The National Association of REALTORS®’ new Gifts and Favors Policy states: “Giving gifts of material value and granting or requesting significant personal or professional favors can quickly create a conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest, between NAR’s members and its employees.”
When reading the reasoning behind the new policy, you might be thinking, “Should our local association have its own Gifts and Favors Policy?” It is likely a good idea.
Even if your association has never run into an issue with receiving gifts from members, the best time to craft policy is before you run into an issue rather than after. When an association has elected leadership, even the appearance of an improper gift can erode confidence and breed mistrust among members. But how should you go about crafting a good policy?
To begin, a well-crafted policy will often require input from a combination of your leadership and legal counsel. Your attorney can give guidance on any state law that may come into play and help create a policy that is both sensible and legally defensible. Whether this policy belongs in your bylaws, rules and regulations, or as a stand-alone policy is a matter of local discretion, and one that you’ll want to discuss with your leadership.
Getting started might seem like a daunting task, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. NAR’s policy can serve as a model for your own policy. Online, you can easily find similar gifts and favors policies from membership organizations to use as a reference as well. Some of your fellow local REALTOR® associations might already have gifts and favors policies that work well for them, or they can offer advice from their own experiences. The Local Association Executives forum on The Hub is a great resource for asking questions when taking your first steps toward creating policy.
Getting started might seem like a daunting task, but you don't need to reinvent the wheel.
As in NAR’s policy, it may be important to distinguish what kinds of gifts would be considered appropriate and what kinds of gifts can be problematic. For example, NAR’s policy grants that reasonable gifts for special occasions or nominal tokens of appreciation given to all employees would not be seen as worrisome. However, gifts of cash, valuable items or special treatment given to one person or one particular group of people should be avoided. Consequences for not complying with the policy should be explained clearly so they are easily understood.
An association’s greatest asset is its membership. Asking for member input in crafting a strong and meaningful policy will give your members a chance to be listened to and recognized. If appropriate, a work group or a task force made up of knowledgeable association members can lead to policy that is both smart and comprehensive.
As always, NAR’s Member Policy team can help you with any questions you encounter along the way. You can reach us from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central, Monday through Friday, at 312-329-8399 or by email at email@example.com.