‘We’re All in This Together’

During economic downturns, associations should rely on each other more than ever.
Close up of holding hands


You can’t budget for what you don’t know. That’s why National Association of REALTORS® CEO Bob Goldberg meets monthly with the association’s Finance Committee to discuss the impact of inflation, the supply chain and other trends.

With a 15% decrease in membership anticipated over the next three years, NAR is leaning on strategic planning to measure every dollar it spends. Just as important, Goldberg says, is being transparent. “I call it ‘management in the sunshine,’ and I don’t bifurcate it between good times and bad times,” he says.

Keeping open lines of communication among AEs is essential: “It is a three-way partnership for a reason,” Goldberg says. “Rely on one another. Use The Hub [there are private local AE and state AE communities at thehub.realtor]. Expand your network. No question is off limits. Those of us who have gone through it before know there is a light at the end of a downturn.”

Advice at the State and Local Levels

It’s crucial to plan and prepare for economic downturns before they happen, says Cliff Long, RCE, CEO of the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association.

“One of the key strategies that we have used is diversifying our sources of revenue,” he says. “One successful example is ORRA’s for-profit arm—Orlando Regional Real Estate Network—which handles businesses that generate non-dues revenue. Through ORREN, we have been able to provide valuable services to our members, while simultaneously generating revenue for the association.”

To access new resources and share best practices, the Orlando association has also collaborated with other associations, including Panama, Puerto Rico, Miami, Houston and Northern Virginia.

Teresa King Kinney, RCE, CAE, CEO of Miami REALTORS®, says that while it’s been years since the association has had a decline in membership, understanding what members want and giving them what they need are essential for retention. “It’s back to the basics and more education and training on core skills, along with hot topics that members need to be more successful,” she says. “We reevaluate each of our products and services to redirect and retrain to the market need.”

In Orlando, the association conducted focus groups to help understand members’ needs, expectations and challenges. Long says, “All our benefits are focused on the return on investment for our members.”

Like Miami, the Maine Association of REALTORS® is in the fortunate position of having increasing membership for the last 11 years. Currently, 86% of real estate licensees are also REALTOR® members.

“We have a statewide MLS, which is a subsidiary corporation of the Maine Association of REALTORS®. We also provide our members with a library of 80-plus legal forms—reviewed and updated annually—and a legal helpline to help our members manage their risk. With a statewide MLS and statewide forms, there is deep familiarity with the transaction process across the state,” explains Suzanne Guild, CEO.

MAR also focuses on communicating its value. With state association dues of approximately 50 cents per day, members gain a full suite of programming, advocacy support and much more.

Kinney says that Miami has used practical strategies to retain members, such as offering more than 4,000 events and seminars each year, including many in English and Spanish that can be accessed on the member portal.

“At dues renewal time, we offer cash discounts for payment on time, along with an education credit and even include a free designation course,” says Kinney. “Most of our tools and services are included in their dues and MLS fees—even their Supra eKey.”

Another way to retain members is quite easy: Respond! Guild says that the professional team’s top priority is to be available and accessible and to shepherd members’ suggestions to the appropriate decision-making body.

“On a regular basis, we hear from members who say, ‘I appreciate that you answer the telephone,’ ” says Guild. “Members recall their customer service experience—good and not so good—even more than the products you are offering.”

It’s also vital to look at your work through your members’ eyes. “I always remind our staff that our members wake up every day unemployed—they aren’t paid until they make a sale,” Goldberg says. “Recognize that and be there for your members. That empathy goes a long way.”

Written by: Michele Wojciechowski, an award-winning writer based in Baltimore.



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