The New Realities of RPAC Fundraising

5 strategies to get the money flowing before fall.

Sarah Rayne, RCE, AHWD, e-PRO, C2EX, is director of operations for the Howard County Association of REALTORS® in Columbia, Md.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven us to get creative with day-to-day membership services, and that includes RPAC fundraising. Initially, at least, REALTOR® associations nationwide had great success with virtual fundraisers, pointing to the vital role the REALTORS® Political Action Committee plays in protecting the industry as a reason to invest.

Now, after more than a year, it’s getting more difficult to attract members to virtual events. They’re busier than ever and just plain Zoomed-out. But we still have fundraising goals to meet, and members still need representation. Here are a few suggestions that can help shore up fundraising:

1. Keep plugging away at virtual fundraising.

I know—I just said that members are Zoomed-out, and I meant it. But if you can’t get them to participate in a two-hour virtual cooking class or a virtual bourbon tasting, try a new angle. Suggest something that provides them with real value in a short amount of time.

My association is having a virtual raffle for a bushel of crabs, and we’re using Aristotle to sell tickets. We think it will be a hit because (1) It’s quick and easy; (2) Marylanders love to pick crabs; and (3) The going price for a bushel of large crabs is about $400. Most states prohibit or heavily regulate raffles, so remember to check your state gaming laws before undertaking such a fundraiser.

There are lots of options. Visit realtorparty.realtor to learn about email campaigns, phone banking, and online events such as silent auctions.

2. Provide opportunities for virtual recognition.

You may not be doing as many virtual events now, but you’re still holding virtual board and committee meetings, so make sure RPAC investors are getting recognition. As host, you can add “Major Investor” or “RPAC Investor” to the end of their Zoom names. Also be sure to recognize big donors on your website and social media pages. As long as you’re not soliciting investments, you can thank investors publicly.

Are you currently holding virtual new member orientations? Cultivate new investors by recognizing attendees who have already contributed to RPAC.

3. Don’t forget in-person recognitions.

If you’re planning in-person events, recognize RPAC investors there, too. Whether you put foil stars on your tabletop name tents or ask investors to stand and be recognized during general membership meetings, give them a plug.

4. Get brokers involved.

REALTORS® love friendly competition, so why not get brokers involved in an RPAC office challenge? Give away prizes to the offices with the highest dollar amount raised, highest participation rate, most major investors, and so on. Buy lunch, give out trophies, or whatever you think will motivate them. Make it clear that any enticements offered are for individual, voluntary RPAC contributions and not contributions from the brokerage itself, since corporate/business entities are unable to give to RPAC.

5. Use the mail.

Many of your members get more than 100 emails per day and open maybe one-quarter of them. But almost everyone watches for postal mail, so receiving a gift for an RPAC investment will be memorable. The Maryland association provides us with $99 Club and Capitol Club ($250) pins to send to those members, and we send Capitol Club members and major investors REALTOR®-branded gifts. Remember that when the association pays for such enticements, it must apply the one-third rule, which says the association may pay part of the entertainment and enticement costs from its treasury as long as the amount paid is equal to or less than one-third of the total amount raised at the RPAC event.

If you want to see dues contributions skyrocket, invest in a postcard mailer. Before last year’s dues billing, my association worked with National Association of REALTORS® partner Real Strategies to send two postcards to members. The first explained how RPAC fought for them throughout the pandemic; the second made the case for investing in RPAC with their dues. By the time we wrapped up billing, HCAR had increased its participation rate 25% compared to the year prior.

Members need to be reminded why investing in RPAC is vital to being a member. Not only will a postcard further educate them on membership value, it will give your association a healthy head start on crushing its fundraising goals before the year begins. Start planning now!

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