Q. What are the first things you did as an association to respond to the COVID-19 crisis?
Even as we were making the transition to working remotely, our 10 talented and tireless staffers quickly moved through a long list of things we could do to help our members and industry. Since we were juggling so many interconnecting pieces, we had virtual staff meetings every morning to prioritize.
We enjoy a strong relationship with Gov. Tate Reeves, and we immediately contacted his staff to request that real estate activity, both residential and commercial, be listed as an essential service. When the governor established a Restart Mississippi commission, we were able to secure positions for several REALTORS® on the commission’s small business committee.
I have the privilege of working this year with a true servant-leader, President Keith Henley. He established the MAR Restart task force with members from different real estate disciplines, and that group developed a list of concerns and issues to guide our work. We reached out to our Real Estate Commission to request extensions for licensing and education deadlines. Our Standard Forms Advisory Committee worked with legal counsel to develop multiple contract addenda and forms specific to COVID-19 concerns. We’ve also been in weekly meetings with other Mississippi business association staff to address liability and other issues with state elected officials.
Mississippi REALTORS® operates a statewide school that teaches pre- and post-license courses and continuing education. We’ve had online courses for years but didn’t have any virtual classroom courses with live instructors. Our education staff rapidly plowed through the complexities of pivoting to a virtual classroom platform while also complying with the state Real Estate Commission’s requirements for verification of attendance. Our days have been full of meaningful work!
Q. How have you kept your members informed?
We’ve used social media and all-member email blasts regularly and created a resource page on our website, which we update often, including videos from our president. Many of our members have commented that watching President Henley’s videos has been reassuring as they navigate this unknown territory.
Q. Have you taken any steps to galvanize member volunteerism during the crisis?
President Henley’s theme this year is “Community Champions,” and he has focused all of us on celebrating the generous nature of REALTORS® in our state. During the pandemic, we’ve heard many heartwarming stories of our members taking care of their neighbors and communities—delivering groceries, taking lunches to front-line health care workers, donating blood, and so on.
We also have REALTORS® who graciously devote their time to serve on the board of our 501(c)(6) Mississippi REALTORS® Disaster Relief Fund. We continue to receive applications for assistance from Mississippi residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by three days of powerful, deadly tornadoes in April.
Q. What advice can you offer to fellow association executives about planning for or managing a crisis?
I haven’t heard of anyone whose crisis management plan anticipated something this large in scope. The biggest lesson to me has been to be prepared to improvise quickly and adapt to new challenges. Take advantage of your relationships with local and state leaders, fellow AEs all over the country, and the wealth of information available from National Association of REALTORS®. You’re a part of a REALTOR® community that is willing to collaborate and share, so lean on your AE friends and use their knowledge and advice to benefit your members.