Executive Report-March/April 2012

DUES BILLING UNDER REVIEW
We’re going to try something different – again

By Anne Marie Howard
Association/CMLS CEO

 

Changes to dues are seldom a picnic.

A dental appointment is more like it. Specifically, you might say a root canal.

A big thank-you goes out to the majority of members for bearing with us on the recent dues billing changes.

A vocal minority, however, was not so kind. Regardless of the anger members felt about this situation, it was unfair to beat up our association staff. They were just doing their jobs.

With downsizing of staff because of the economy, we now have only four people handling Member Services. They are the individuals who took the brunt of members’ ire. It was those four staffers who had to deal with more than 2,000 members trying to pay at the last minute on Jan. 9. Screaming, cursing, crying — they encountered it all.

In changing the dues process, we split local and state/national amounts into two separate bills so members would not have to spend much at one time. We were also trying to get bills out well before the holidays, to make the timing of payments easier on members’ pocketbooks.

This was the rationale behind sending out our local dues notice in September and the state/national notice Nov. 1. Both bills were due Jan. 1, with a grace period until Jan. 9.

In previous years, members have received only one bill and the due date was Jan. 1, with a grace period until Jan. 31. Losing nearly three weeks of the grace period was hard on some members.

We apologize for the bumpiness of this new process. The Audit, Budget and Finance Committee is examining “lessons learned” and will make recommendations. We look forward to making this better.

We know these are trying times in our profession, and as a former U.S. president from Arkansas once said, “We feel your pain.”

The association staff do. We really do. Seriously.

We realize our association changing the billing process is not the only dues change members had to deal with. NAR added $40 to its dues to cover increased advocacy efforts.

Our association actively lobbied against the NAR increase but lost the battle. To offset that, the association is successfully applying for NAR grants to help fund association activities, but we know that doesn’t salve wounded pocketbooks of members.

We’re fortunate in Charlotte that local association dues are only $109 per year, and have been at that level for a long time. Thanks to funds from CMLS and money-generating initiatives such as sponsorships and ad sales, we keep our local dues far below the cost of benefits members receive.

That, in my opinion, makes our association the most attractive regional option for gaining access to CMLS. Realtors® must be a member of an association to belong to the MLS, so why not belong to the one where you get the most for your money? For $109 local dues, why would you belong anywhere else?  To see all the advantages, go to my January/February column.

In the meantime, thanks again to members who took the high road during our attempt to make the dues process easier to handle. It didn’t work out as well as we had hoped, but I promise we will figure out how to improve the situation. I know none of us want another root canal.

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