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Adversity Breeds Fellowship, Charity

January 1, 2012

Across the country, AEs report seeing a shift away from member demands for solely business programs and events, and a shift toward more social functions. Why? AEs point to two reasons.

First, there’s the psychological aspect: people will seek the comfort of community in hard times—be it family, their church, or another organization of like-minded people. Then there’s the influence of online social networking that has injected even more “social” and personal into members’ business practices. Together these influences are slowly changing what members want from their REALTOR® association.

We’re in this together

The new opportunity that members are looking for is not exactly networking, says Oklahoma City Metro Association of REALTORS® CEO Dawn Kennedy. “I think what members want is camaraderie—the idea of solidarity in these challenging times.” REALTORS® seem to have a new appreciation for being part of a larger group, and spending time with their peers appeals to them.

Lynnore Fyetko, CEO of the Greater Syracuse Association of REALTORS®, N.Y., says monthly member socials are a growing success at her association. From ice cream socials to Tuscan-style wine tastings, the association holds a variety of events that are purely social, yet are underwritten by a new affiliate member.

As the recession hit the industry, associations saw attendance at events drop, especially those events with a high price tag, such as golf tournaments. But now these new social events, which are typically low-cost, are taking their place at many associations.

The Osceola County Association of REALTORS®, Fla., launched an unofficial dinner club so that members and their spouses could get to know one -another in a downtime atmosphere, says CEO Carol Platt. She describes the club as a “group that likes to have a nice dinner together without the formal trappings of yet another committee.”

At many associations, the new social opportunities are charity events. Several associations say donations are up and participation in charity events is on the rise. Possibly because of the greater need these days—at food pantries, homeless shelters, and the like—more members, AEs say, feel compelled to help and appreciate that their association provides an opportunity.

It’s unclear whether this shift toward the social will continue after the market improves, but for now, many association executives say a sense of camaraderie is becoming more important in helping their members make connections with one another. As long as this remains the case, associations will keep replacing activities that are no longer successful with new, member-driven social opportunities.

Melynn Sight is president of nSight Marketing. Contact her at 913-261-9100 or melynn@nsightmarketing.com.