At a glance, the success that the Chicago Association of REALTORS® (CAR) has had advancing diversity in the past year is nothing short of remarkable: it has hired staff dedicated to multicultural outreach; forged formal partnerships with local minority real estate organizations; and welcomed a number of minority members to its own leadership structure. All this progress, notes CAR Chief Executive Officer Ginger Downs, has actually been about five years in the making.
It began with discussions at the Board of Directors level, recalls Downs, about how CAR could assist its fellow local chapters of real estate organizations serving minority professionals. “We have parallel goals, and share many members, but they’re managing as volunteer organizations,” she explains, adding, “I know from experience how difficult that can be.”
CAR’s first step was to reach out with offers of leadership training to the local chapters of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), The Women’s Council of REALTORS® (WCR) and others. There was a real hunger for the educational programs, reports Downs, with classes on subjects like How to be a Better Chairperson regularly attracting between 30-60 participants.
With two years of successful training under its belt, CAR approached a number of the organizations for a more formal arrangement. It now has six local industry partners that engage with CAR and with each other on various collaborative opportunities, which are discussed at regular meetings throughout the year. Besides ongoing leadership, programmatic and specialized training, CAR provides an advocacy component, with a lobbyist available to work with the partners at a state and local level, and staff to help with grant writing. The local industry partners also enjoy use of the CAR conference facility, and receive funding for key events. According to a recent CAR member survey, cross-promotion on websites and via email blasts, plus two pages dedicated to the local industry partners in each issue of CAR’s quarterly membership magazine, have created a noticeable rise in awareness of the minority boards.
In January 2015, CAR welcomed a new Member Engagement Coordinator to its staff to oversee these diversity initiatives. That same month, Fred Underwood, the National Association of REALTORS®’ Director of Diversity and Community Outreach Programs, presented a workshop at CAR on the relationship between local boards, the role of NAR and the programs and resources available from The REALTOR® Party to address diversity issues.
According to Downs, the benefit of the new programs works both ways, and CAR will continue working hard to maintain its momentum. “It’s been an incredible opportunity. Many of these local industry partners are incubators for our own leadership,” she says, noting that several members of her Board of Directors have come from the local industry partners in the past few years. “Looking at the bigger picture,” she adds, “training their leadership is training our leadership.”
To learn more about how the Chicago Association of REALTORS is engaging and assisting its minority counterparts, contact Chief Executive Officer Ginger Downs, RCE, CAE, CIPS, IOM at (312) 214-2172.
Click here to explore the diversity initiative on the CAR website: http://chicagorealtor.com/groups-and-networks/industry-partners/