The National Association of REALTORS® knows that the key to being a true force multiplier where public policy affecting private property rights is concerned is engaging its grassroots consumer base. In 2012, it launched the Consumer Advocacy Outreach Program to do just that.
The first goal of the Consumer Advocacy Program was to raise awareness of REALTOR® issues. After nearly two years of consistent messaging through targeted emails and web banner advertising, NAR issued its first-ever consumer Call For Action, focused on the Mortgage Interest Deduction in 2014. The response over the next year included nearly 900,000 consumer signatures on a petition to protect tax benefits of home ownership, exceeding expectations by a whopping 75%. That translates into real political clout: the kind that U.S. Representatives noticed when, during the May 2016 REALTOR® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., NAR’s Federal Political Coordinators took to Capitol Hill and presented them with the petition signatures of constituents in their own districts.
Phase Two of the Consumer Advocacy Program saw the launch of HomeOwnershipMatters.Realtor, a consumer-facing website designed for advocacy outreach on public policy issues related to homeownership. When NAR made its Consumer Advocacy Database of 7.5 million names available to state associations, Illinois REALTORS® was the first to capitalize on the rich new resource, amounting to nearly 250,000 names of engaged Illinois consumers.
Jon Broadbooks, Illinois REALTORS®’ Director of Communications, credits the leadership of his Chief Executive Officer, Gary Clayton, whose long-term vision has created a culture of forward momentum. In 2014, Illinois REALTORS® followed NAR’s consumer engagement lead by creating a program at the state level called Real Property Alliance, which uses the NAR database to drive Illinois consumers to www.realpropertyalliance.org. “As a private foundation, Real Property Alliance has the flexibility and responsiveness of an internet start-up, but with a mission of consumer education,” explains Broadbooks. It enjoys a symbiotic partnership with NAR, he notes, sharing information and consumer email addresses; it also functions as a partner of Illinois’ local associations, supporting them with consumer education campaigns.
These can be critical when an issue at stake is especially complex or difficult to understand. The Real Property Alliance has been able to play a role in supporting local campaigns that have successfully overturned Home Rule, for example, a local governance status that would adversely affect private property rights. “Using the data from the Consumer Advocacy Database, we’ve been able to drill down and engage in highly targeted social media campaigns, reaching voters we know are paying attention,” says Broadbooks. “We’re a state association capitalizing on information from the national association, but we’re able to see real success on a micro-level. We’re receiving messages from those names provided by the Consumer Advocacy Database responding to our outreach on local issues, saying things like, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if the firemen and police and teachers who serve our community could afford to live in it?’” he reports. “It’s a qualitative measure, but it’s of real value to know that we’re reaching thoughtful, engaged homeowners. Homeowners who vote.”
To learn more about how REALTORS® at the state and local level are using NAR’s advocacy tools to strengthen their own consumer advocacy programs, contact Jon Broadbooks, Illinois REALTORS®’ Director of Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-529-2600.