National Association FOR REALTORS® or National ASSOCIATION OF Realtors®?

I super appreciate how Rob’s mind works, but his interpretation included in the Remember Who You Are blog on Bob Goldberg’s statement during his CEO report at the N.A.R. Board of Directors meeting in November is completely inside out, so wrote the following rebuttal for Inman.

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Goldberg said, “First and foremost, it’s imperative that we are not just the National Association OF REALTORS®, we are also the National Association FOR REALTORS®. Every action we take is geared to making sure our members come first.”

This is Rob’s interpretation, “FOR REALTORS® represents a complete departure from the origins of the REALTOR® Movement and strips organized real estate of nobility and high purpose”. He went on to add that a FOR organization philosophy shift would reduce N.A.R. to the equivalent of a union, “which is concerned only with the wages and working conditions of its dues-paying members”.

More Than Semantics

While my exception with his interpretation may be rooted in a battle of semantics between OF and FOR where I believe FOR is the equivalent of focus, not profit.

However, there are also several philosophical and practicum based differences regarding how REALTOR® associations can best further the public interest and protect the consumer, which he identified as the REALTOR® organizations top priority.

Semantically, I believe that a shift towards a FOR rather than OF mentality wouldn’t be an organizational doctrine, as much as it is an organizational orientation towards utilization of associations greatest assets, their members. A re-orientation that may be beyond N.A.R.’s ability at the national level, but certainly one I support for local associations.

The OF Members Doctrine

Having spent nearly a decade as an association executive, and several years as an association consultant nationally, it’s become abundantly clear that associations who first seek to establish value for their members are the ones also having the greatest impact in the industry.

Because they understand to be an effective organization your priorities must be to serve and leverage members, even those who feel compelled to join, in order to maximize the association’s reach and impact.

Typically, where I have seen associations that operate with an OF mindset you’ll find a group of individuals less intent on engaging and serving their members than maintaining their own pseudo position of power, and the association. These organizations, by their very nature are completely incapable of serving with nobility or higher purpose.

That said, even the highest performing associations are incapable of fulfilling public interest & consumer protection as its primary focus, since it would likely require acting as a governmental agency with comprehensive regulatory powers.

The FOR Members Orientation

Rob argues from his point of view that FOR REALTORS® is a slap in the face of the Code of Ethics as this type of organizational approach would simple mean to focus in on the profit motive of members.

Member centric isn’t the equivalent of profitability, its more about the long-term success of members, which is ultimately part and parcel with upholding the core aspects of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. Sure, there are members who skirt or ignore them all together yet find success. However, I’ve seen that success be short lived in many, if not most cases.

In fact, most community and industry minded associations around the country already have strategic plans that start with a statement about members’ excellence, success, or growth. The important thing to note is they don’t say benefit or profit, because that’s primarily dependent on the member’s ability to represent their clients’ interests.

An association that understands this and focuses on providing high level services that empower the majority of its members to serve their clients needs is one that’s focused on improving the industry.

Who is the Member?

Which leads to this observation from Rob, “Who is your member?… Most Association Executives and Association leadership do not even understand the question”, and this is where Rob’s thinking and mine converge.

He goes on to add this, “70% of the “membership” has been forced to join, according to an Inman Special Report. Those people aren’t “members” in any significant sense of the word; they’re hostages”.

He’s completely right, there are a significant number of members who are being held hostage by underperforming associations.

These associations fail to recognize that because of N.A.R.’s membership dues formula compelling members to join they must work even harder to be a representative organization. Sadly, many association see this as a justification of their own value, especially those who rely on the MLS’s value, instead of an additional burden to prove their value for members on a daily basis.

I hope to write more about this “Because I Said So” association mentality in the future.

But, again this demonstrates why associations should focus on being member centric organizations that places significance on how members’ long-term success depends upon ethical practices and public betterment.

OF Some vs FOR All

Rob concludes with the following question “Which will you be, NAR? An outwardly focused, public interest organization, made up OF men and women who have internalized the Code of Ethics as part of their own personal code of honor whose first concern was, is, and remains the public good? Or an inwardly focused, special interest organization, which works FOR people who wonder what they’re getting for their dues dollars?”.

Ultimately, I would answer Rob this way. Before N.A.R. can become an organization OF members it must start to become an organization FOR its members. There is no collective without first earning the individuals.

Or in other words… N.A.R., and REALTOR® associations, must establish an organizational culture that ensures associations around the country spend less time seeing themselves as an ORGANIZATION OF SOME members and more as an organization FOR ALL MEMBERS.

~ cjs

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4 Comments

Join the discussion and state your opinion. Some comments may be held in moderation. I try to get to them as soon as possible, but may be traveling or unable to approve comments immediately. I do not censor comments, but reserve the right to remove anything that looks like spam, trolling, or just outright inappropriate.

  1. It is not surprising that 70% of the “membership” feel that they have been forced to join NAR and their State and Local REALTOR associations. That is about the same percentage of people that use their real estate license as a “hobby”.
    The 30% of us that are serious about earning a living in real estate, and actually produce, have no problem with our memberships. Because real estate is not a hobby for us, we benefit from the Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice, education, etc.
    I sit on the Grievance Committee for several Associations. Care to guess which group is most commonly involved in grievances being filed against them?
    In my opinion, one solution is to dramatically increase the educational requirements to get and keep a real estate license. Another solution would be to raise the State fees to acquire or renew a real estate license. The end result would be better educated agents, plus fewer that consider real estate a hobby.

    1. Jim,

      This attitude is everywhere in the Association world, and it’s misplaced. The idea that the producers are happy with the Association, while only the part-timers and hobbyists are not is just… well, wrong. From the actual Inman Special Report (link: https://www.inman.com/2016/07/28/special-report-realtor-associations-offer-just-bill/):

      “Inman surveyed 873 real estate professionals between February 25, 2016 and June 24, 2016. The vast majority of responses came in at the end of February. More than 6 in 10 were either agents or broker associates and 26 percent were broker-owners or managing brokers. The remaining 12 percent were appraisers, agent or broker support staff or “other.”

      Productivity levels between respondents varied. Just over half of respondents, 51 percent, closed 20 or fewer transactions in 2015. Just a under a third closed between zero and 10 deals.

      A third closed more than 30 transactions last year. Nearly a fifth of respondents closed more than 50.

      More than 9 in 10 respondents (92 percent) belonged to all three tiers of the Realtor organization: local, state and national. Nearly 6 percent didn’t belong to a local association but did belong to a state and national association. This means all but 3 percent of respondents belonged to a Realtor association.

      Just over a quarter of respondents, 26 percent, belonged to more than one local Realtor association. The remainder only belonged to one.”

      A third closed more than 30 deals; a fifth closed more than 50. Those aren’t hobbyists.

      But the attitude isn’t simply wrong; it breeds a dangerous complacency among those who are involved with Realtor world. That’s a real issue when it comes to talking about needed reforms.

  2. When it comes to the NAR and all of “organized real estate” for that matter, the game is really very simple. Empower the masses of the lowest common denominator of members to avoid progressive change and to suppress the vote of those members that actually do something, level the playing field to assure that non-productive members are able to make money “on the backs” of the productive members and claim to be unable to raise the standards of performance for its members because by doing so this would severely limit organized real estate’s core membership objective of having a “Realtor in every home.” And that’s the way it is folks.

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