Not surprisingly, this afternoon’s NAR Budget Forum drew a full house crowd, with the proposed dues increase at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
The forum began with a brief summary of NAR’s current year financials from NAR Treasurer Tom Riley, followed by a brief presentation of the NAR Smart Initiative Budget from President Elizabeth Mendenhall. NAR has provided a summary of the budget which can be viewed here.
In addition to Riley and Mendenhall, much of the current NAR leadership team, top NAR staff, and additional volunteer leaders with expertise on the subject matter were on stage or quickly accessible to address any questions the audience had.
The presentation covered the same points that had been discussed extensively in the lead up to this week’s meetings. However, it was announced that at the NAR Executive Committee meeting this morning the decision was made to table the proposed automatic escalator from the dues increase. It will likely come back in a slightly modified form, but that escalator will not be before the Board of Directors at Saturday’s meeting.
Following the presentation, there was ample time for questions from the audience.
One thing that struck me was the broad range of questions that were posed, as well as the depth of knowledge possessed by both those asking and responding. Topics ranged from the amount of dividend paid by ZipLogix back to NAR, the future of the Code of Excellence and the allocation of assets between advocacy and member development, NAR’s financial reserve policy, and associations real estate holdings.
Most of those asking questions seemed to generally support the idea of a dues increase but had concerns about certain aspects of how those funds were being spent. My opinion is that those are the right questions to be asking. While I didn’t ask any questions, I would fall into that group. I think the value I get for NAR membership greatly exceeds the cost to me, but there was a portion of the new spending that probably would not have been a high priority for me.
As the questions were answered, one by one by the panel, what I took away was how much thought had gone into this proposal. Each time someone asked, “Did you think about this?” someone on the panel had a detailed answer as to either why it was or was not concerned, and why the end decisions were made.
For example, someone asked about consolidating the two buildings to reduce overhead. Seems like a decent idea, and it had been briefly looked at, but the rent the NAR receives from other tenants in both the DC and Chicago buildings actually make money on an operational basis for the organization.
Another member asked about looking to grow the membership in lieu of raising dues, trying to bring some of the 2 million licensed non-REALTORS® into the association. NAR CEO Bob Goldberg replied, to much applause, that was he’s heard from members across the county is that they would rather see fewer, but more active members, who actually take their membership seriously.
In the end, I left the meeting (slightly early to have time to write this before dinner) even more supportive of the proposed budget and dues increase.
As I mentioned earlier, I had doubts about a portion of the budget. I don’t use ZipLogix (very few brokers in my area do), so I questioned why membership dollars should be spent for that, but I heard others express doubt about RPR. I use RPR extensively and think it’s one of the greatest things I get for my membership. In the end, it’s not about the cost of each individual benefit, or whether or not I use it, it is the overall value proposition.
If I have to spend an extra few dollars for a program that doesn’t benefit me, to get access to the multiple things that make it easier for me to do my business, that’s an expense I’m happy to pay, because someone else is benefitting from that program and helping subsidize the ones I do use.
The forum provided a great opportunity to hear from experts in the vast areas where NAR provides value. I think it helped answer a lot of the questions and concerns people had about the budget. I know it did for me.