Optimize Your Governance Structure

If you’re finding it hard to attract and retain smart and motivated volunteers to serve on your association board and committees, part of the problem could be your governance structure. Poor governance structure can leave members feeling undervalued, underused, bored, siloed, or even overwhelmed. According to an ASAE study*, these five actions have helped many associations create a more efficient and effective governance environment.

  1. Simplify bylaws and rely more on ad hoc task forces to bring flexibility (and speed) in decision making.
  2. Meet more often to maintain the pace of change. This may also involve video or teleconferencing.
  3. Use volunteers’ time more wisely, with more carefully structured meetings.
  4. Recruit and prepare board members more carefully to ensure that they bring more than just representative value.
  5. Invest in self-­education and self-evaluation (e.g. leadership training and experience surveys).

* Associations Now, “Getting to Good Governance.”

Notice: The information on this page may not be current. The archive is a collection of content previously published on one or more NAR web properties. Archive pages are not updated and may no longer be accurate. Users must independently verify the accuracy and currency of the information found here. The National Association of REALTORS® disclaims all liability for any loss or injury resulting from the use of the information or data found on this page.

Board of Directors

Focus: Providing foresight, oversight and insight into association programs, products, and services. As the governing body of the organization, the BOD establishes overall policy and management directives.
Composition: Structure, including size, term limits, and election process, can vary but should be outlined in bylaws and include the minimum number of directors required by state law. Elected members typically serve a one- to three-year term and board size should be large enough to adequately represent all members. Individuals serving as directors or officers owe fiduciary duties to the organization, which include care, loyalty, confidentiality, and obedience.
Meets: At least quarterly, often monthly.


(Standing or special)
Focus: Making recommendations to the board of directors and helping shape specific member services, such as education or consumer outreach. Most REALTOR® associations have these four committees established in bylaws: executive, budget and finance, grievance, and professional standards. More committees can be appointed by the BOD and president, and state laws may require nonprofits to maintain certain standing committees.
Composition: Created and defined in bylaws or association policies. Committee chairs may be appointed by the president or BOD, or elected by committee members in accordance with the bylaws. Committees can create subcommittees with approval of the BOD.
Reports: Committees often recommend policy matters to the BOD.
Meets: Typically monthly.

Good Sense Governance

Man in Suit With Pen

A library of resources about best practices on a variety of association and MLS governance and operations topics, including governance models, fiduciary duties, elections, BOD qualifications, and much more, is available under Good Sense Governance.


(also know as a REALTOR® business activity)
Focus: These groups, such as an Appraisers Council or a Property Management Council, identify and address the unique needs of specialists among the membership and develop programs to meet their needs and increase their participation in the association.
Composition: Typically created and defined in bylaws. Consists of specialty practitioners and others. Chair may sit on the board of directors.
Reports: To the BOD.
Meets: Only as necessary.

Advisory Group

(also know as a task force, special committee, action team, or work group)
Focus: Assisting leadership, a committee, or staff on a single, narrow responsibility, specific association program, product, or service. For example, a Leadership Academy Advisory Group. The purpose is specific, and a written charge should be provided by the overseeing committee or BOD.
Composition: Ideally members come from a wide variety of areas with experience or expertise on the issue of focus.
Reports: Seldom generates policy recommendations but reports back to the committee, BOD, or leadership team on the specific issues assigned to it.
Meets: As needed. Advisory groups tend to continue from year to year but can be dissolved when the reason for their existence is no longer part of the association’s plan.


Focus: Disseminating information and encouraging discussion among members. BOD and committees should take forum feedback into consideration when making recommendations. Forum examples include a technology forum or public issues forum.
Composition: Usually open to all members with an interest in the focused topics. Attendance is not typically recorded.
Reports: Provides feedback of discussions to the full committee or BOD. A forum typically does not make recommendations, but provides input.
Meets: Only as necessary.

Sample Governance Structure

Sample Governance Structure showing board of directors, committees, on down.

There is No One Right Approach to REALTOR® Association Structure or Governance.

Whether it’s committees, subcommittees, work groups, forums, councils, or networking groups, state and local REALTOR® associations create and define their own governance structure.

NAR policy does not mandate that associations maintain standing committees or work groups. The caveat is that local associations must carry out certain professional standards services and functions. Most associations have a professional standards committee for this, but the function can be outsourced or shared with another association. An informal survey of REALTOR® associations* showed that most maintain these committees:

  • Budget & Finance Committee
  • Governmental Affairs/Public Policy Committee
  • Education/Professional Development Committee
  • Community Relations/Outreach Committee
  • Professional Standards Committee
  • Grievance Committee
  • RPAC Fundraising Committee
  • MLS Committee
  • Bylaws & Policy Committee
  • Strategic Planning Committee
  • Awards/Recognition Committee

* 106 AEs responded to a survey posted in the REALTOR® AE Facebook group, AEI Year-Round, in November 2018.