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Recruiting for Diversity

January 1, 2008

Recruiting a diverse array of members and leaders is a task filled with potential pitfalls that can frustrate your good intentions. But the end result is well worth the effort. After all, diversity in leadership not only builds credibility in a diverse community, but also enables the association to better understand and meet the needs of its diverse membership. So how can associations successfully recruit with an eye toward diversity?
These three steps can help you: 1) broaden your qualifications, 2) reach out to all the diverse groups in your association’s market area, and 3) build and nurture a pool of potential leaders reflecting your diverse community. Your association’s future leadership will rise from this pool and strengthen your association as a powerful voice for real estate in your community.

Broadening qualifications
What makes someone the best qualified to be a leader? “Recruiting for diversity must begin with an absolute commitment to selecting leaders on the basis of their individual qualifications,” says Ginger Downs, rce, cae, CEO, Chicago Association of Realtors®. Traditionally, associations want members who have been active in a cross-section of committees, volunteered for events, contributed to association funding drives, and represent the varied interests within the association. For an ethnically and racially diverse membership it may also be important to look at potential leader’s involvement in other organizations. For instance, are they regarded as a leader in ethnically focused real estate organizations or chambers of commerce? Or perhaps they represent various geographic districts. Whatever the benchmarks, knowledge of diversity and relationships with under-represented members and communities become qualifications for leadership in the association.
To better represent a racially and ethnically diverse membership and the community it serves, consider what would qualify a member to effectively represent that group.

The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors® amended its bylaws to allow the chairman of the board to select three additional directors to one-year terms. “The objective was to ensure the board of directors represented all real estate disciplines and our rapidly growing diverse membership,” says Christine Todd, rce, cae, chief executive officer. “The appointed directors from the ethnic populations were well-qualified members, successful and respected among their peers. Today our board reflects our diverse membership with appointed as well as elected directors.”

Reach out to diverse groups
The second step is to reach out to members who will bring diversity to the association’s leadership and to those who may not be represented well in current leadership or committees. NAR’s new course, “Leading with Diversity: A Business Imperative in a Changing World,” is designed to help you develop a diversity action plan.

Attending local meetings of such groups as the Asian Real Estate Association of America, visiting offices serving diverse populations, and introducing yourself to members from different ethnic groups will bring you into contact with potential leaders. If you have trouble finding members serving a particular community or population, visit community leaders or host on business networking forums among diverse populations in your community.

Nurture a Pool of Leaders
Prospective leaders often value an invitation from association leaders or executives to become more involved. When soliciting involvement, focus on the individual’s qualifications for the position, not their status as a member of an under-represented group. Additionally, point out how involvement can add value to their business and their ability to serve their customers. It’s the knowledge and skills the person brings to the table that are most important—be sure they know how much you appreciate this.

By focusing your diversity-related goals on the pool of leaders and recruiting from members serving the diverse customer base in your communities, your future leadership will not only be composed of the best qualified Realtors®, but also will begin to look more like your community.

Three steps to a diverse leadership:

1. Broaden your qualifications
2. Reach out to all the diverse groups in your association’s market area
3. Nurture a pool of potential leaders reflecting your diverse community.