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National Association of Realtors

NAR offers MBA equivalent to Associations, and 38 graduate without patting selves on back: a deeper look

There is a little known program that was a massive undertaking for NAR and 175 Association leaders, so we’re blowing open the books and taking a deeper look at how the Association world has quietly raised its own bar without patting themselves on the back.



Man writing representing studying and learning.

There were no fireworks on the night that the first class of the Pinnacle Group graduated There was no Mercedes-Benz giveaway or a vacation to Aruba for the graduates. There was no jumbled alphabet soup these people were given for their business cards. No, in a humble ceremony, leadership at a select few real estate associations shook hands with Dale Stinton, the CEO of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), were given certificates, everyone clapped, and they went right back to work.

You see, Pinnacle Group is what they call the program that offers real estate association management the equivalent of an MBA, but there were no keggers following the conclusion of the program, because these people were not in it for the back pats, they were in it to raise their own bar, to borrow a tired phrase. Beginning in 2012, the group of 38 Realtor Associations in participation had to send at least three people (both executives and elected) for this grueling boot camp slash brain share slash continuing education on steroids. Most Associations ended up sending six to seven people to participate, getting the most out of the program as possible.

Before we dive into the details of the program and how it came to be, it is important to note that the name of the game here is evolution, not revolution. This program stands out because in the era of flashy copy in an industry clamoring for change, instead of offering radical yet empty platitudes, these folks slowly but surely digested nearly 800 pages of lessons and endless hours of studying, presenting, learning, and implementing.

How this program came to be

The day this site launched, you learned about big changes that were coming to the associations from the top (NAR) called Core Standards, forcing all to meet basic standards in six areas (the Code of Ethics, advocacy, consumer outreach, unification efforts and support of the REALTOR organization, technology, and financial solvency). The finalization of this plan inspired endless chatter, both in support and in criticism (as any big move tends to do).

But what few people know is that prior to the Core Standards being announced, Stinton had already begun working with industry leaders Stefan Swanepoel and Jeremy Conaway to create a completely new and original education program for association leaders to do just that. In fact, Swanepoel tells us that the Pinnacle Group education program was largely influential in the development of the Core Standards, rather than vice versa. “As we suspected, it turns out that you can teach an old dog new tricks,” Swanepoel emphasized, noting that these 38 associations qualified for the Core Standards before they even existed, as the intent of the program was to set an even higher bar than the basic standards.

The impressive details of this program

How do associations prepare for the onslaught of industry changes? How do they equip themselves for the challenges of an ever-innovating landscape? These are the very questions Swanepoel tells us were asked of him by Stinton as the idea was hatched. No such program existed or had been attempted before, so there was no template to pull from or hidden NAR manuals to emulate, rather the creators started from scratch, and every module was created less than 90 days before being delivered to participants. It doesn’t get fresher than that.

There were six modules wherein ad-free materials were presented business school style to the association teams, and after each, they all came together in one room, flying in from Tulsa, Houston, San Francisco, Orlando, Duluth, and dozens of other cities. They buckled down for a handful of nine hour days as the next module was delivered. They then boarded their planes, brains crammed full, new module and assignments in hand, and went back to their day job as they spent lunches, nights, and weekends on the materials. For some, it must have been like a second job, because if one lone assignment was to learn strategic planning, they didn’t dream up a pretend business plan, they had to create one for their current Association and present it on the intranet the participants used to communicate in between in-person meetings. We’re talking real work here, folks.

The six modules are as follows:

  1. Creating and sustaining effective and powerful REALTOR® association/consumer-community relationships
  2. Setting and implementing the Association’s strategic intent: a vital Association leadership and management tool
  3. Services and products essential to succeed
  4. Creating, managing, and leading in an ideal leadership environment
  5. Packaging, positioning, and empowering the REALTOR® Association message
  6. Understanding and maximizing the power of data as an Association resource

Swanepoel noted the importance of teaching them how to run like a proper non-profit organization, not a corporation, while holding themselves up to the level of a Zillow or a Realogy. Industry relationships, vendor selection, business planning, marketing, the massive amount of data Associations hold and the power of that data, intellectual law, leadership, mobile, data plans, security, messaging, embracing change, it’s all there. Creating, implementing, and executing, it’s all there.

This is the MBA program for Realtor Associations but you won’t see any flashy logos on Association websites, praising their completion, you’ll simply see it in the cream rising to the top.

Who completed the program?

To educate in a way that minds that continuity must be kept when you balance executive staff with elected folks, the program was a long term commitment completed by the following 38 Associations and 175 leaders (in alphabetical order):

At the graduation ceremony, Stinton told the group, “You are the finest example of REALTOR® association leadership,” as only 2.7 percent of REALTOR® Associations in the U.S. have qualified for this certification. The cream is rising to the top.

What the program costs, who foots the bill

Now, the question on cynics’ minds is about money trail. The average MBA program costs anywhere between $60k to $100k per person, and they’re personally responsible for that cost. The Pinnacle Group program was offered for a flat fee of just over $9k, which was per Association, not per person, so with most Associations putting six people through the program (double the three required), their education was about $1,500 per person. That’s roughly 2.5 percent of what an inexpensive ($60k) MBA costs and costs less than a lone ad spend. Not bad.

The NAR subsidized the creation of the course materials and paid for the consultants and research, and it doesn’t appear to be a money generator (nor are there plans to make it one), rather a way for a massive trade group to really look at itself and ask how it can raise its own bar as members consider how to raise theirs. This is the nation’s largest trade group refusing to stand by while the world around them changes, and offering a real, legitimate way for the cream to rise to the top. While others would offer a more radical course pathway or a different method, it is hard to argue that the NAR hasn’t taken a massive action, prompted the evolution of the Association world, and rejected the industry standard of self-aggrandizing.

What’s next for the program?

Will a new class be announced in days, will new content be re-developed less than 90 days before being delivered to participants? Swanepoel tells us that there has been no decision made on the next steps for this program, as the focus was on this pilot program. Although created by Swanepoel and Conaway, the NAR owns all of the materials and rights to the program. Swanepoel suggested that this program may work online, but only with dedicated mentors. Another option for the future of this program is to package it and train instructors, but Swanepoel felt that the likelihood of boxing this into a shiny DVD course was highly unlikely.

There are two things you can do to make sure this program continues:

  • There has been no decision made as to whether or not there will be another class in future years, so you can reach out to Chuck Curtiss via email to urge NAR to offer this program again for the many Associations that did not participate.
  • If your Association is not listed above, go to their website, find the contact info for your Association’s CEO, email them a copy of this story, and urge them to reach out to Curtiss with their interest in the program.

As an industry, if we really want the cream to rise to the top, we must speak up and take action to urge our leaders to push themselves as hard as possible, just as these 175 have.


Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

National Association of Realtors

NAR Announces 2021 Leadership Academy Class

[REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS] NAR offers annual Leadership Academy to help participants enrich their leadership skills. Applications for the 2022 academy opens December 2, 2020.



The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Leadership Academy identifies, inspires, and mentors emerging leaders from local and state levels. The Leadership Academy aims to give participants the opportunity to enrich their leadership skills while learning the history, structure, and inner-workings of NAR leadership. The 11-month program includes twelve interactive online courses and in-person experiences designed to prepare graduates to represent the 1.4 million NAR members.

2021 NAR President Charlie Oppler, a Realtor® from Franklin Lakes, N.J., and broker/owner of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty said, “NAR’s Leadership Academy provides one-on-one experiences and tools that equip volunteer leaders for the critical roles they will play shaping American real estate in the years ahead.” Oppler continued, “Volunteer leaders are vital to our industry, and by better understanding the needs and strategies of our association, Leadership Academy graduates can affect change at the national, state and local levels of this organization.”

The program runs from January through November, concluding at the 2021 REALTORS® Conference and Expo in San Diego, CA. Course summaries, applications, and resources are available at the NAR website. The application period for the 2022 class will be open from December through March 2020.

The 25 Realtors® selected from across the country to participate in the 2021 NAR Leadership Academy are:

Brian Anzur (CO)
Michelle Bailey (ID)
Jaime Caballero (FL)
Cheri Daniels (WA)
Ryan De Guzman (Guam)
Nina Dosanjh (CA)
Gaspar Flores (IL)
Andrew Fristoe (VA)
Karem Gallo Garcia (KS)
Christy Gessler (TX)
Michael Gobber (IL)
Alisha Harrison (WA)
Cynthia Haydon (FL)
Michael Inman (KY)
Bakhsish Khalsa (CA)
William Klein (MO)
John LeTourneau (IL)
John McPherson (NC)
Gonzalo Mejia (FL)
Eileen Oldroyd (CA)
Lorena Pena (TX)
Jairo Rodriguez (NJ)
Derek Sprague (CA)
Peggy Todd (VA)
Heather Zimmaro (OH)

The session topics participants will cover during this course include: How NAR Leads Real Estate from Washington, D.C.; Leadership Skills: Basic- Intermediate; Becoming a Better Spokesperson; Leading NAR From Chicago, IL; and Building Your Legacy: Taking the Next Steps in Your Leadership Journey.  In person meetings are designed to provide opportunities for open dialogue and will be located in Washington D.C., Chicago, and San Diego.

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National Association of Realtors

What NAR’s senior management hires reveals about their strategy

(REAL ESTATE) The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has hired two powerhouses, and their choices speak volumes of what to expect from the trade group going forward.



nar new hires

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) confirms two top hires – Victoria Gillespie as the new Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, and Shannon McGhan, the new Sr. VP of Governmental Affairs.

These two hires reveal two major signals from NAR.

First, and most unavoidable, these are two rising stars that happen to be women, putting more females in the boardroom which the industry has struggled to do, even in recent decades. In fact, McGhan is the first female in her role in NAR’s 110-year history.

Secondly, these two executives are extremely qualified and come from within their respective segments to serve their roles, and clearly prove CEO Bob Goldberg’s continuing to boldly restructure the corporate organization of the association since his taking the reigns last year.

McGahn will fill the very big shoes of Jerry Giovaniello who retires this year after nearly four decades at NAR and a stellar record of successes. McGhan is sharp and modern – she cut her teeth on the Hill as communications director for the House Republican Conference, and spent over six years serving in various policy communications roles for the House Republican Conference, the Office of the House Majority Leader, and Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn (R-WA). She served as counselor to the secretary of the U.S. Treasury, spearheading relationships with members of banking and tax writing committees alongside House and Senate leadership, managing legislative agendas and priorities.

“I’m excited to join NAR and bring my experience in the legislative and executive branches to support policies that not only benefit members, but promote property ownership for everyday Americans,” said McGahn. “On behalf of NAR’s 1.3 million members, I look forward to promoting the American dream of homeownership, bolstering private property rights and emphasizing the financial security and other associated benefits of owning real property.”

NAR has hired an up-and-comer that knows the intricacies of inside baseball to handle the policy nuances.

Equally impressive is the fact that they’ve also brought on a power player, Gillespie, who has owned her own real estate agency for over 12 years, and served as Sr. VP of Enterprise and Marketing Communications for Northwest Federal Credit Union. She’s extremely well versed in real estate and finance, a powerful combination for the next communications leader at NAR, as the trade group seeks to tackle the daunting and endless task of strengthening their relationship with consumers and activating the Realtor brand.

“I’m thrilled to take on this new role at NAR and put my knowledge of the real estate industry to use for our members,” said Gillespie. “Having spent much of my career in the industry, there are tremendous opportunities to increase the awareness of the value and services that NAR offers so that our members understand that NAR is a radically member-centric organization. I look forward to working with our talented team to do so.”

“The addition of Victoria and Shannon’s strategic leadership to our already powerful team will help us once again make real estate a topline issue,” said Goldberg. “Together, they will lead our strategic direction in Washington and around the country to better serve our members’ interests.”

The combination of these two hires strongly indicates powerful, modern communications and policy strategies in coming years. In short, these hires indicate that they’re not messing around.

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National Association of Realtors

NAR sends strongly worded letter to House and Senate on tax reform

(ASSOCIATION NEWS) NAR President, William E. Brown has written a letter detailing the NAR’s concerns over the Blueprint tax reform plan. Here’s what you need to know about it and what NAR foresees for the future if it passes.



nar writes congress about tax reform

Regarding the American Dream

President of the National Association of Realtors®, William E. Brown, wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, as well as the Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Kevin Brady, expressing the NAR’s feelings about the challenges and opportunities Brown believes will be upcoming in the Trump administration. The letter was sent to all members of the House and Senate, but Brown primarily focuses on the House Republican Tax Reform Blueprint.

More specifically, he writes, “the interaction of two specific features of the plan, which are designed to simplify the tax system” as they would have “the unintended consequences of nullifying the long-standing tax incentives of owning a home for the great majority of Americans who now are, or who aspire to become, homeowners.”

Problematic specifics

Brown goes on in the letter to detail the specifics of the Blueprint that could become problematic for homeowners. He states, “the Blueprint calls for the standard deduction to be almost doubled from its current levels. The plan also includes the repeal of the deduction for state and local taxes paid, as well as, the elimination of most other itemized deductions.”

He explains the gravity of this potential reform by stating, “Either of [the aforementioned] monumental changes alone would marginalize the value of the current-law tax incentives for owning a home. Unfortunately, the combination of these two revisions would cripple the incentive effect of the federal tax law for all but the most affluent of taxpayers.”

Protecting first-time homebuyers

Brown continues by explaining, “two potentially devastating problems in the aftermath of these modification (are anticipated). First, the impact on the first-time homebuyer could be enormous.”

In many cases, the tax incentives enable first-time homebuyers to be able to afford their very first home. Brown states, “at a time when the rate of first-time home-buying is well below the average of the past few decades, this could be particularly debilitating for the housing industry and the entire economy.”

Home and property value

If that weren’t enough of a reason to take notice of the impending possible reform, Brown goes on to detail the second reason.

He states, “the decimation of the mortgage interest and real property tax deductions would very likely cause a significant plunge in the value of all houses[…]the housing sector has not fully recovered from the thrashing it took during the Great Recession, this drop, even if temporary, could be calamitous.”

This would mean that millions of Americans might quickly find, “the value of their largest financial asset has dived below the amount of debt that is owed.”

NAR protecting homeowners

Brown realizes the Blueprint is aimed at modifying the tax system and attempting to “supercharge growth in our Nation.” He believes there has to be another, better way.

In a statement to The Real Daily, Brown said, “the NAR continues to believe that any tax reform proposal should respect and uphold our system’s longtime support for homeownership. That means avoiding changes that would negate the important incentive effects of the mortgage interest deduction and the state and local property tax deduction.”

He continues, “We’ll be making that case in the months ahead and look forward to working with policymakers in Washington to promote an overhaul of the tax system that engenders positive change for all Americans.”

Read it for yourself

This letter aims to bring this belief to the attention of lawmakers before any changes are made to the existing tax laws.

Read the full letter here (PDF).

If you are interested in learning a little more about the Blueprint, you can read an overview of it here (PDF).


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