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REALTOR® Party: Hula for RPAC

October 25, 2013

Raising more than $17,000 for the REALTORS® Political Action Committee would be a success for any REALTOR® association, but for the 800-member Coeur d’Alene Association of REALTORS®, the accomplishment was particularly special.

For years, Coeur d’Alene had inconsistent success with raising RPAC funds. The association had few major investors and struggled in some years to meet its fair-share goal. Executive Officer Rick Vernon, RCE, said members tried a few fundraising ideas, such as a chili cook-off, with marginal success. They needed to increase participation in RPAC, and decided to “do something fun in order to make that happen,” says Vernon.

Taking a chance, the Coeur d’Alene Association tried a fundraising raffle,* where the winners would be drawn at a luau and pig roast gala event. Vernon says he initially was worried that the upfront cost for prizes (including $3,500 in cash, two iPad Minis, gift cards, gas cards, free homes magazine advertising, and a weekend hotel stay) might be a waste of valuable resources if RPAC funds weren’t raised. So, the association applied online for a $1,500 RPAC Fundraising Partnership Program Grant.

In addition to funding the event itself, Coeur d’Alene needed funds to launch an education program to bring about a cultural shift among members to become more politically involved. This, in turn, would help the association in its support of pro-REALTOR® candidates.

A 12-member RPAC committee was put together to develop ways to boost members’ political awareness. Part of the association’s new program was to have RPAC committee members make presentations at the monthly meetings of local real estate offices. They emphasized the importance of contributing to RPAC and gave examples of how money that stays locally benefits members in their own backyards. “The members were enthusiastic and that showed in our increased participation levels,” says Vernon.

The RPAC committee members visited the brokerage offices in luau attire (Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, coconut tops) to promote the upcoming event. They sold about a third of the raffle tickets  this way, yet not nearly enough to bring in the amount of money the association needed to reach its goal. E-mail blasts were then sent to the membership. After that, committee members made more face-to-face appeals. Before they knew it, they had sold more than $16,000 worth of raffle tickets at $100 each to benefit RPAC.

Tickets to the event were sold for $20 each to members, their families, and other as an additional fundraiser. The event, held June 20, was a huge hit with the membership. A local four-piece band with a ­REALTOR® lead singer took the stage for two hours of entertainment.

To further support the goal of cultural change among its members, announcements at the luau focused on what RPAC had done for them lately. Fliers and educational information were spread out on tables around the event space.

Although the event was a resounding success, Vernon says he will give himself and his staff more time next year in planning a similar event. “Education and ticket sales take time,” he says. “Start planning this year for what you might want to do next year.”

* Raffles are against the campaign finance laws of some states. Check with NAR’s RPAC staff for guidance on alternative plans.

Laura Hawxhurst is an RPAC fundraising associate at the National Association of Realtors® in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at 202-383-7581 or lhawxhurst@realtors.org.