What’s wrong with our Association?

Yesterday I stood in the back of the room during our Tuesday morning mls marketing meeting. As usual it was well attended and the highlight yesterday was the forum by candidates who are running for our board of directors. We are truly blessed to have an exemplary crop of folks who are willing to give of their time to help guide our association into the future. It wasn’t that many years ago we had one or two people, if we bullied them into running. Now we have a surfeit of well qualified people from members from our Young Professionals Network to people who have been in the industry for 30+ years.  We have three openings this year and 8 people interested in filling them. The future looks bright.

But a question was raised from an audience member during the Q & A referring to a ‘disconnect’ between the board and the members. Now keep in mind I sat on the board for 12 years, chaired it three times and have sat in the back of the room as an observer the past 2 years. Never have I seen a board more connected to the members. Everybody on our board is a practicing Realtor®. They come from big franchise offices and one man brokerages. There are salespersons and brokers. There are people that work hard to do 5 deals a year and others who do 80 or more. There are people with lending and appraisal experience, men and women, young and not-so-young – in short, a board that mirrors our membership pretty well.

This board is also very engaged. There have been times in the past where board members were just padding a resume but todays board members sit on a variety of committees, several are traveling directors to our state association, some travel to national association meetings, others are involved in our regional and state mls, some are members of our fraud task force and some have stepped in from our future leadership pool, the Young Professionals Network, to become leaders today.

How do you even intimate these people are ‘disconnected’ from our members? They represent the very best of our members. And the people running for the positions represent a continuation of that excellence – it is insulting to them and to the current board to say they’re disconnected.

But then I had to step back and consider the source. Not everyone out there is connected, that’s obvious. The person calling for more transparency in board meetings is obviously not aware that board meetings are open to everyone to attend and that minutes are subsequently posted to the association website. In spite of repeated efforts to inform them, they’re disconnected from the bigger picture.

Another member bemoaned the lack of ‘outreach’ to get members to attend the Tuesday morning marketing meetings. This has been an ongoing  issue over the years as people tend to come to the meetings when times are tough but don’t attend when times are good. But even during the best of times attendance seldom exceeds 1% or 2% of our members plus a healthy dose of affiliates. Again, some members are disconnected. They think the entire association revolves around these Tuesday morning meetings simply because that’s the one thing THEY attend. As one director pointed out, an email goes out every week reminding members of the meeting – they can either choose to attend or not. Apparently of our 3,500 members, about 3,440 regularly choose ‘not’. Yet amazingly enough many of those people are very successful without attending the meetings. Not a lack of outreach, simply a matter of choice and priority.

Some pointed to a lack of Broker involvement or commitment to force their agents to attend these meetings. We have a very robust Broker community that take a very active role in our association. We hold regular meetings with them to provide information and solicit their input and these meetings are very well attended. Right now we are involved in an ongoing efforts to get a majority of our Brokers signed onto the Broker Involvement Program through CAR & NAR. The BIP has been shown to increase the response rate for calls to action by anywhere from 2 – 3 times. That’s critical for our state and federal legislative programs – far more critical at this juncture than pressuring these Brokers to force their agents to attend a Tuesday morning  meeting. Not only that, most Brokers have their own weekly marketing meetings and if they’re going to have their agents kill a morning a week, they would just as soon it be at their own office meeting. Their choice, not the association’s position to badger them.

Unfortunately, as all people running for office, our candidates treated all these questions with a gravitas often undeserved. Sometimes the premise behind a question is invalid and it’s OK to point that out. And as much as we’ve been told over the years “there are no stupid questions”, we all know better, don’t we? In any group there’s bound to be at least one asking stupid questions repeatedly. Yet our candidates, to their credit, dealt with each question, often according it way more legitimacy than it deserved. A couple even twisted themselves into corners on what they would do if elected trying to address every realm of some obscure question. Welcome to the world of politics.

Ah well, bless the candidates for stepping up. Three of them will go on to represent our members very effectively and develop that special connection. The ones not elected will still continue to contribute as they have over the years which brought them to this position today. Yesterday they staked out their positions and answered questions for an hour – all for the benefit of 5, count ’em, 5, people who had not yet voted. They treated it like it really made a difference – because it does. If you don’t like it, get involved yourself. It’s easy. All you have to do is step out from the back of the room lobbing vollies and move to the front of the room fielding them.

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