An up-to-date strategic plan is a vital and required element of the Organizational Alignment Core Standards for state and local associations.
Strategic planning committees at the national, state, and local levels meet every year to ensure that their plans address critical issues, needs, and opportunities in the industry. These planning sessions are a time to set priorities and fine-tune your association’s goals and vision. They bring members, leaders, and staff together to brainstorm and analyze how to best meet member needs.
Yet some associations have never had a strategic plan or haven’t updated one in years.
“I took over as AE about three years ago, and although we had a strategic plan committee and it met once in that time, I couldn’t find a plan anywhere,” says Kathy Matlock, EVP of the 262-member Big Bear Association of REALTORS®, Calif. Prompted by the Core Standards obligation, Matlock hired a facilitator in November to lead her committee through the strategic plan development process.
Big Bear selected its facilitator from the National Association of REALTORS®’ database of facilitators trained to help REALTOR® associations develop a plan that meets the Core Standards requirements. (Access the Core Standards Facilitators Resource Database at nar.realtor
/CoreStdFac.nsf.) “Now we have a plan in place for meeting our goals, and I love it,” says Matlock. “We have direction.”
In Connecticut, the 280-member Ridgefield Board of REALTORS® also completed its first strategic plan this past fall.
“The thought process we went through to get to a final product was educational and eye-opening,” says Holly Callanan, the association’s AE. “It helped me bring important issues to the attention of the directors, and this, in turn, will help me accomplish the goals I have set to meet the Core Standards requirements.”
Associations large and small have described the strategic planning process as enlightening, vibrant, and hard work.
The most time-consuming part of the strategic planning process for the Rockingham County Association of REALTORS® in North Carolina was finding members to serve on the committee, says Trudy Dishmon, association executive. “I asked each board member to recommend at least five members for the committee; then we called all 31 names and found 20 willing to serve,” she says.
The planning session facilitator kept discussions lively by switching groups around so members were always hearing a new voice or opinion. “The members were so focused on getting this right and working together that they didn’t want to leave for lunch,” she said.
To receive grant funds to pay the facilitator and meeting expenses, Dishmon submitted the grant application and her association’s strategic plan, along with her board’s minutes indicating approval of the plan, to NAR in December. She received confirmation a few days later that the plan met the requirements—and a check for $2,500.
“I have heard nothing but good comments about the strategic planning from members,” says Dishmon. “The whole process was a huge success.”
Reinvigorating the retreat
The 360-member Bismarck Mandan Board of REALTORS® in North Dakota has held an annual planning meeting for many years. But at the board’s recent meeting, the Core Standards requirement gave it a new energy, says AE Nancy Deichert. “Participants were excited to see something other than usual to-do list come out of the retreat. It was motivating to see the group brainstorm new ideas and to hear them talk positively about some of the things we are already doing,” she says.
Even state associations with established annual strategic planning meetings built in extra time to consider how their plan may meet the core standards.
At the day-and-a-half-long North Dakota Association of REALTORS® strategic planning meeting, participants reviewed the Core Standards in depth, says Nancy Willis, the association’s government affairs director. The association hired an NAR-trained facilitator to guide the discussion—although associations with more than 500 members are not required to use a facilitator to be eligible for a strategic planning grant.
“In reviewing the Core Standards, it was evident that the state has been meeting the standards all along,” says Willis. “We’ve always operated on similar standards as the Core Standards, so, for us, this was an affirmation of our commitment to excellence.”
Strategic plans and requests for grants are due to NAR by June 30, 2015. Money is disbursed only after a plan is submitted to and approved by NAR.
“I’m glad NAR is requiring the local boards to reach these goals,” says Callanan. “Strategic plans might not happen otherwise, and I know the boards are stronger and more efficient as a result.”
NAR has received hundreds of questions about the Core Standards from REALTOR® associations of all sizes nationwide and regularly posts answers in an FAQ page in the Core Standards tool kit on nar.realtor. Chances are good that your question is answered there.
FAQs: Required Strategic Plans
Q. What financial and other resources are available from NAR to facilitate development of strategic plans?
A. Grants at a minimum of $2,500 and a maximum of $5,000 are available to associations to develop a strategic plan, or to enhance an existing strategic plan. Grants are disbursed after the strategic plan has been completed, and submitted to and approved by NAR. Grants are based on the number of primary REALTOR® members at $10 per member. Secondary members (those who hold their primary REALTOR® membership in another association) cannot be included in this calculation. Grants are available for strategic plans created or enhanced between May 17, 2014, and June 30, 2015.
Q. What can we use the strategic planning grant for?
A. Strategic planning grants—which will be disbursed after a strategic plan has been completed, and has been submitted to and approved by NAR—can be used for any purpose the association deems appropriate including facilitator fees, meetings and facilities, administrative expenses, travel expenses, and so on.
Q. Must an NAR qualified facilitator be used for an association to be eligible for a strategic planning grant?
A. The primary purpose of the strategic planning grant program is to ensure associations have access to qualified facilitators. Consequently, associations with five hundred (500) or fewer members must use an NAR-qualified facilitator to be eligible for a strategic planning grant. Associations with more than five hundred members do not have to use an NAR-qualified facilitator to be eligible for a strategic planning grant.
Q. What must the strategic plan include to meet the Core Standards?
A. Strategic plans must satisfactorily address the Advocacy and Consumer Outreach components of the Core Standards to qualify.
Q. Do the Standards require us to make these plans available to the state association?
A. No. Strategic and/or business plans will be reviewed at the national level only, and not made available to state associations or to any other association in your state.