Advice on Using the Models Tool From Your AE Peers

Dozens of associations use the REALTOR® Association Models Planning Tool annually as part of their strategic planning process. Others also employ it to evaluate individual programs and services. Below is a collection of advice from AEs around the country on how to best understand and use the Tool:

Make It a Fun Board of Directors Exercise Every Year

"It was a true awakening for our board of directors to see what, as leaders, they needed to be knowledgeable about," says Susan Stremler, former AE at the Whatcom County Association of REALTORS®, Bellingham, Wash. She found that the self-evaluation can be as easy as giving your staff and board of directors two colored markers at your next meeting -- one for circling on the chart where they think the association is now, and the other for marking where they want the association to go. Stremler had her board of directors go through the models document item by item. "I told them to mark blue all of the dream goals of the association and mark yellow all of the criteria they thought we've met or accomplished," she says.

Don't Worry About Small, Medium, and Large

"What the models workgroup found when developing these models was that size doesn't matter," says Teresa King Kinney, executive officer of the REALTOR® Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches. "Some people looked at the models and said, 'You know, I worked for an association that had 3,500 members but was clearly in the management model,' but I worked for a 1,300-member association that was clearly a leadership model."

Large Associations May Find Areas for Improvement

"We're mostly in leadership, but there are certain elements that are clearly in the other area and probably will stay there because that's the right fit for that particular function," says R. Scott Bruner, executive officer of the Virginia Association of REALTORS®. "We're really at the administrative level in terms of professional services, but that's almost a conscious decision."

Get Everyone on the Same Page

"The Models Tool was essential in helping us develop out strategic plan," says DiAnna Cowles, Association Executive at the Oroville Association of REALTORS, Calif. "First we needed to educate our directors on how the association currently works. So we filled out the organizational questionnaire and compared our answers. Even experienced members had different notions and understanding of how the association currently was operating and should operate. When we were all on the same page, then we could figure out where we need to improve or what we want to do to provide even greater value to our members."

"One of the Best Tools You Can Use"

"I have used this program with my own local association of REALTORS® and found that it helps our organization better define how we deliver our products, programs, and services and assists us in better defining some of our strategic directions in our business plan," says Travis Kessler, RCE, CAE and Chief Executive Officer of the San Antonio Board of REALTORS®. "Our association’s Board of Directors completes the survey annually, and I use the compiled results to determine if our desired style of governance is on target with our operations and the identified priorities of our business plan. Our organization utilizes the responses from the questionnaire to define our operational philosophy, which serves as the preamble to our business plan.

I also use the Planning Tool to examine whether there is a discrepancy in staff expectations vs. those of the leadership. Implementation of a business or strategic plan is a much smoother operation when staff and leadership have a common vision of how the association operates and delivers services to the membership.

In addition, I have used the Planning Tool with other REALTOR® associations that needed assistance in the process of hiring an association executive.

Utilized to the fullest extent, the Planning Tool can serve as an excellent human resources service as well as a business/strategic planning product. Not only is it an effective tool – there’s no cost to the association."


This assessment is a tool that will help provide guidance in the delivery of products, services, programs, and value to the association. This assessment is only one tool that should be used to examine expectations and responsibilities for the association and its volunteers and key staff leader.