Consumer Outreach: Advocacy

Increasing consumer engagement in the REALTOR® organization’s political and legislative activity is one of the most immediate goals of the National Association of REALTORS®, CEO Bob Goldberg told the association leaders gathered at the 2017 Leadership Summit in Chicago in August. “There’s strength in numbers,” he said. “The more consumers we bring in, the more our voice is elevated.” REALTOR® associations at the state and local level have access to an abundance of resources from the National Association of REALTORS® to reach out to local voters for support on issues critical to ensuring property owner rights and maintaining livable communities nationwide.

Get Consumers on Your Side

Two new initiatives from NAR make advocacy outreach easier

By Carolyn Schwaar

For your association’s advocacy efforts to be successful you need more than members on your side, you need consumers.

When the North Bay Association of REALTORS® sought to defeat a rent control ordinance earlier this year, they reached out to consumers with a public awareness campaign that showed the negative impact the proposal would have on homeowners’ rights.

Working in conjunction with the National Association of REALTORS® Campaign Services Team, which provided focus groups and polling to determine the campaign’s viability, identify voters, and craft the campaign messaging, North Bay launched the “No on C” campaign, referring to the ballot initiative known as Measure C. In addition to four targeted postcard mailings, door-to-door canvassers, and TV, radio, and online advertising, the campaign benefited from the support of the chamber of commerce and groups from across many local industries. The campaign’s website fairhousingforall.com was a central hub for consumer education materials. On June 6, the ordinance was defeated by 52 percent of the vote.

State and local associations have, over the years, launched dozens of consumer-facing websites similar to fairhousingforall.com for all types of issue advocacy. But now, with the recent redesign and relaunch of HomeOwnershipMatters.realtor, every REALTOR® association has access to a customizable portal to house information and calls for action on local issues.

HomeOwnershipMatters.realtor offers a platform where consumers and members can engage representatives on important homeowner and property issues and take immediate action easily.

The Hawaii Association of REALTORS® has customized and branded its state page on the HOM site to focus on local issues, including flood insurance reform, and provide news on REALTOR® efforts to revitalize the business district of Lihu`e.

Through your state association’s behind-the-scenes access to HomeOwnershipMatters.realtor, you can create a page for your state association or make use of NAR’s Consumer Advocacy Database of 7.5 million names to send targeted emails and social media to your state or local consumers.

The Illinois Association of REALTORS® was the first to capitalize on this new resource and reach out to thousands of state residents to overturn Home Rule, a local governance status that would adversely affect private property rights. “Using the data from the Consumer Advocacy Database, we’ve been able to drill down and engage in highly targeted social media campaigns, reaching voters we know are paying attention,” says Jon Broadbooks, Illinois ­REALTORS®’ director of communications.

Another new NAR initiative to increase REALTOR® and consumer participation in calls for action is the Advocacy Everywhere program, which features new technology and new professional services from NAR.

In early 2018, NAR will be transitioning from the current REALTOR® Party Hub to a more efficient and user-friendly system from VoterVoice. This will include a redesign of the REALTOR® Action Center website, which will launch by the end of 2017.

One difference in the Advocacy Everywhere model is that state associations will continue to have direct access to the advocacy platform, but local associations will not, says Jim MacGregor, NAR’s managing director of communications and REALTOR® mobilization.

“The decision to allocate these resources to only the state associations is based on an analysis of usage of our REALTOR® Party Hub system over the past six years as well as the cost of for these advocacy tools.” A plus is that local associations will no longer need to have dedicated staff trained on the latest advocacy tools and can focus on messaging and targeting, with NAR managing the technology.

All associations will have the option to contact NAR to set up a call for action on their behalf using this Advocacy Everywhere’s concierge service model. State or local associations are responsible for the content of a CFA and which lawmakers will be targeted, but NAR will manage the technical work of setting up the letter the lawmakers receive, the email campaign, mobile alert, social media shares, and more. NAR will also give advice on best practices—those shortcuts to get your action rates up faster and other strategies to engage your membership along the way.

“Our new Advocacy Everywhere initiative coupled with the Consumer Advocacy Outreach program gives every state and local association, regardless of their size or resources, the opportunity to mount effective consumer advocacy campaigns on issues that affect their communities,” says MacGregor.

For more, visit realtoractioncenter.com/advocacyeverywhere and sign up to attend a webinar or training session.

Case Study: Our Consumer Campaign: Helping New Yorkers achieve their dream of homeownership

Campaign to pass home savings bill passes with consumer support

New York is among the states that have reached out to consumers to get their support in establishing home buyer saving accounts. In New York, the legislation was called NY First Home and established a program whereby state residents could save for the down payment and closing costs of their first home purchase while receiving tax deductions of up to $5,000 per year ($10,000 for couples) based on those savings.

“NY First Home will make homeownership more easily attainable by helping New Yorkers bridge the gap between where their savings are and where they need to be to receive the keys to their first home,” the New York Association of REALTORS® said in a statement.

In 2017, the state association launched a campaign to pass the bill that included the website nyfirsthome.com, where members and consumers signed a form letter sent directly to their state representatives.

Similar efforts are underway across the country and six states have passed first-time homebuyer savings account legislation. In Mississippi the state association launched its successful campaign with a consumer website, firsthomeMS.org, featuring a clear argument for the consumer benefits of the program.

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