My small association, like so many others, went through some belt-tightening over the past few years that made us refocus our offerings on what our members say they need and value most. Unfortunately, that left some areas that I feel are really important—such as smart growth, housing opportunity, and local legislative advocacy—relatively unfunded. We don’t have the resources to devote to educating members on these topics or to put behind grassroots community development programs.
Luckily, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® offers some free assistance that enables us to not only educate our members but also claim our seat at the table when important growth, housing, and legislative issues arise in our community.
Grants to host smart growth programs
In 2012, my association applied for the Tier 1 Smart Growth Grant through NAR. I was shocked by how easy the process was. We received a $1,500 grant and used it to host a four-hour continuing-education course designed by NAR, called Smart Growth in the 21st Century. We offered it to members for free and the response was outstanding. Members really valued the opportunity to learn about this topic and how it could affect our community’s growth in the future (no doubt they also appreciated the free CE credit). We now plan to apply for a Tier 2 Smart Growth Grant for up to $5,000 to launch a daylong symposium about smart growth and development for our entire community, including local organizations and policy makers. Through these offerings, we’re able to position the REALTOR® organization as the go-to resource for this type of information.
Another really simple way we’ve been able to stay visible on smart growth is by giving our local planning and zoning commissioners and city council members the On Common Ground magazine that NAR publishes. On Common Ground is a free, semi-annual magazine that presents a wide range of views on smart growth issues with the goal of encouraging dialogue among REALTORS®, elected officials, and other interested citizens. Sharing this content builds bridges between our organizations and lets community leaders know that we are in favor of responsible growth.
Grants to host housing opportunity programs
A grant through the Housing Opportunity Program, funded by the national association, offers another chance to provide value to our members. The grant program provides local and state associations with up to $5,000 to put on any type of housing event or program. Associations can also apply for a grant up to $1,000 to host either a four-hour “Employer-Assisted Housing” class or a six-hour “Expanding Housing Opportunities” class, which are both developed by NAR. Some time very soon, we hope to apply for this grant to fund a housing fair.
Even though I know a local housing fair would provide great opportunities for consumers in my area to learn the inner workings of real estate and boost the profile of my members, right now we do not have the volunteer or staff manpower to put on a program, even with the funding. Small associations like mine need to plan far in advance and select our events carefully so we don’t overburden our volunteers.
Grants to sponsor legislative advocacy
You have, no doubt, heard about NAR’s Issues Mobilization opportunities and the funding available to local and state associations. This is a great opportunity to make a significant difference in your community. Funding for political and legislative advocacy campaigns can range from a few thousand dollars to upwards of $100,000. The application requirements vary based on the amount requested and your proposed project.
My association received issues mobilization funds to help combat negative forces who were fighting a road bond package that would finance engineering, design services, and construction for up to five road projects in our county. I applied for funds through the Texas Association of REALTORS®. The issues mobilization committee then determined there was time to get matching funds from the national association. When the funds were approved, we used them to pay for direct advertising to the public to vote for the bond package in the elections. We communicated the importance of the bond effort to our members via all channels we use (social media, e-mail, luncheons, and face-to-face contact) and we made them aware that we had received issues mobilization funds for this program. Members are keenly aware that a portion of their dues are earmarked for political advocacy, so we were eager to show that some of that came home to our county for this important fight, which we ultimately won!
Free member information to repurpose
Lastly, NAR provides me with great information on a variety of topics I can use in my member communications. Not only do I summarize the national association’s press releases posted on REALTOR.org but I also link to the blog posts at REALTOR.org that cover a wide range of topics—from research and education to technology. There are also blogs for specific real estate concentrations. These blogs can be shared with your members easily through your newsletter or via social media. When you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to keep members informed, you save time.
Being small with limited staff and budget does not mean that you have to offer members less value. Resources are available; you just have to tap into them.
Amy DuBose, RCE, e-PRO, is the association executive with the San Marcos Area Board of REALTORS®, Texas. She can be reached at 512-396-5478 or firstname.lastname@example.org.