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Community Leadership Starts With Small Steps

October 1, 2011

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how a local association can make a difference in the national scope of politics and change in our country. It often feels as if we’re too small to have an effect, have too few resources, and even fewer hours in the day to devote to advocacy. With this mindset, no wonder so many small associations pass the responsibility of political advocacy on to larger or state associations.

The truth is, small associations do have a role to play and can make a difference in many cost-effective ways that take little time and effort.

Mark Lehman, vice president of governmental affairs at the Texas Association of REALTORS®, suggests small-association AEs first get to know local lawmakers. “Making friends with your elected officials helps to ensure that your local association is able to influence movement and change within your community,” Lehman says. Political friends are those whom you support and who support you. You may not be able to chat with your U.S. senator over a cup of coffee, but that senator probably started out as a county board member or alderman, and fostering a relationship is where you can start to make an impact.

Patsy Nieboer, AE with the West Central Association of REALTORS® in Michigan, supported a rising politician early on, and now has a friend in the state Senate. “Our state senator, Geoff Hansen, repeatedly tells the story of when he was starting his run for the House. He was at the point of making the dreaded call to ask his in-laws for a loan to keep his campaign going,” Nieboer says. “That day he got a call from me extending our support and a check for $1,000. He hasn’t forgotten that we were there in the beginning and continues to be our supporter in our state capital.”

Don’t ​go it alone

To achieve political impact beyond their size and means, small associations can join forces with other community groups and organizations, as well as other REALTOR® associations. If you can’t muster enough politically motivated members to form a government affairs committee, maybe you can find one or two members to serve on a joint committee of like-minded area organizations. The Greater Chapel Hill Association of REALTORS® in North Carolina works with the local chamber of commerce’s legislative committee to make its voice heard. Together they’ve started a legislative affairs and community development e-bulletin, and are working to put together an advocacy group to defeat a sales tax proposition. Many associations also work with other local REALTOR® associations in their area when they share the same state senator or representative.

The time is now

Standing up for private property rights and the real estate market is part of what every association is here to do. If your association has never been politically involved, now more than ever, it’s important. Start with basic steps, like asking your local officials to meet with your government affairs committee, or even starting a government affairs committee. Local officials want the opportunity to build that relationship. You are, after all, the local arm of a million-member organization.

In fact, there’s never been a better time to put community leadership and political action on the top of your association’s to-do list. Never before has the national association offered this level of funds, staff, and resources to get you started. Take the first step: Visit MyRealtorParty.com, and scroll down to the “Choose Your Approach to Get Started” option. From there, fill out a short assessment of your association’s needs or just sign up to have a consultant help you. Don’t be afraid to step out of the pack and get mobilized.


Amy DuBose, e-PRO, is the association executive with the San Marcos Area Board of REALTORS®, Texas. She can be reached at 512-396-5478 or amy@smabor.com.