It may be straight and narrow from Memphis all the way to Kingsport, but when it comes to fundraising for RPAC, the state of Tennessee is way ahead of the curve. For three years now, the Tennessee Association of REALTORS® (TAR) has held coordinated phone bank events linking about a dozen of its local associations with a live feed from one end of the state to the other. It’s a super-sized version of The REALTOR® Party’s Phone-a-Friend for RPAC program. TAR calls it “RPAC-A-THON.”
Chris Sexton, TAR’s Director of Governmental Affairs, credits the association’s 2014 President with kick starting the idea of streaming a statewide phone bank in real time. “Neal Clayton had the vision,” he recalls. “He just said, ‘let’s do this, and get the whole state involved at the same time, sharing that energy and momentum with each other.’ We secured a website, http://rpac-a-thon.com/, and made it easy for any member tuning in to become an investor by just clicking on a link,” explains Sexton. The following year, President Pat Beech advanced RPAC-A-THON with a campaign called “$15 in ‘15,” encouraging every member to invest a minimum of $15 in 2015. “It was a catchy slogan, as well as a nice low entry threshold for the event, and it did great,” says Sexton.
On May 25, 2016, President Randy Durham and the enthusiastic team at TAR took the RPAC-A-THON to a whole new level. Capitalizing on the current Phone-a-Friend for RPAC initiative, each of the ten participating local associations made use of the newly developed software that allows member-volunteers placing the calls to see a fellow member’s complete giving history; to accept pledges or credit card payments; and even to follow-up with an instant message of thanks. They received all the training and support they needed from Ronda Tompers, The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ National Phone Bank Leader, and were honored by a special video message of support from NAR 2016 President Tom Salomone, whose Phone-a-Friend for RPAC initiative is sweeping the nation.
This year, 87 volunteers across Tennessee placed calls to more than 1,500 fellow members. Focusing on non-investors, they asked for a minimum investment of $25. According to Sexton, the average investment actually came to $56. The 2016 RPAC-A-THON brought in about $50,000 all-told, including a number of big checks that major investors now time to coincide with the event. “What we’re doing, by making live REALTOR®-to-REALTOR® contact, is creating a culture of investing,” says Sexton. “REALTORS®, by nature, are in the people-business. Having RPAC investors reach out to fellow members sharing their own stories, and explaining how the power of political advocacy has affected their own businesses and communities, is the best way that we can help grow the REALTOR® Party.”
Sexton admits that producing a live event for five solid hours takes a great deal of stamina, and says he marvels at the way this year’s host, RPAC Chair Randall Thomas, who is also a TAR Past-President, maintains that kind of energy. “His enthusiasm is infectious,” says Sexton, “and his belief in the power of RPAC makes him a great advocate.” Because cold-calling is not always everyone’s idea of a good time, TAR does its best to break the ice and make it fun. The REALTOR® Party reimburses associations for food, and TAR provides t-shirts. Over the years, local associations have brought in entertainment, from a Memphis Grizzlies mascot to an Elvis impersonator. They also take turns sharing stories and updates on the live feed. “You really do get caught up in the excitement!,” says Sexton. To help fill time and inspire investment, TAR even creates “commercials” featuring different REALTORS® across the state, talking about why they’re RPAC investors. Sexton’s favorite is a compelling segment about a young professional who supported RPAC before he’d even made his first sale.
“The new Phone-a-Friend for RPAC technology makes these events so much easier for the volunteers, and for those of us running the show,” says Sexton. “The bottom line is, our totals and our participation rates are only going up.”
To learn more about how REALTORS® across the state of Tennessee are having great success—and a great time—strengthening RPAC one phone call at a time, contact Chris Sexton, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Tennessee Association of REALTORS® at 615-321-1477.