Whether you think the presidential election will unify or divide the nation, it certainly has sparked interest in politics. More ordinary citizens are looking for ways to get involved and make a difference. This is a great chance for your organization to give members that opportunity.
Under the Core Standards requirements, your association must conduct six advocacy activities under three categories: vote, act, and invest. Associations must conduct two “vote” activities, such as encouraging members to register to vote or to vote on a particular ballot initiative; two “act” activities, such as organizing an association visit with local or state elected officials or launching a campaign to support or defeat a piece of legislation; and two “invest” activities, such as holding an RPAC fundraising event or hosting an association RPAC phone bank.
Although there is a wealth of ideas online at the REALTOR® Party (realtorparty.realtor), here are some of the most innovative and successful recent programs.
VOTE activity example:
Candidate Campaign: REALTOR® John Blom for County Council
For the 1,700-member Clark County Association of REALTORS® in Washington state, supporting John Blom for county council was a clear choice. As REALTOR® Champions go, there could hardly be a more obvious choice. He is active in NAR, RPAC, and CCAR and its Government Affairs committee. When John decided to run for office, the association was there to support him through its Independent Expenditure program. The association encouraged members to vote for Blom, fielded an intensive grassroots team that knocked on doors, and engaged in a major advertising campaign featuring a video it had produced about Blom. There’s no doubt that Blom was elected to office because of the support of his fellow REALTORS®.
VOTE activity example:
Providing Members with Informative Voting Guidance
Before the Nov. 8 general election, the Illinois Association of REALTORS® created a handy webpage detailing each pro-REALTOR® candidate the association was endorsing. The association encouraged members to check the reference page and vote accordingly. Local associations helped identify candidates and spread the word about the voting guide to members. The Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®, for example, posted endorsements for incumbent state representative and REALTOR® Sam Yingling on its social media feeds, member newsletters, and website. Yingling was among the 22 state candidates who received REALTOR® Party backing and won the election.
ACT activity example:
Missouri Rallies Members to Fight for Ban on Sales Tax on Services
In the past seven years, no fewer than 12 pieces of legislation that could have led to a tax on services, including those provided by the real estate industry, were proposed in the state of Missouri. “The threat is real,” says John Sebree, CEO of Missouri REALTORS®, whose organization has swatted back each one with the strong support of the National Association of REALTORS®. In 2016, it seized an opportunity to shift from a defensive to an offensive strategy. Its plan to amend the state constitution to ban a sales tax on services was ambitious and possibly unprecedented in the nation, but by appealing to members and the general public, first to get the referendum on the ballot and then to vote in its favor, the Missourians for Fair Taxation coalition found strength in numbers and won an important battle.
ACT activity example:
Amend Short-Term Rental Ordinance
Local laws restricting short-term rentals, sparked by the growth of companies such as Airbnb, have affected residential property owners nationwide. In Texas, the 120-member South Padre Island Board of REALTORS®, with help from the REALTOR® Party’s Land Use Initiative, acted to overturn several provisions of a local ordinance that were unduly restrictive. With this single but significant action, the association gained new respect from the city, which now looks to the organization as the voice of real estate in the community.
INVEST activity example:
Fun and Games RPAC Investing in Scottsdale
In the last two years, the Scottsdale Area Association of REALTORS® in Arizona has raised $22,000 for RPAC with its Epic Water Battle, launched by its Young Professionals Network. RPAC investors can field teams of five players for the all-out water-gun battle for $250. Teams are given a custom link they can share with fellow REALTORS® who can contribute additional items needed for the battle, including shields ($150 each), ammo ($30 each), extra guns ($40 each), and more. It’s a fun and original way to encourage RPAC investments.
INVEST activity example:
In Atlanta, Chili and RPAC Go Hand in Hand
Sometimes a great cup of chili is just a great cup of chili, but for the Atlanta Board of REALTORS® these past four years, it has been the means of attracting increasing levels of investment in the REALTORS® Political Action Committee—and an increasingly good time. What began as a modest event has exploded into a rollicking sold-out party each November with eager sponsors (including a local brewery) and a waiting list to enter the friendly competition, which featured 30 chili teams and more than 360 hungry and discriminating chili “judges.” By the end of the evening, ABR had raised more than $20,000 for RPAC—$5,000 beyond its goal.
This year could be a busy one for legislative and regulatory issues facing real estate on a local and state basis, giving you and your members plenty of opportunities to get involved. Stay on top of the current issues, such as sales tax on services, rent control, short-term rentals, property tax, and real estate transfer taxes at the REALTOR® Action Center.
Reporting by Tania Lee.
Funding for Your VOTE•ACT•INVEST Activities
In November, the NAR Board of Directors approved grants to several state and local associations to support advocacy activities. The Puerto Rico Association of REALTORS® received $35,000 to help it win repeal of a law imposing a sales tax on real estate services, and the Texas Association of REALTORS® received $169,000 to help it win lower property taxes for home owners.
- Issues Mobilization Grants, part of NAR’s Campaign Services, provide financial assistance to state and local REALTOR® associations to support effective advocacy campaigns on public policy issues, such as taxes, ordinances, and regulations, that affect REALTOR® interests. These grants may be used to fund your Core Standards “Vote” or “Act” advocacy activities. State and local REALTOR® associations must complete and submit an Issues Mobilization Grant Application.
- Smart Growth Grants provide financial assistance to state and local REALTOR® associations to participate in early-stage land use policy and/or transportation change efforts that foster development aligned with NAR’s smart growth principles. A smart growth activity may qualify as an “Act” activity if it includes supporting or opposing a related piece of legislation or regulations.
- RPAC Fundraising Grants for State & Local Associations can help increase RPAC receipts and participation by applying for grants up to $5,000 annually (subject to state law). Use this grant to help fund special RPAC fundraising events and activities. This program is limited to states with election laws that do not ban the use of corporate political contributions for use in fundraising.