Advocacy – in terms of political support, legislative activity, and consumer-focused efforts – have long been a challenge for REALTOR® Associations, both at the local and state levels.
Since advocacy is one of many benefits offered by local associations, we typically find that members are divided in terms of their evaluations. Roughly half truly value and appreciate what the association is doing to directly or indirectly influence home values and home sales; however, the other half represents a mix of individuals who do not hold the same political or legislative leanings, or individuals who would prefer the association not be involved in any Advocacy-related efforts (“not your role”).
At the state level, advocacy is typically the primary driver of value. The association is front and center at the statehouse and most members are fully aware that dues funneled to the state mostly support advocacy efforts. At this level, however, it is important that the state association distinguish its efforts from other organizations, as members are more distanced from the efforts than at the local level.
It is also important to tout partnerships and collaboration opportunities, as the state association is frequently viewed as an organizer or facilitator. This includes organizing grassroots efforts and working with the local associations to activate their own memberships in times of need. While the results may not be as obvious, they arguably have a greater impact across alarger base of members and consumers than local outcomes. For this reason, it is most important that members understand the ROI of their state-focused dues dollars.
Advocacy is a tricky role for any association. For many associations, it is a classic “free-rider” model where you don’t have to belong to get the benefits. For REALTOR® Associations, however, this model typically does not apply – you must belong to get access to other benefits (e.g., MLS) and the tri-partite dues structure is unavoidable. For these reasons, REALTOR®Associations have both unique challenges but also opportunities in making the most out of its roles, efforts, and outcomes.
The next time you have an opportunity to talk to your members – formally or informally – make it a priority to ask the following questions as it relates to advocacy:
- How knowledgeable are we on the issues that are uniquely impacting you and your business?
- To what extent do you believe we have an adequate understanding of the impact of the issues on you and your business?
- How effective have we been at communicating our support (or lack thereof) on issues?
- (Whether you’re leaning or not) To what extent do you agree or disagree that our position on the issues represents that ofmost of our members?
- How effective have we been at adequately addressing the issues?
- To what extent do you agree or disagree that we have achieved the outcomes that you expected (or we expected)?
- How effective have we been at communicating the results of our efforts – win, lose, or draw?
The answers to these questions may help you to understand which advocacy role your members expect you to play and how well you are playing it. Overcoming the challenges unique to REALTOR® Associations can be tricky. However, understanding your members’ expectations around the advocacy role that you play is the first step to adding value necessary to keeping your members engaged and happy in the long run.