Planning made easy
By Carolyn Schwaar

4 Steps to Better Goal Setting

Planning your association’s future is no easy task. What new services should you offer? What new education does your staff need? What advances in technology should you adopt? The questions -- and planning -- go on and on. To complicate matters, planning for tomorrow often takes a back seat to managing today.

That’s where a new association planning tool developed by NAR and the Association Executives Committee comes in.

In four steps, the Realtor® Association Models Online Plan­ning Tool provides the foundation on which you can build your association’s plan for the future. Sounds like a tall order, but this easy-to-manage guide simplifies the daunting task of planning for organizations of any size.

The planning tool will help you better manage your association’s business or strategic planning process. It presents, in a logical sequence, the issues you need to consider so that you gain a better understanding of not only where your association is today but also where you’d like it to be tomorrow.

Step 1:
Establish who will use the tool and why. Using the list of six uses for the tool , determine the primary reason you’re using the tool. This versatile planning tool can help you chart your career advancement with continuing education strategies, uncover potential new service areas, or assess program resources. Use the tool for an­nual planning or more targeted objectives throughout the year.
Also determine who will use the tool. Will it be only the association executive and president? Or will you include input from all staff and elected leaders.

Step 2:
Fill out the 30-question online questionnaire, which covers governance, resources, staff, services, and communications. You’ll need to reserve a chunk of quiet time (30 to 40 minutes) for answering the questionnaire or save your work online and log back in anytime. You can choose to answer the questions on the quiz using the current state of how your association operates or by projecting the ideal state of operations.

Volunteer leaders and staff should answer the questions individually. However, to gain the greatest value from the assessment, the association should come to some consensus in the identification of responses. The questions can also be answered in conjunction with each other (volunteer leaders and staff). The most appropriate response (by consensus) can be selected by the group.
Here’s a sample of what you’ll find online:

Q. Mark the statement that most closely represents your
association’s budgeting process.
  • Comprehensive budget is developed by staff, is based on strategic outcomes, and is approved by volunteer leadership; staff is empowered to make adjustments within established guidelines and to act quickly on opportunities, threats, or new initiatives.
  • Detailed budget is developed jointly by staff and volunteer leaders.
  • Comprehensive budget is developed by staff, with input and approval by volunteer leadership.
  • Does not apply to my association.

Q. Which of the following most closely represents your association’s staff structure?
  • Chief staff executive and senior management team are responsible for administration and management of the association.
  • Staff maintains a comprehensive knowledge of office management skills performed or outsources.
  • Staff maintains a basic competency in the skills of office management. Relies on volunteer assistance.
  • Does not apply to my association.

Once you’ve answered all the questions, the online system generates a report.

Step 3:
Consider your results. The report generated from your online questionnaire will tell you what percentage of your organization is administrative, managerial, or leadership. It will also help you hone in on what duties you do (or should be doing) to sustain the organization. This information is presented in the form of a job description.

Job duties, responsibilities, and skills needed are identified based on either your selections of functions and ser­vices your association currently offers (to determine where your association is now) or selections of functions and services your association would like to offer (to determine where you’d like to take your asso­ciation and how to get there). The job description can be modified based on the changing needs of the association.

For example, based on your questionnaire responses, your AE job description may include, Ensures reliable revenue sources to operate the association at optimum and future levels with research and development funds in place for new initiatives or Plans and manages, along with volunteers, networking, and social opportunities, to enhance members’ career success and future needs.

By completing the questionnaire, you will also automatically generate a customized elected leadership focus that out­lines the role of your association’s elected leadership. Specific functions and responsibilities are identified based on your selection of functions and services in the questionnaire. With this elected leadership focus, along with a sample president job description from NAR’s online Presidential Leadership Guide, you can create a president job description that suits your association.

Examine, with an open mind and a fresh perspective, the list of proposed new duties, responsibilities, and skills generated by the questionnaire.

Step 4:
Use the results to set a plan for the future. There is not one correct way to deliver and provide value. The way a Realtor® association chooses to provide services to its members may vary, depending on structure, demographics, size, re­sources and diversity needs. Yet, each association should periodically evaluate how it delivers value and assess how the association would like to deliver the ser­vice or value. Armed with the customized information provided by the Models Planning Tool, your association can map out a plan to provide value to its members effectively and efficiently.

Use the Models Planning Tool to:

1. Assess the association’s current operating philosophy for governance and delivery of programs, products, and services.

2. Identify where the association would like to be (i.e., desired level of functions to services).

3. Identify some AE career planning and ­professional development goals based on current and desired competencies.

4. Serve as a strategic planning tool for planning facilitators, AEs, and/or elected leaders to identify current and desired competencies.

5. Serve as a structural audit tool to review how certain elements of your operating ­philosophy align with current or desired needs and resources.

6. Provide a needs assessment for AE search committees in hiring AEs. Assessment results include sample position descriptions and sample interview questions.

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