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On Monday, the board of directors for the 1.6-million member National Association of Realtors approved every policy proposal that came before it except one: a recommendation that would have created a program to incentivize local associations and Realtor-affiliated multiple listing services to deliver innovative member services.
Directors who spoke in favor of tabling the proposal feared that the program would create competition between local associations.
The meeting of the trade group’s directors took place on the last day of NAR’s annual conference, newly rebranded as NAR NXT, The Realtor Experience, at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida. The board has a total of 1,030 directors, but vote totals indicate that just under 900 attended the meeting, possibly hindered by Tropical Storm Nicole.
Called the “Association Innovators Program,” the proposal was put forth by NAR’s Association Executives Committee, which is mostly made up of state and local Realtor association executives. In an FAQ provided to the directors, the committee described the program as:
“A national program that recognizes, rewards, and incentivizes local associations and MLSs to excel, improve, and innovate so the Realtor organization can thrive well into the future. This program encourages associations and MLSs to strive toward a culture of continuously innovating and raising the bar to provide exceptional value to members.”
The proposed program was the brainchild of the committee’s Association Accelerator Achievement Work Group, which was made up of 26 association executives from local or state associations or MLSs.
Participation in the program would have been optional and award recipients would have had to submit an essay of up to 1,000 words and a video of up to three minutes detailing how the program, product, or service being nominated benefitted members and/or their community.
Each year up to four award winners would have been chosen, according to size: Small (fewer than 500 members), medium (between 501 and 1,999 members), large (between 2,000 and 5,999), and mega (6,000 or more).
Awards would not have come with money but rather the opportunity to be recognized at NAR events throughout the year and to become members of a cohort of associations and MLSs that collaborate to innovate.
Associations and MLSs would have been able to nominate themselves under three tiers:
- Association or MLS Focused with subcategories in association/MLS management, communications, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), governance, technology tools, RPAC (Realtor Political Action Committee), and other.
- Member Focused with subcategories in agent business success, broker business success, DEI, fair housing, leadership development, member engagement, professional development, and other.
- Externally Focused with subcategories in community relations, DEI, economic development, fair housing, government relations, housing initiatives, and other.
At the board of directors meeting, the proposal was the only one that NAR’s Executive Committee recommended be referred for further study. The Executive Committee is a subset of the NAR board and reviews all of the policy proposals from NAR’s many committees and recommends an action — approval, approval with an amendment, referral for further study, or defeat — before the full board considers them.
The proposal was also the only item under consideration that inspired any discussion. Two directors spoke in favor of adopting the program and five spoke against.
One director who is also a member of NAR’s Executive Committee said the committee was concerned because the program’s awards would “inevitably” be given out in markets where multiple local Realtor associations compete against each other. NAR has a “Board of Choice” policy that allows members to choose which local association they belong to within a state so long as their broker also belongs to that association.
The committee was also concerned that smaller associations would be disadvantaged.
“[We] don’t want to incentivize or create negative competition,” he said, prompting some applause from attendees, but at least one member in the audience remarked, “That’s not negative.”
Director Brian Copeland, a broker from Nashville, also spoke in favor of sending the proposal back.
“We would never accept our associations picking a ‘Broker of the Year’ because of the competition that would create,” he said.
Another director said he thought the committee had done a “great job” with the idea but he recommended sending the proposal back to be “fine-tuned.”
Another noted that the Association Executives Committee had said innovations that would win would be those that were “shareable and scaleable” and was concerned how an idea from a small 100-member association with fewer resources would scale to a 10,000-member association.
One director who spoke in favor of approving the program noted the “massive amount of work” that had gone into the proposal.
“Competition’s good,” he said. “I think to send it back to committee is probably futile.”
In the aforementioned FAQ, the Association Executives Committee directly addressed some of the directors’ concerns, though apparently not the satisfaction of most directors.
Regarding whether associations and MLSs with more resources would have an advantage, the FAQ pointed out the four potential award winners by size and said, “[The work group] agreed early on that innovation can take many different forms and from many different associations/MLSs, regardless of size and resources. … The opportunity for recognition is equal across the board.”
Regarding whether the program would create competition among associations, the FAQ said, “This program is rooted in inspiration and idea sharing, not competition and is recognizing innovations that already exist (or may exist in the future). … Its purpose is to inspire all associations/MLSs, of every size, to innovate and continually add value for their members.
“A key component of the program is that those who earn the recognition are required to share their innovation so other associations/MLSs can learn from it.”
Two-thirds of the directors voted in favor of sending the proposal back to committee, 570 to 290.