AEC Chair Report: Our Young Members Are Our Future

If you’ve attended one of NAR’s REThink the Future of Real Estate events, or even if you’ve just heard about them, you’re probably as convinced as I that our industry’s future hinges on successfully engaging and harnessing the power of our younger members.

We in the real estate industry have long recognized a generation gap in key areas of our members’ businesses, such as their preferred method of client communications (phone or text?) and how they view their role as trusted adviser.

To keep the REALTOR® brand relevant in years ahead, the time to nurture younger members and invite them to the leadership table is at hand. We need to hear from this faction of our membership—and we need to hear from it now. What younger REALTORS® are experiencing, and the challenges they are facing, are likely predictors of what our entire industry will confront tomorrow. Why be reactive when we can prepare to lead the change?

For many associations, the REALTORS® Young Professionals Network provides a valuable catalyst for inviting younger REALTORS® to engage. What’s essential to a successful YPN chapter is encouraging it to be as organic as possible: built to reflect its own members’ interests in education, networking, and other activities. The goal is to create a hothouse in which your YPN members can generate and act upon their own creative ideas within an environment of professionalism and respect. The end result, ideally, will be long-lasting bonds with one another and the emergence of young leaders who are confident in their abilities and ready to move up a level to take charge with their fresh ideas.

Support your younger members who demonstrate an interest in getting involved. Budget funds for a leadership-training workshop, perhaps, or offer individuals distinct roles in shepherding a program or project.

Consider this carefully now, before a new fiscal year begins. What can you do to capitalize on your best and brightest younger members? How can you encourage them to help lead the way? How can you help your younger members authentically connect with one another? Through younger members, we can see the future that’s almost here.

As we enter a new year, I would like to offer sincere thanks for the privilege of serving as your Association Executives Committee chair. I’d like to acknowledge the great work of my vice chair, Mark Allen, of the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®, and NAR staff executive Cindy Sampalis. Your many hours of dedicated effort are truly noticed, are much appreciated, and make a difference. Thanks, too, to the rest of the Association Leadership Development team for your volunteer spirit, and to all of this year’s workgroup volunteers. I look forward to seeing you all in November and to working together in the future.

— Ginger Downs

Ginger Downs, RCE, CAE, is CEO of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®. Contact her at 312-214-5516 or

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