This summer, the Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee (TREPAC) launched a ground-breaking program, “Voice For Texas” that went beyond asking real estate agents and brokers for money, intelligently asking for funds from homeowners, the very people they’re advocating for. Because other states hadn’t tried it before on this scale, there wasn’t a true roadmap to follow, so some would consider the project experimental.
Sources tell us that the program has come to an end, and there are currently no solid plans to revive Voice For Texas.
Texas Association of REALTORS® (TAR) President and CEO, Travis Kessler tells us that Voice For Texas made “tremendous progress,” but it was “time to more thoroughly structure a business plan to address a long term approach to our consumer engagement and outreach activities.”
TAR remains committed to the idea
Kessler asserts that TAR is still committed to the consumer outreach program, and that they are currently in the process of creating a “more comprehensive business plan” for the project, and “until such time the budgets and advanced plan are approved by our TREPAC Trustees and our VFT advisory group we are limiting our efforts to current consumer engagement and outreach activities.”
While most people involved in the outreach program wouldn’t talk about it, few told us off the record that the bottom line is that the money didn’t roll in fast enough to keep everyone happy. Some said they feel the process was abandoned much like someone who wants to build a house and gets annoyed a month in that it’s not completed. Others supported the idea that it wasn’t working, and note that it is an irresponsible business move to keep forging ahead under the existing structure.
Voice of Texas didn’t fail
In an email to all involved on the project, it was stated that trustees were not disappointed with the efforts but were suspending funding and staff was let go.
One source close to the project expressed frustration that a big donor had recently given money, and the donor is someone who is often followed by copycat donors, so the project wasn’t a failure, it was just getting started. Everyone we spoke with remains hopeful that the project will have success at some point, but that the money simply didn’t flow in as planned.
What was wrong with the model?
Kessler mentioned that they’re reconsidering the model, and we believe that is something important for other states to note.
We learned that this particular project had three primary problems: (1) conflicting legal advice, (2) 501c status, and (3) impatience.
Before launching, the first lawyer on the project advised that the outreach program could have huge fundraisers at local associations so long as no paid staff or local association was involved (aka “don’t use local association dollars). The second lawyer came in and said that the fundraisers were being done incorrectly. It remains unclear legally as to which lawyer is correct. The bottom line is that they got conflicting legal advice, and that has to be frustrating if the dollars aren’t coming in at volume.
One source told us that another challenge was the program’s status. Had it been set up as a 501c3 and 501c4, corporations would have been allowed to donate (corporations can donate to c3s who in turn can donate to c4s). This limited their options.
There was also talk of in-fighting about the name, the model, and general impatience about fundraising levels.
It is possible that this was just a huge undertaking that no one has done before, and there were lessons learned that puts TREPAC in the perfect position to go back into battle when the timing is right. Other states shouldn’t avoid an outreach program because of this, rather learn from it, speak privately with TREPAC about their wins and losses, and then try it in their own market.
What can other PACs learn from this?
Considering closely the business model and intricacies involved is going to be crucial to any PAC seeking to implement an outreach program that goes outside of the tradition of agent and broker donors only.
Regardless of the model, it is important to understand that a program like this takes a considerable amount of time to reach critical mass. Years, even.
We aren’t considering this pulled program a failure, rather a learning opportunity for the industry as TREPAC hits the pause button.