It's Time for Your Checkup

NAR’s Organization Assessment Checklist helps AEs evaluate the wellness of their associations.

Good health, whether personal or organizational, doesn’t just happen. It requires adopting positive behaviors, eliminating negative influences and occasionally assessing where you stand in relation to your wellness goals. Just as physicians examine different aspects of your personal health, audits evaluate your organizational well-being by identifying harmful problems early on and encouraging behaviors that can strengthen your association.

“We have a financial audit every year and a kind of 30,000-foot audit with the Core Standards, but when I started at my role—three days before we shut the office down for COVID-19—we didn’t have an operational audit,” says Jeff Lasky, RCE, CEO of the North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS® in Illinois. “I came across the Organization Assessment Checklist on the NAR website and thought, ‘Wow—this is a really neat opportunity for us to check all the boxes.’”

Operational Insurance

The Organization Assessment Checklist is a downloadable resource provided by the National Association of REALTORS® that’s designed to help associations assess their processes, procedures and management functions.

“It’s kind of like operational insurance,” Lasky says. “By using it, I’ve really reduced the chances of anything slipping through the cracks.”

The checklist can be useful in a variety of circumstances, from managing crises to guiding future decisions. For Cara Budde, CEO of the West Central Association of REALTORS® in Lima, Ohio, it’s a guidebook for the job.

“When I got here two years ago, there was nothing in writing for my position,” she says. “So, I was able to get together with my leadership, and we were able to work through the checklist. Even if I looked at it and had no idea what something was, I could dig in and ask questions.”

Completing the assessment with her leadership helped Budde cement those all-important relationships. It also provided her an opportunity to define items like committee chair explanations and update policies that hadn’t been looked at for a long time.

For example, the personnel policy had been unchanged for two decades; the assessment gave the association an opportunity to make significant updates to the harassment policy and create policies for activities like social media that didn’t exist 20 years ago.

“I was able to look at [the assessment] and take policy updates and additions step by step,” she says. “It’s like a road map for the many different hats we wear.”

Although it might not have been the kind of work Budde expected to do starting out, completing the assessment checklist provided a solid foundation for her role moving forward. “There’s a lot to learn when you first get started, and this was very helpful getting me started a little more quickly,” she says. “Now that I have it, it’s almost like having a manual for the position.”


Cara Budde & Jeff Lasky Agree the Checklist Puts Association Information at their Fingertips

Preventive Care

The assessment is divided into broad sections that map out specific information for an association to gather, from insurance policies and governing documents to financial procedures and leadership development strategies. The completed document serves as a quick reference guide, detailing where the information resides and who is responsible for it.

“I thought the staff-directed information—staff positions, benefits and training—was particularly interesting and helpful,” Lasky says.

Answering the questions often triggers insight. “There’s a section that references having graphics showing membership growth and loss for the past five years,” he says. “I read that and got to thinking about the value of having those graphs for the individual months, since this tends to be directly related to the time of year.”

The assessment can also prove beneficial for orienting new staff members—especially those from outside the real estate world who might not immediately grasp the specific nuances of the profession and the organization. “What a great way for a new hire to dig in,” Lasky says. “I find context is really important, and explaining the value of this goes a long way toward explaining the organization.”

As the AE of an association with almost 4,000 members and a staff of 13, Lasky is directly involved with the creation and maintenance of the checklist, working with two other staff members. Associations larger than his might have the work fully done by director-level or operational staff. For smaller organizations like Budde’s, which has 385 members and only two full-time staff people, it’s usually the AE who does the heavy lifting.

From a continuity perspective, the checklist may be especially useful to smaller associations—especially those that don’t have a full-time staff executive or staff secretary, Lasky adds. “While the larger associations might not always be able to find all this information, they likely have it somewhere, whereas those smaller organizations might not and could therefore really profit from having it intentionally compiled and stored.”

“The organizational checklist allows us to create the same spirit of excellence that a larger association can provide,” says Budde. “We can still do big things and make a big difference with the same guidance and strategic planning. That’s what I love about the resources NAR provides.”

Most days, the information compiled for an organizational audit won’t be needed. But when a specific issue does arise, it’s good to know that you’re prepared, Lasky says. “I use every opportunity I can to look a bit smarter than I really am, and something like this helps,” he says. “It allows me to able to put my hands on a document right away and give a quick answer.”

An Apple a Day

Lasky and Budde encourage other AEs to use the checklist. Though Lasky admits the 20-page document can appear intimidating at first, he cautions against feeling overwhelmed by it.

“Once you start looking into it, you realize it’s not nearly as onerous as you thought it was going to be,” he says. “We decided that once a week we’d sit down and knock out a page, and we easily had it done in less than half a year. Some things go faster than others, but nothing takes a long period of time.”

Budde agrees that the benefits—in knowledge, preparedness and operational awareness—far outweigh the effort. The checklist can also help illustrate the demands of the position. “Whether they scan it or really read it, it can be a tool for leadership to understand what you’re dealing with,” she says.

It’s been two years since Budde conducted the organizational audit; she’s ready to update the document, after which she’ll share it with her new president. Lasky anticipates thoroughly revisiting the assessment every three years in conjunction with the creation of his association’s new three-year strategic plan.

Increased Wellness

The ongoing beauty of the checklist, Budde says, is its continued usefulness and its ability to expand to changing times.

“There’s always something you want to work on, whether it’s there and you want to improve upon it, or whether you go to a conference and learn something new that you want to implement,” she says. “The checklist helps you constantly strengthen your foundation.”

And a solid foundation at the local level leads to a stronger organization overall.

“I was just on a call that discussed how, by working better together, the national association and the state associations and the local associations can maximize what we do for our members and the relationships we have with each other,” Lasky says. “The Organization Assessment Checklist is an example of something NAR provides that does that. It helps us individually and makes us collectively stronger.”

Author Eric Johnson is a writer living in Wisconsin.

The Checklist: A Primer

The Organization Assessment Checklist provides AEs a comprehensive resource for compiling important information and evaluating processes and procedures.

The 20-page Word document, developed by the Association Executives Committee’s Structural Audit Work Group, lists information associations should have available. To complete the form, staff indicate where the information can be found and who is responsible for it. A president/chief staff executive checklist helps AEs and their presidents define their respective roles and duties.

The information covered by the Organization Assessment Checklist is extensive, ranging from the historical (when the association was chartered by NAR and the location of the charter) to the practical, like lockbox replacement policies and details regarding office equipment. It also has sections that cover legal issues, data security and government affairs.

“As with any great tool, it teaches you by providing questions as well as answers,” says Jeff Lasky, RCE, CEO of the North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS®. “It’s a very helpful tool.”


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