Arizona REALTORS® Lead the Charge against a Tax on Services

Last fall in Arizona, a superhero named “PAT” swooped in to town, enlightened the voting public, and saved the day: it was the cartoon personification of the Protect Arizona Taxpayers Act, a ballot measure that prevailed in the state’s November 2018 General Election, resulting in a constitutional amendment to prevent any new sales taxes on services. A REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant gave PAT a big boost, together with substantial backing from the Arizona REALTORS®’ Issues Mobilization Fund.

It was an issue that spoke right to the heart of the REALTORS®’ mission to protect home ownership, says Nicole LaSlavic, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Arizona Association of REALTORS®. “When a governmental body institutes sales taxes on services, the resulting increase in taxes impacts citizen’s pocketbooks and could ultimately affect their ability to own a home,” she explains, noting that numerous services directly related to the real estate industry were at risk of taxation, including construction, plumbing, lawn care, heating and air conditioning, appraisals and inspections. “It was in the REALTORS®’ best interests to act to prohibit sales taxes on services for once and for all.” While the REALTORS® provided the lion’s share of funding for the campaign, they were joined in the effort by other industry groups representing services such as childcare, certified public accountants, bankers, attorneys, and the healthcare sector.

The comprehensive statewide campaign to ban taxes on services involved REALTOR® members at the grassroots level, collecting signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Following that success, mailers, a website, rounds of live phone calls, and newspaper, radio, and television ads were all developed and put into play. “The biggest response was to the television ads, with the animated superhero, ‘PAT,’ coming to ‘save the day from the evil politicians who want to take your money!’” says LaSlavic. “It really got people’s attention and gave the fairly dry tax issue a colorful and memorable treatment.” The REALTORS® decided to maintain the website as a helpful resource.

The Protect Arizona Taxpayers Act ultimately passed with 64% of the vote, well over the required 50% plus one, but that margin represents a big leap from where prospects stood before the campaign got started. “We conducted polling throughout,” explains LaSlavic, “and while our initial numbers prior to any campaigning were not great, once we began educating voters, the indicators turned right around.”

The Arizona REALTORS® are grateful for the support of the National Association, and LaSlavic notes that she encourages the state’s local associations, large and small, to apply for REALTOR® Party grants of their own when they face issues that could benefit from the support and expertise of the REALTOR® Party. “The team at NAR is very helpful in navigating the application process, so that by the time it goes forward, it’s in the best possible shape.” Regarding the Issues Mobilization Grant that helped secure the passage of the Protect Arizona Taxpayers Act, she says, “Arizona’s more than 50,000 members are very happy – and those who were directly involved are extraordinarily pleased!”

To learn more about how the Arizona Association of REALTORS® has protected the state’s taxpayers from a tax on services, contact Vice President for Government Affairs Nicole LaSlavic at 602-248-7787.

Read more

Phoenix REALTORS®’ Creativity Leads to Sweeping RPAC Investments

With more than 9,200 members, the only sure-fire way for a mega-board like the Phoenix Association of REALTORS® (PAR) to get the attention of its full membership is to tie information to its dues renewal mailing. Several years ago, PAR launched a sweepstakes to encourage investment in RPAC during the December-January dues-renewal season; three years in, the event has gained such momentum that an RPAC Fundraising Grant recently earned back more than nine-times its value in RPAC investment.

PAR Vice President of Government Affairs Marc Scher explains the necessity of having such a ‘sweeping’ effort. “We never have the opportunity of seeing the whole membership at any given meeting, and we understand that not everyone’s paying attention to each and every newsletter we issue. Our billing statement, emailed December 1, is the only universally viewed vehicle we have. It’s our best opportunity to reach our members, educate them, and encourage investment in RPAC.” It’s in the best interest of RPAC to make that opportunity interesting, exciting, and completely convenient, he notes, adding that members now look forward to the annual RPAC sweepstakes, making the whole event a win-win.

That means Scher is always thinking of the most attractive prizes to offer in the upcoming sweepstakes. This year, the $7,000 REALTOR® Party grant was used to purchase prizes for four RPAC investment levels: $30 Arizona Fair Share; $50 Bronze; $100 Copper; and Major Investors of $1,000 and up. Investors were automatically entered into the drawing for prizes such as an Apple iPhone 8+, an airline gift card, an Apple Watch, an Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon Signature Massage, a professional chef cooking an in-home dinner for four, a round of golf at an exclusive local club — even an indoor sky-diving session.

In total, Phoenix REALTORS® invested $63,919: an increase of $10,000 over the previous year. Just as significant, says Scher, is the fact that more than 300 members joined the ranks as first-time RPAC investors this year, and a number of existing investors increased their investment amount to correspond to higher sweepstake categories.

An easy-read “What is RPAC?” lesson was linked to the billing statement, to help all members understand the importance of the fund. “We introduce RPAC in all of our classes, meetings, and new member orientations,” says Scher, “but we want to make sure that this information is also connected to the exciting prospect of entering the sweepstakes. It’s important that members understand not only that they should invest, but what RPAC does. It’s that understanding that will make them become repeat investors.

Scher cautions that, although the RPAC Sweepstakes isn’t a live event like a chili cook-off or an auction, it still takes a great many hours of preparation and behind-the-scenes work.  “And while PAR’s budget covers the intensive marketing, there’s no way we could do this without the REALTOR® Party grant that allows us to offer so many great prizes. We’re so pleased that working together with the REALTOR® Party, we’re able to spur such robust RPAC investment from our members.”

To learn more about how the Phoenix Association is having great success encouraging RPAC fundraising with a billing statement sweepstakes, contact Marc Scher, Vice President of Government Affairs, at 602-246-1012.

Read more

Creativity Help Associations Keep RPAC Investments at an All-time High

“Vote. Act. Invest.”  It’s the rallying cry of the REALTOR® Party, and REALTORS® are increasingly taking it to heart, investing in record numbers in 2017.  With 35% of the membership investing in RPAC in the past year, NAR’s ability to support REALTOR® Champions in campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels is stronger than ever.

This record-level investment, from the $15 investors (whose ranks have grown 11% in the past year) to the Major Investors (who’ve increased by 14%,) yielded a national fundraising total for RPAC that represents a whopping 108% of its goal for 2017.  Beyond RPAC investments, last year saw the President’s Circle, which contributes directly to REALTOR® Champions who support NAR’s public policy agenda, had a record 1,207 participants in the program.

According to Lauren Facemire, NAR’s Managing Director for RPAC & Political Fundraising, the key to the steady growth of the REALTOR® Party’s political fundraising is the ongoing effort by state and local associations to promote a culture of investment.  “It’s tried and true” she says: “when associations demonstrate the value of investing in RPAC, they inevitably see a rise in member participation.”

This might mean arranging visits from the dedicated volunteer leaders on NAR’s various RPAC Committees, who are especially effective with its peer-to-peer appeals. Many smaller associations are beginning to use the PAC Management System, a user-friendly platform that helps them to create online fundraising campaigns that are designed by NAR and allow for custom messaging. Facemire adds that RPAC Fundraising Grants are being used at an all-time high, as associations across the country discover that events that bring members together for professional camaraderie and networking can also be a good way to engage them in RPAC investing.  According to the RPAC team chili cook-offs and raffles are perennially popular, too, but less conventional event ideas are also gaining a foothold among many fun-loving boards:

In Hampton Roads, Virginia, the 3,400-member board hosted an outdoor RPAC ‘Yappy Hour’ raising $3,722 in investments from its dog-loving members and affiliates.  Held on the association’s own property, and featuring a splash pool, obedience contests, games of canine skill, and a dog-food donation drive for the local animal shelter, the event targeted first-time investors and was underwritten by more than seventeen affiliate sponsors.

In Scottsdale, Arizona, an ‘Epic Water Battle’ brought in $11,550 for RPAC from the local mega-association’s Young Professional Network (YPN). It was a sporting day in the desert, where higher investments meant larger water-weapons, and spectators could support players with investments in gear ranging from ponchos to water balloon ammunition.

The Ohio Association of REALTORS® transformed an existing event into an RPAC fundraiser when incoming President Tiffany Myer hosted a riverboat cruise to celebrate her inauguration. The $100-ticket event was the high point of the annual state convention, and featured a presentation by national RPAC volunteer Charlie Oppler, together with the state leadership, encouraging guests to step up to Major Investor status.  All proceeds from the $39,100 raised went to RPAC.

To learn more about the increasing success of RPAC fundraising, contact Lauren Facemire, NAR’s Managing Director for RPAC Fundraising, at 202-383-1080.

Read more

Arizona REALTORS® Reach More Members through Broker Involvement Program

With a goal of 100% participation in the REALTOR® Party’s Broker Involvement Program (BIP), the Arizona Association of REALTORS® (Arizona REALTORS®) is not messing around.  The numbers are ambitious, but with energetic volunteer leadership, a dedicated staff member, and the support of a new grant program from the National Association of REALTORS®, Arizona REALTORS® is approaching that goal, one broker-member at a time.

The Broker Involvement Program is a turnkey operation allowing broker-owners and managers to take a leadership role in rallying their agents to advocate for REALTOR® Party issues.  Brokers enrolled in the program can automatically send their agents company-branded calls for action from NAR and state associations, communications whose directness and brand-familiarity increase participation rates.  Ashley Slechta, the association’s REALTOR® Party Director, says the BIP is an increasingly important facet of the culture of advocacy that the association has been building in recent years.  She credits Liz Harris, her volunteer counterpart who represents Arizona REALTORS® on NAR’s Broker Involvement Council, with the steady growth of the state BIP: “We rely heavily on Liz’s direction,” says Slechta, “her drive and determination and leadership have enabled us to succeed.”

Initially, the association focused on attracting the state’s very largest brokerages to the program.   Last summer, it took its efforts to the next level with one of the REALTOR® Party’s new Broker Involvement Grants, created to promote activities that recruit, retain and educate brokers and their agents in the BIP.  The $5,000 grant funded “Like A Boss,” an engaging interactive event targeting brokers from around Arizona with more than 30 REALTORS®.  Held at a Phoenix hotel in early September, the 90-minute program fell conveniently within a two-day span of association activities and featured two dynamic speakers: Arizona Department of Real Estate Commissioner Judy Lowe and 2012 Arizona REALTORS® President Holly Mabery.

Participants ate, drank, won gift cards and networked at the reception that opened the event.  Then they settled in to learn about becoming involved in NAR’s advocacy efforts at the grassroots level by providing legislative and regulatory information to their agents.  “The key to the program was educating brokers about what the state and national associations are doing on our behalf, so that we can run our businesses,” says Harris, adding, “it came as a shock to a number of the participants who hadn’t been focused on how these issues had been playing out beyond the local level.  They were excited to take the information back to their offices.”  She notes that there is an important correlation between the goals of the Broker Involvement Program and the goals of RPAC and the various local REALTOR® PACs.  “Separating out the initiatives and calls for action provides real clarification of what the PAC funds are doing to help the industry and property owners.”  

One-hundred percent of those who attended the “Like A Boss” event joined the BIP.  In fact, ten broker-members who were unable to come, joined as well, thanks to Harris’ thorough follow-up.  “Liz was amazing,” says Slechta.  “She tracked the responses and took the initiative to call her fellow brokers who’d declined the event invitation to say, ‘Hey, let us do this for you!’  She made it easy for them to send in their company logos, and start sending their agents branded advocacy messages from NAR and our state association.”

To date, about 20,000 REALTORS® are in the BIP by virtue of their brokers’ involvement, which is nearly half of the association’s membership.  Looking ahead, Slechta says the recruitment events will continue, with the next level of focus being offices with ten or more agents.  In the meantime, advocacy in Arizona is going strong:  early in January, on the second day of the new legislative session, more than 65 state senators and representatives and their staff met with almost 400 REALTORS® at the annual “Arizona REALTORS® at the Capitol” event.  When legislators need information or assistance with a property rights issue, they’ll know where to turn!

To learn more about how Arizona REALTORS® is mobilizing members by engaging brokers, contact the association’s REALTOR® Party Director, Ashley Slechta, at 602-248-7787; or Liz Harris, the association’s representative to NAR’s Broker Involvement Council.

Read more

West Maricopa (AZ) REALTORS® Put Campaign Training to the Test and Get One of Their Own Elected to City Council

With grants and guidance from the REALTOR® Party, the 6,000-member West Maricopa Association of REALTORS® (WeMAR,) supported one of its own for the Glendale, AZ City Council, securing a big win in November of last year.  WeMar leaders used what they learned from NAR’s Campaign Management Training, along with direct mail, phone calls and online advertising to mount successful campaigns for their REALTOR® Champion in both the primary and general elections.

Read more

North Dakota Becomes Sixth State to Constitutionally Ban Real Estate Transfer Taxes

North Dakota recently joined Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana and Oregon as one of six states that now constitutionally abolish future real estate transfer taxes.  The 1,600-member North Dakota Association of REALTORS® (NDAR) used an Issues Mobilization Grant from NAR, funding from its own coffers and plenty of polling, advertising and leg-work to convince voters by a 75 percent margin that a constitutional ban on real estate transfer taxes was the way to go.

Read more