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Today’s New Transparency

January 1, 2010

The theme of this issue, “trust,” is very timely. Every association executive I know is experiencing increased scrutiny from members. In tough times, we all pay more attention to the value we receive for every dollar we spend. Members want great value from their professional association. And, let’s face it, they are naturally skeptical of the organization. Members expect the leaders of the association to earn their trust. This issue of REALTOR® AE magazine gives us the tools we need to do just that, as well as the guidance we need to succeed in this challenging environment.

Perhaps the most important tool we have at our disposal for creating trust is transparency. If you need an example of how lack of transparency hurts credibility, just look to the U.S. Congress. Despite the Freedom of Information Act and thousands of news agencies covering activities in Washington, D.C., the process of lawmaking is too complicated for the average citizen to understand. As a result, the approval rating of Congress is barely above the single digits. If you want to avoid a low approval rating by your members, transparency is the key. Becoming a transparent organization is not easy, but if you want to gain the trust of your members in 2010, it is not optional.

The first step is to understand what transparency means in an organizational context. In the past, transparency simply meant that you freely shared information with your members, but today it means much more. More than telling the simple truth about what you did, transparency is the act of making known your intentions—what you are thinking about doing, how you are planning to think about it, who is going to be involved, and why you are thinking about doing it. Then, after you have completed whatever it is you set out to do, you have to tell members what you did and why. The new transparency is no longer just about allowing members to see what the association has done; it’s about inviting them to observe the process, and even to get involved.

Without transparency, it is very difficult to gain your members’ trust. The Association Executives Committee (AEC) also needs to be transparent in order to gain the trust of the AEs we serve. Our goal is to involve all AEs in the discussions and activities of the committee, subcommittees, and work groups. As we attempt to practice transparency, you will have the opportunity to provide input, serve on a work group, or contribute to the overall body of knowledge. I hope you will participate.

By demonstrating transparency at the AEC, we hope all of us can learn this critical skill and see how organizations that are trusted by their members experience great benefits. This promises to be a busy and interesting year to be an association executive, so buckle your seat belt and enjoy the ride.


— Dave Phillips, RCE, CAE
2010 AEC Chair

CEO, Charlottesville Area
Association of REALTORS®, Va.
434/817-2393, Dave@caar.com