.

If his bestselling book, The Tap, paints an accurate picture, Frank McKinney has a life that is very much in balance, despite the mega contrasts of having his feet planted in worlds so far apart.

Building Big In Order to Build Small

When I first saw the press release about his latest creation — “Frank McKinney’s Acqua Liana (Water Flower) – a stunning $22.9 million, 15,000 square-foot ocean-to-Intracoastal mansion that sits on over 1.6 acres of tranquil beachfront property in Manalapan Beach, Florida” — I was skeptical.

Then I checked on the details. McKinney’s website bills Acqua Liana as the “first ultra-luxury home to obtain triple ‘green’ certification through the U.S. Green Building Council, the Florida Green Building Coalition and Energy Star for Homes.” That’s impressive. And there’s more (all quoted directly from

Mr. McKinney and LEED-H promote a whole home approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in eight key areas of human and environmental health: innovation in design, sustainable site development, energy efficiency, water savings, superior indoor air quality, environmentally preferable materials, location and ease of use/homeowner education.

A few of Acqua Liana’s green features include:

  • Solar panels, insulative characteristics, environmentally conscious lighting, ultra-high efficient appliances and air-conditioning that cut down on electrical consumption by nearly 60%. On certain days the home will be energy neutral, and will generate enough electricity to run two average size homes.
  • A system that collects runoff water from the roof and fills the water garden. The system collects enough reusable water to fill the average size swimming pool every 20 days.
  • Ultra-high efficient air-conditioning and purification systems that make the home’s indoor air quality 2x cleaner than a hospital’s operating room.
  • Use of enough reclaimed and renewable wood to save over 10.5 acres of rain forest. Renewable woods used regenerate at an average rate of every 5 years vs. every 50 years for many hardwoods (one species of Columbian guada bamboo used regenerates by growing 90 feet in a single year!).
  • During construction over 340,000 pounds of debris and trash was recycled. Over 75% of all debris was diverted, and will never reach a landfill.
  • An automated “bio-feedback” system that allows the owner to monitor resource consumption in real time.

The foyer to Acqua Liana features abundant water in this elegant triple-green-certified home. Photo: IBI Designs

Though it’s an uber eco-friendly home, I can’t help thinking a mansion so big seems like conspicuous consumption to the max. And it probably is. But that’s okay with Frank McKinney; he sees the issue from another side:

“I don’t apologize at all for what I do, it’s something that’s a gift God has given me, and I’m very good at it,” he says. “I enjoy the creativity and the artistry associated with creating these beautiful homes, but there was a point where it was becoming very empty. Yet, there was a reason I was doing all this.”

By “all of this,” I interpret him as meaning Caring House Project Foundation.

McKinney continues, “My wife has a saying, ‘We build the big houses so we can build a lot of small houses.’ Twenty-five years into this career, I still love what I do for a living, but this offshoot [CHPF], it’s the same business; it’s just that a different person is getting that house. It’s fun to live that dichotomous life.”

McKinney began the Caring House Project in 1993, “on a simple premise that stability begins at home,” he says. “As I started in this real estate business in the mid ’80s, I certainly didn’t start at the ultra-high-end level by providing these multimillion-dollar homes to those who can afford them. I started by building or renovating little crack houses, little first-time home-buyer houses that were in some rough areas and were worth more like $50,000 to $100,000. I was at that for five years from 1986 to 1991, until I moved over to the oceanfront and started creating direct oceanfront homes on speculation.”

Soon after, McKinney’s worldview shifted dramatically.

Feeling The Tap

“Right about the mid ’90s, I was reading an article that was written about one of the houses we were doing — or about to do — and in the same newspaper on the opposite side of the page, was a news article about a homeless man. You’ve probably been told that you look like someone, and most of the time that person is too fat or skinny or ugly or doesn’t look at all like who you think you look like.

“But in this particular case, on the opposite side of the page from where this article was focusing on the grandeur and beauty of these oceanfront homes was an article about this homeless man which, there but for the grace of God go I.

“If I don’t shave for a couple of weeks and don’t run a blow dryer through my longer hair, I could look like I lived under a bridge real easy. And there it was. There was what I refer to in my book, The Tap: this epiphanous Tap Moment. “

The theme of The Tap can be summed up in McKinney’s paraphrase of a quote from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” He lives this philosophy each day, and pays close attention to what he calls “Tap Moments,” opportunities to take action to make a positive difference for others.

“I took a few right turns when I was a young man instead of a few left turns, or I could have certainly ended up under that bridge, being fed out of the back of a beat-up old van like this homeless man was,” McKinney tells me.

“I was in my mid-30s at the time, and I began to realize, maybe it wasn’t all about filling my garage with more cars and my closet with more clothes and my pantry with more food. Maybe there was a purpose behind the success. Perhaps it was sharing with those less fortunate. Maybe each one of us was blessed to succeed at a certain level, yet those blessings were never meant for our own benefit.

“Being a simpleton, the linear thinker that I am, this was seemed so clear. I thought, Well, listen. Frank, when you strip it all away, all the fancy houses and all the square footage and the beauty, you’re really just in the housing business. Why don’t you provide housing for people who don’t have it? And why don’t you use providing the world’s most wealthy with these beautiful mansions as your platform? Kind of like the modern-day Robin Hood; selling to the rich, so I could provide for the poor.”

“That’s where the Caring House Project Foundation got its start in 1998. After reading that very enlightening article, I started as a volunteer, serving meals to the homeless out of the back of that same beat-up old van that was featured in that story.

Sharing Time and Talent

“In The Tap, I talk about sharing the three Ts: Time, Talent, and Treasure. I didn’t have much treasure, I didn’t have much talent, but I had the time. So, I started sharing that, and then I moved to sharing my talent for fixing up a house. Instead of doing it for profit, I did it for people who couldn’t afford to fix up their own house.

Frank McKinney, best-selling author, entrepreneur, builder, and founder of Caring House Project Foundation. Photo: Courtesy of Frank McKinney

“I moved officially in ’98 to starting the Caring House Project Foundation. We would buy old houses, and instead of fixing them and selling them, we would fix them and rent them for $1 a month.”

“But why charge anything,” I ask, “when the people were so poor?”

“There were two reasons for charging $1 a month,” McKinney says. “One is we wanted to make sure that those who were living in our domestic Caring House Project homes had no substance abuse. They had to have a job or be actively seeking one. And that dollar a month made sure that there was some consideration, or some pride at renting the house.”

The second reason, he explains, was that providing free housing would have qualified the homes as homeless shelters. “I would be more protected if I’d opened an adult book store than trying to open a homeless shelter,” he laments. “I realized, if I charge a dollar a month, it’s not a shelter; it’s a rental apartment. That was my way of getting around those who tried to shut us down.

“At the peak, we never had more than three units here domestically. When we first started, we focused on the elderly. They are a homeless population that you just don’t see because, honestly, they don’t last very long on the street. They don’t survive.

“My very first tenant, was in his 80s, but that man worked harder than a lot of folks I see standing around the corner doing no good. He collected aluminum cans for a living and sold cans by weight. And he was so proud.

“I don’t think we had anybody in a house longer than two years before they were exited. And this is knowing full well that they were renting for $1 a month. It’s pretty powerful.”

Caring House Project helped several people during those years, but for McKinney that wasn’t enough.

“Listen,” he says, “in business you have what’s referred to as return on investment—ROI. In the charity business, which we like to refer to as the self-sufficiency business, you have return on donation — ROD. We realized it was costing us nearly $15,000 per life to provide shelter here domestically.”

That’s when McKinney decided to build Caring House Project homes and villages in some of the poorest nations of the world.

End of Part 1

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

The Small Print

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Related Posts

Part 1: Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life (Top of Page)

Part 2: Self-Sufficiency – The Best “Return on Donation”

Part 3: From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap