Small associations are often (and wrongly) defined by what we don’t offer. Yes, we usually don’t have the large inaugural balls that our urban neighbors hold, and we don’t offer a lot of training classes with national speakers, and many of us don’t have our own MLS.
But one advantage small associations have over larger ones is the opportunity to be more one-on-one with members in providing really good customer service.
“My members love that I know them and they know me. We are a community, tight knit and genuine.”
—Amanda Ornelas, RCE, EO, Sun Valley Board of REALTORS®, Idaho, 314 members
Members at my board, and most small boards, tend to be more personal; everyone knows everyone, and that’s our strength. We make it a habit to smile when a member walks into the office, and they’re given our full, undivided attention. Who doesn’t want to be appreciated and to believe they are important?
Good customer service goes a long way in making members feel like a vital part of the organization and, when they believe they are valued, they will value the organization and volunteer more often. New members have said our customer service was the reason they joined our board.
Small associations can create value for members just by being small. Our members love the small-town feel of our association. We still hold monthly membership meetings that are well attended—something that many larger associations have stopped doing. We are able to get sponsors to cover the costs and we have speakers from the local communities provide information that relevant to members’ businesses and community.
“We can offer boutique service, and the members and staff create a family atmosphere. Members feel like they have a voice as well as easy access to staff.”
—Cindy Homewood, COO, Williamsburg Area Association of REALTORS®, Va., 473 members
As the AE, I’m at the helm of our hospitality and service objective, which can at times be challenging given all of my other responsibilities. Yet it’s paramount to make time for members. The best thing to do is listen while being careful not to agree with member complaints. I try to offer positive resolutions to their issues and never make a negative comment about any member, policy, or situation, since it will probably be repeated. When talking with members, I always support the board and its decisions.
“We know our members and their needs. We know when your mom passed and we send a handwritten card. We know when your babies are born and when to compliment your weight loss. We will cry with you and laugh. We won’t charge you a late fee because we know that you took your family on a vacation and just plain forgot to pay your MLS bill.”
—Margaret Martin, AE, Dothan Association of REALTORS®, Ala., 279 members
Community and political advocacy is another advantage small associations often have. You may not think so because we typically don’t have our own government affairs staff. But because of the size of our community, we’re afforded easy access to elected officials, most of whom we know personally, and when we attend town meetings we can always voice our views. In Texas, our state association helps us out with a field representative for conducting candidate forums and working with local governments and chambers when critical issues pop up.
Indeed, with the help of state and national resources and programs, small associations can be just as relevant to members as larger associations. After all, it’s the personal service that we offer that attracts and keeps our members.
“I have known many of our members since I was a child and those relationships have grown since I became the AE. It is wonderful to have that sense of family and trust.”
—Stephanie Rief, EO, Selkirk Association of REALTORS®, Idaho, 236 members
Staying locally focused has its advantages, but as the AE, I set aside at least 30 minutes at the beginning of each day to catch up on national industry news. Just because small associations tend to be more self-contained than larger ones doesn’t mean that broader trends in real estate don’t affect members. I work to stay on top of industry technology, business trends, and practices so I’m prepared to explain how these broader movements could filter down to the small-town level and affect members’ businesses.
“I know my president is allergic to raw onions and I don’t mind running to the office on a Sunday to program a member’s lockbox key. I’m welcome at any office, and I know who has the ability to lead and they can get a chance to lead because there aren’t 10 people applying for the same position.”
—Della Yurasek Csehoski, RCE, CEO, Cambria Somerset Association of REALTORS®, Pa., 148 members
So when the members of your small association ask about the advantage of membership, call them by their first name, invite them in your office for coffee, and talk a while about all the information in this issue.