Minority awareness: associations use innovative approaches to attract minority buyers and multicultural members.
NAR's new Diversity Assistance Program (DAP) recognized 17 Realtor associations in 2004 with grants to help fund their outreach efforts to minority consumers and bring more cultural diversity into association membership and leadership.
Among other goals, the diversity program was designed to: 1) foster diversity in the NAR membership and in the real estate workplace, 2) expand diversity in association leadership, 3) build and enhance alliances with minority real estate organizations, and 4) increase the relevance of the association and its members in minority communities.
While outreach is the key to achieving these goals, some question whether special outreach is really needed. Associations may feel that their doors have always been open to qualified real estate professionals, regardless of race or ethnicity. Still, many associations have found that serious, well-planned diversity programs not only make that openness more explicit, but make good business sense.
"We want to be the voice for real estate in Greater Minneapolis," explains Bill Gerst, vice president of public affairs for the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors . "With successful outreach there will be no reason for brokers and salespeople to join other real estate organizations." That philosophy is what has powered MAAR's efforts to strengthen opportunities for minority members over the past 15 years. Today, its thriving Multicultural Network of Real Estate Professionals makes MAAR a familiar presence in the area's emerging markets.
To help other associations build successful diversity outreach programs, NAR awarded seed money and support. Here are some projects under way:
Multicultural networking to build bonds
The Columbus Board of Realtors , Ohio, recently launched a support program for minority practitioners called "Focal-Point." This program includes multicultural career nights and job fairs (co-sponsored with various community partners), grant opportunities for minority practitioners, and mentoring sessions for newly licensed multicultural salespeople. Focal-Point's goal is not only to encourage people of different races and cultures to look at real estate as a viable career option, but to assist them once they are in business with the tools and help needed to succeed.
"This past year, we have had standing room only at some of the career nights," says Larry Metzger, CEO of the Columbus Board. "We feel this is an indication that our partnerships and marketing efforts are getting the message out that we welcome people of all races and cultures into the industry." Once licensed, minority salespeople are encouraged to apply for the post-licensing grant to help offset expenses like dues, business cards, and lock boxes.
The Iowa City Area Association of Realtors ' Education and Fair Housing Committee set out to increase awareness of housing opportunities for a diverse population by educating its members and the community. With its seed money grant, the group plans to develop a mentor training program in 2005 in which Realtor ambassadors serve as resources for the culturally diverse community. These mentors will help ethnic groups access resources that will make their assimilation into the community easier, including a listing of interpreters and social and civic networks.
The Iowa City association, affiliated with a local chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, will host multicultural forums and professional and technical diversity networking opportunities, with the primary goal of recruiting minorities into the industry.
Encourage minority buying
The Southern Twin Cities Association of Realtors , Minn., used its grant funds from NAR's diversity assistance program to launch a Home Ownership Fair. The fair was a collaboration between Realtors , lenders, and community-based organizations to help close the minority homeownership gap in the area. Likewise, the 450-member Merced County Association of Realtors , Calif., will use its funds to put together homebuyer fairs in different languages to reach out to the growing Asian and Hispanic communities.
Attract Native Americans
The Northwest Montana and the Greater Fairbanks Alaska associations of Realtors have employed NAR grant funding to put together two-day events that will help them reach out to native tribal peoples and recruit Native Americans into the real estate business.
In Montana, the outreach program follows local tribal customs, which include presenting gifts to tribal chiefs for the privilege of speaking to the community. The planned homeownership event will feature sessions aimed at educating both tribe members and Realtors . They will discuss the unique aspects of buying and selling tribal land and explore the spiritual relationships the tribal members have with the land and water.
These and other programs across the country are testaments to how associations can provide model programs for others and make a difference in their communities. Additional information is available in the online Diversity Toolkit for Realtor Associations (REALTOR .org/diversity), including: information on programs that have worked, a diversity program checklist, research techniques to give you a better grasp of your association members' capabilities and needs, and research studies to facilitate diversity. Updates to the print version of the toolkit will be available in March and will be mailed to all associations.
Foster Diversity in Membership:
One of the most affordable activities for advancing diversity for associations of any size is a multicultural mixer. "Mixers are a good way to break the ice and start working together," says Brian Paul, director of member and community relations at the Southland Regional Association of REALTORS (SRAR). The Association's Equal Opportunity and Diversity Committee sponsored its 13th mixer in September 2004 which drew more than 600-800 Realtors and members of Southland's diverse community at a cost to the Association of about $500. All members are invited to the mixer where information is distributed about working with multicultural homebuyers and sellers. There's also live entertainment and ethic foods. Banks, title companies, and other local establishments set up tables with information on their programs aimed at serving diverse and low-income communities.
Honoring Diversity Outreach
Today more American families own their own homes than ever in history, but not all Americans participate equally in homeownership. Nearly three out of four white households own their homes, but less than half of minority households enjoy the benefits of homeownership. This divide in the American Dream suggests that cultural and ethnic barriers to homeownership remain alive in our society--34 years after passage of the Fair Housing Act.
The HOPE Awards ("Home Ownership Participation for Everyone") recognizes up to seven organizations and individuals who are making outstanding contributions to increasing minority homeownership. NAR and a partnership of real estate associations joined together to support the HOPE Awards to raise public awareness on this vital issue and to provide a means to share inspiring and enlightening stories with others who want to help the nation achieve the goal of homeownership parity.
Learn about the 2005 HOPE Awards categories, judging criteria and submission guidelines online at www.hopeawards.org
Global Outreach at Home
Reaching out to the international market means more than working with foreign investors and relocating workers. International also means recent immigrants to the U.S. and immigrant communities.
Want to establish an international program at your association and don't know where to begin? NAR's International Department has compiled international outreach program resources from dozens of associations.
Log on to REALTOR.org to find guides to gaining your association leadership's support for your international council; expanding your international council; implementing an international program; international education and programming; and tools for the international council.