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A New Direction for the Women’s Council

C2N InfographicThis past November, during the National Conference, Council leaders approved the transition from Council “Chapters” to Council “Networks,” following a two-year pilot test in California. And while a simple name change may seem, well, simple – there are a lot of exciting opportunities behind this change. This a “turning point for the organization,” says National Council President Sherri Souza. “Re-framing our organization will help to increase professionalism, enhance our reputation and support Network recruitment and retention.”

The adoption of the “Network Model” impacts four key areas: 1) Programming/Education, 2) Local Affiliates, 3) National Affiliates and 4) Governance. Following is information about these changes.

  1. More targeted programming; emphasis on industry events. The Network model reduces the number of required programs from eight to six (with four being designated as “industry events”); putting emphasis on quality versus quantity. There are lots of great examples of industry events already out there. One example is the Western Michigan Chapter’s program with real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran. The program attracted hundreds of attendees and brought in new members and lots of great press.

    You don’t need a big name, however, to plan a big event. National Council President Elect Jo Ann Stevens shared examples from Texas, where some of the most successful events focused on practical aspects of working in real estate, e.g., technology, legal issues, geographic expansion. Well respected local speakers can draw large numbers and help strengthen ties with other industry professionals. To assist local groups with finding a “wow” factor, the first webinar of 2017 will focus on setting up an industry event. Local officers: watch for details via email and newsletters.

  2. Shift from “Local Affiliates” to “Strategic Partners.” Much like “Chapter” to “Network,” there’s exciting opportunities behind this name change. The Strategic Partner concept lets local Networks create a more beneficial (and customized) partnership for the network and the partner, and keeps the emphasis on REALTOR® members.

    Sherri Souza reports that California affiliates were quick to embrace the new model and, in most instances, made a greater commitment to the network than they had as an affiliate. This allayed the fears of local networks that initially saw the change only as “losing members.” A template has been prepared to assist Networks create their own partnership opportunities and benefits.

  3. Lowering the National Affiliate membership threshold from 30 to 20 percent. Like the shift from Local Affiliate to Strategic Partner, lowering the threshold for National Affiliate members keeps the emphasis on the REALTOR® member. This change impacts only about 15 percent of current local groups and can largely be addressed by growing the local structure by one or two new REALTOR® members.

  4. Streamlined governance. Under the Network model, fewer Governing Board meetings are required, two new director positions have been added (focusing on programs/education and membership), and “project teams” replace “Standing Committees.” Today’s Council members are busy professionals with limited time for Council management. With the shift to project teams, members can be assigned to a project and when that project is complete, they are done – or they can move on to a new project.

    "Chapter leadership was becoming as time consuming as running a second business for many members," says Jo Ann Stevens.  "Under the new model, a member can volunteer for a project of 30 to 60 days, rather than having to make a year-long commitment."

2017: A Year of Transition

The Council has prepared a year-long strategy for rolling out the Network model including information sessions at state and regional conferences and network specific training at national meetings and Leadership Academy.

Some networks have expressed interest in getting a jump start to make the transition sooner.  Sherri and Jo Ann suggest two important steps that can be taken now.

  1. Plan Industry Events for 2017 and 2018. “Wow factor” events call for good planning and promotion. Begin now to work on your event ideas.

  2. Transition Local Affiliates to Strategic Partners in 2017. Download talking points and a template from the Chapter Tools section of the website to begin this transition. Remember, based on the pilot test, most affiliates welcomed this change and the network benefited from increased revenue.

Looking Ahead

“Change isn’t always easy, but I believe this change will generate new enthusiasm around being a Council member,” says Sherri. “I am excited to see where it will take the Council and the possibilities for local groups to transform themselves.”

When Jo Ann assumes the office of national Council President in 2018, the transition will be complete and the year-long preparation and training will help groups hit the ground running. Asked to look ahead to that time, Jo Ann says “I expect to see better programming and a resulting increase in REALTOR® membership. This is a great direction we’re headed in and I’m looking forward to it!”

The entire National leadership team wants to spread the excitement about the Network model and invite every member to use the opportunity to make the most of their Council membership. Engage now and be a part of the exciting changes that are underway at your local network! 

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