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My REALTOR® Party Initiative NAR Taps Wisconsin AE to Lead National Political Advocacy Effort

October 1, 2011

The My REALTOR® Party Initiative—introduced at the August NAR Leadership Summit in Chicago—includes programs, consultants, and grants to enable every REALTOR® association to design its own customized package of community involvement and political leadership programs.

Funded by a NAR Board of Directors vote in May out of the $40 dues increase, the initiative aims to enable REALTOR® associations to enhance their community involvement, help elect REALTOR® champions to public office at all levels of government, and promote issues that protect and improve REALTOR® public policy.

Bill Malkasian, who was president of the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association for more than 30 years, will lead the implementation campaign with state and local associations as the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ vice president of political strategic planning.

“My job is to get everyone on the three levels of the organization to talk to each other and think strategically [about community leadership and political involvement],” says Malkasian. “The goal is to increase the political competency of all associations.”

For associations of all sizes, the My REALTOR® Party Initiative is an opportunity to launch or relaunch programs that will engage members in political action and issue advocacy. Malkasian and a cadre of consultants (mostly local and state government affairs directors) will help associations select the right type of program for their unique needs and goals.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all program,” says Malkasian. “Every area will do it differently. What works in Vermont may not work in California. Every local association has something to offer.”

Menu of 60+ advocacy tools

Seasoned GADs and politically active AEs will recognize most of the more than 60 tools, services, and funding sources for associations in the My REALTOR® Party Initiative. The programs aren’t all new, but their funding is larger, notes Malkasian. “Unfortunately, what many members believe,” says Malkasian, “is that all the money is going to NAR to do more lobbying on the federal level, but in fact, the majority of this money is going to state and local [associations] that request the money for a specific program or service.”

State and local associations can choose from programs such as community involvement grants to launch anything from an affordable housing education program to a transportation development initiative. There are also programs to fund and develop issue or candidate campaigns, for example, to defeat a local tax or elect a member to public office. There are also a variety of RPAC fund-raising programs.

For associations where community involvement or issues advocacy is completely new, Malkasian suggests starting small. “Integrate one or a few of these programs into your annual strategic planning process, maybe just start with volunteer work first, build a brand, build a presence in the community,” he says. “The goal is to do something. Participate.”

What is new in the My REALTOR® Party Initiative is the program for independent expenditures (funds to advocate for the election or defeat of a particular candidate), along with the REALTOR® Candidate Training Academy (see p.23). All of the My REALTOR® Party Initiative programs, which are provided to associations at no cost, are listed at www.myrealtorparty.com.

Because 2012 election hype is already strong nationwide, members may wonder if this initiative is gearing up to focus on it. Malkasian, however, says My REALTOR® Party “is not an election cycle program, it’s a 24/7/365 program that will be balanced between election, regulation, and community leadership objectives.”

Today the real estate industry itself is challenged, notes Malkasian. Consumers question whether home ownership is still a good thing. “AEs have a responsibility to do strategic planning for what’s best for their members’ business. Issues advocacy, community involvement, and political participation is what’s ultimately good for members’ businesses.”