For Chicago-area REALTORĀ® Nykea Pippion McGriff, the road to engaging in advocacy on issues important to REALTORSĀ® was a natural progression.
“For me, it started with the housing crash. I was relatively new and trying to discover ways to stay in the business,” says Pippion McGriff, adding that the REALTORĀ® Party was lobbying around passage of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act. “It’s because we were able to get that federal act passed that I was able to stay in business.”
With one successful effort under her belt, Pippion McGriff’s interest was piqued.
“I started paying attention to everything that came out of the National Association of REALTORSĀ® and the Illinois Association,” says Pippion McGriff, who is now a federal political coordinator for the REALTORĀ® Party and a Golden R RPAC Major Investor.
As Congress breaks for its August recess, and more lawmakers at the federal, state and local level are accessible virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the month poses an ideal time for REALTORSĀ®, even those who have not lobbied before, to communicate with policymakers about their issues.
Chonya Johnson, a former congressional aide and author of “The 5 Minute Advocate,” says the key for newcomers to advocacy is to remember that “you can’t treat advocacy like a one-night stand. It is an ongoing, continuous process of making sure your elected officials are aware of your concerns.”
Conciseness is key, says Johnson. “Stick to the message. Keep it simple. You have other opportunities where you can advocate for your issue. It’s not a one and done.”
She advises newcomers to advocacy not to shy away from engagement. “It’s not like they haven’t done it before. They just don’t recognize that they’ve done it before. Everyone has bills. If you see something on a bill that’s not right, you’re picking up the phone and calling that company. That’s advocacy. You’re asking the question ‘why?'”
Johnson says even with restrictions some areas may face for in-person meetings during COVID-19, REALTORSĀ® can still write letters, make phone calls, send emails and participate in a lawmaker’s virtual meetings.
“Look at yourself as a trusted resource in your organization who can advise [your lawmaker] on issues,” Johnson says.
Pippion McGriff, of the REALTORĀ® Party, says that REALTORSĀ® can even engage through something as simple as the regular Calls for Action, which allow members to click a button and automatically email all their federal representatives about a particular issue important to REALTORSĀ®.
“Today is the day to start,” she says. “Find an issue that you’re really passionate about and start talking to your clients. Your clients’ needs will drive what you’re going to lobby your legislators.”
Pippion McGriff says that because of her engagement, she is also a strong believer in the importance of the REALTORSĀ® Political Action Committee (RPAC).
“You have to be at the table,” she explains. “You can fuss about it on the sidelines, but what’s important is being at the table and having access to legislators.”
Janelle Brevard is chief storyteller for the National Association of REALTORSĀ®.