Lessons from 2 high-performing local Realtor associations

Authored by:
Clint Skutchan
Published:
March 2020

Local Realtor association leaders have tricky jobs. They must work in concert with a board of directors made up of a rotating group of volunteers and, in many cases, run an MLS, which has different needs, and mandates, than the core association functions of advocacy, training and support.

The scorecard survey assesses five key performance categories: Satisfaction, Direction, Leadership, Member Support, Core Services.

As part of the survey, T3 Sixty sends out a standardized set of questions that it sends out to members of the associations surveyed; this standardization allows associations to benchmark their performance against others in the survey. From the responses within these categories, we produce a two-page scorecard, which includes an overall performance score as well as scoring for each of the five performance categories.

T3 Sixty received more than 9,500 responses from the members of 12 associations (ranging from 800 to 15,000 members) about their perception of their respective association. Eight were standalone associations, and four own and operate MLSs. This breakdown aligns within a few percentage points to the national average; 42 percent of the nation’s local associations also run MLSs, the rest do not.

T3 Sixty Performance Rating and Scoring

The 12 associations surveyed received an overall average rating of 3.3 (out of 4.0). Core Services -- specifically Education and Support -- were noted often in respondent comments as important factors for perceived value and satisfaction.

All associations had a significant number of members who selected unsure/no opinions. This was especially true for items related to the organization’s leadership representation and effectiveness. The need for increased awareness among those served is a constant challenge for all organizations, especially in volunteer-led associations. These associations need to actively communicate their leadership story and why it matters for members’ businesses.

The associations that performed very well were Suburban West Realtors, which serves over 6,000 members from its Malvern, Pennsylvania, base and Huntsville Area Association of Realtors, which serves over 2,500 members from its Huntsville, Alabama, base.

With their approval, we dive into each below as an example.

Suburban West Realtors

Suburban West Realtors CEO Anne Marie Matteo attributes her association’s high score to its clear, productive leadership structure. This starts with close collaboration, Matteo says, between association staff and its 12-member board of directors.

Anne Marie Matteo
Anne Marie Matteo

They have achieved this by stressing accountability with their projects and communicating often and at every step along the way in a project. It also helps that Matteo has served in her CEO post for nearly three decades. Her longevity and track record has helped breed trust.

In addition, her team has demonstrated a commitment to members, which helps foster a good, supportive relationship between staff and the volunteer membership. This can be tricky as the board has term limits that bring as many as two or three new members to the board each year, she says. The trust established with existing directors helps align the work together.

The association remains focused on getting member feedback to ensure it responds to what they need. “We’re intentional about talking with our members,” Matteo says. “Survey and meet with them before or after a class.”

Huntsville Area Association of Realtors

Like Suburban West Realtors, Huntsville Area Association of Realtors has an organized staff leadership that has earned and works hard for the trust of its board of directors. It also has developed a focused strategic plan that it adheres closely to, with five core elements: knowledge, professionalism, housing, community and efficiency.

The focus on a strategic plan has helped the association make productive decisions for the regional MLS it runs, ValleyMLS, that serves six Realtor associations and 3,500 subscribers in and around North Alabama.

The association decided to create two distinct brands and messaging for the association and for the MLS. The process started soon after CEO Josh McFall joined the organization in 2015. At the time, the MLS had two sites: one focused on consumers under the ValleyMLS brand and one for members under the North Alabama MLS brand.

Josh McFall
Josh McFall

Josh McFall

The association decided to streamline the brand and merged both sites under the ValleyMLS site and gave members a backend login to that site. It also leverages different taglines for members and consumers: for members, “Making the Market Work;” for consumers, “Find a Realtor, Find a Home.”

Aligning the MLS under one brand helped prevent alienating other associations that subscribe to the MLS, McFall says. The previous brand gave MLS member users the feeling they were using Huntsville’s MLS rather than an MLS designed to support its full footprint.

McFall attributes his association’s success to the mutual trust between staff and its volunteer leadership, which, he says, requires constant attention and diligence to ensure it stays on track. In addition to diligence and clear communication, he advises other association leaders looking to create the same collaborative environment to engage as many stakeholders in strategy and efforts as much as possible including past presidents, board members and staff. “Make sure everyone’s onboard,” he says, before introducing a new program or changing directions.

In addition, communication and the process of fostering trust cannot be foisted on an organization; it has to be developed organically within. “You have to figure out the way your members need to communicate,” McFall says. “Huntsville messaging will not look the same as others.”

Takeaway

Associations looking to excel should pay special attention to hiring talented staff and then developing a strong sense of shared mission and trust between them and volunteer leadership. Many associations say this, fewer do it. Effective and successful local Realtor associations start with the leadership at the top. Consider participating in T3 Sixty’s Association Scorecard Survey to benchmark where you stand relative to peers.

For more detailed information from our Association Scorecard Survey Synopsis Report, or to learn more about how your association or MLS could take advantage of the opportunity to benchmark your organization, contact Clint Skutchan, vice president of T3 Sixty's association and MLS division, at clint@t360.com.

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© T3 Sixty 2020. Enabling Intelligent Change.

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