Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Recruiting Membership in Our Local Real Estate Investor Assoc

National REIA is hosting their Mid-Year Leadership Training right here in Bellevue on June 21-23. The Real Estate Association of Puget Sound (REAPS) is excited to be the host REIA for this event. We’ve entered to win the “Award of Excellence” that is awarded annually to one REIA in the Nation. Our very own volunteer Membership Coordinator Wendy Ceccherelli put together the reasons why…and we thought you’d want to know what we’ve been up to this year too!

Recruitment Programs
Free Admission to Meetings/Orientations -

REAPS provides members with invitations to give to their guests to attend their first meeting for free. This type of word-of-mouth advertising by existing members can be very powerful in attracting new members. As a thank you to the person who brings a guest REAPS will be doing a ton of drawings for free loot at our June 21st main meeting. This is our membership drive month so make sure you are in attendance if you want to win free stuff.

REAPS also provides free admission to any interested person to attend the half-day orientation sessions geared towards new investors every quarter (more below). At our March Orientation ½ of the attendees became members at the end of the Orientation! That was a record for REAPS.

Incentives – eBooks, CDs, discounts –
REAPS offers various incentives to encourage guests to convert to members on their very first visit to a REAPS meeting or an orientation. Typically, new members get to apply the cost of attendance at their first meeting to the price of membership (if they paid to get in). In addition, if they join that day (and that day ONLY!) they receive various bonus gifts. These have included items such as CDs of a recent National Speaker, copies of our eBook “Doing Your First Deal,” free attendance at a full-day seminar (normally $59 for non-members), as well as discounts on the membership dues.

Ambassador Program –
REAPS recruits volunteers to serve as “Ambassadors” when the doors open before every main meeting. Ambassadors welcome new members and guests, answer questions, provide introductions, direct traffic, and help with logistics. Overall, their goal is to create a friendly and welcoming environment for new members and guests. REAPS has a half-dozen regular Ambassadors that are typically volunteering for every monthly meeting.

New Member/Guest Orientation –

There is a 10-15 minute “quickie” orientation for new members and guests conducted by the Membership Coordinator in a separate meeting room before every monthly meeting. This is used to explain the association, its structure and benefits of becoming a member. The orientation is also used to promote upcoming events, including a more comprehensive half-day Saturday orientation which is held quarterly at a separate location.

In addition, the REAPS President spends several minutes at the start of every monthly meeting highlighting different benefits of membership.

Retention Programs
Meeting Door Prizes –

Members are encouraged to pre-register for meetings and are rewarded with lottery tickets to win door prizes provided by local partners (sponsors). Members and guests also earn additional door prize tickets by visiting the vendor partners (set up in the hallway outside the meeting room) prior to the meeting. Prizes might include a $50 prepaid gas card, a $50 gift card to a local restaurant, or some other fun activity or item.

Haves and Wants –
8-10 members (only!) are allowed to give 30-second commercials for their business or items they need at the monthly meetings. This is a great way to reach 200 people live, and more seasoned investors love it. They also have the opportunity to post their haves and wants on the REAPS message board, in the members-only section of the REAPS website. We learned through our focus group meetings that this is the most valuable membership benefit for our most seasoned investors.

Satellite meetings –
We make it easy for people to attend REAPS meetings throughout the Puget Sound area, by offering a number of interesting programs at various locations around the region. While our main monthly meetings attract approximately 200 attendees each month, we also offer satellite meetings north, south and west of that central Bellevue location. Our national speakers speak at the monthly meetings 5-6 times per year; the rest of our speakers are mostly local investors, professionals, members, and partners who speak at “meals and deals” in north (Seattle, King County) and south (Fife, Pierce County) locations every other month; and in Poulsbo (which is a ferry ride away for most members) every month to serve the large community of investors in Kitsap County.

Focus Group Meetings –
Annual focus group meetings with both members and non-members have helped us focus in on benefits that are most important to our members.
Specialized meetings –
Out of these focus group meetings have emerged new demands for specialized investment groups including one for Active Commercial Investors (by invitation/application only), for novice commercial investors, and a mastermind group for new real estate investors.

New Member Orientations
Before Main Meetings –

REAPS has always held “quickie” orientation meetings for new members and guests before every monthly meeting, but recently decided to expand this effort by offering a longer, stand-alone half-day session on Saturdays at a Seattle location. These have proven to be highly effective in both recruiting and retaining members, and is now required for all REAPS volunteers.

Quarterly Half Day Orientations –
These FREE orientations are held quarterly at a Seattle public library on a Saturday morning for novice investors, new members and guests. The orientations are designed to help the novice real estate investor make full use of the membership resources and benefits of REAPS in order to jump start their career as a real estate investor. Members of the public are also welcome to attend.

A number of board members and committee officers, all of whom are practicing real estate investors conduct the sessions, and go into great depth about the membership benefits and resources.

REAPS provides coffee and refreshments, a free eBook published by REAPS called “Doing Your First Deal,” and various incentives to join REAPS. A typical audience would include 50 people. The attendance is split equally between people brand new to investing and REAPS, brand new members and older members or members who let their memberships expire.

Member Benefit Programs
Designated Member Benefit Representatives –

A number of REAPS volunteers help to make these membership efforts succeed. In addition to the personal efforts of the REAPS President to assign and delegate responsibilities, a volunteer Membership Coordinator oversees various membership functions and suggests recruitment and retention efforts. The Ambassadors are coordinated by another REAPS officer. And two business partners are specifically charged with promoting member benefit programs, both at the monthly meetings and at the orientations.

Member Benefit Presentations at Meetings -
These Member Benefits volunteers assist members in taking advantage of such programs as NAREIA’s partnerships with Home Depot and Sherwin Williams. They set up vendor tables before the main meetings to talk with members and answer questions. They also speak at the opening of every monthly meeting, to highlight one or two featured membership benefits. This is the main reason that REAPS has one of the best member involvement statistics with these programs of any NAREIA affiliate.

Local Partners –
In addition to NAREIA benefits, REAPS has an aggressive partnership program to raise money from local vendors and to provide additional benefits for its members. This is a real win-win affiliation program, as local businesses are anxious to promote their products and services to the members; and members get additional discounts that result in savings that more than justify their membership in REAPS.

Conclusion –
As a result of all of these coordinated membership efforts, REAPS has been able to stabilize its membership, recruiting new members and retaining more members through a difficult economic time that has seen many other real estate investment associations go out of business.

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