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Do the Math - How Many Associations Can You Handle?

Home Stager

This is a subject that has been rolling around in my head for quite some time, but I was never able to solidify a blog until I read Kathy Passarette's recent post Hmmmm....Which Organization should I join?  While her approach was on a more general industry level, I have chosen to lay it all out there (what a surprise) from my own perspective.

Since opening Details Staging and Redesign in 2005, I have been given several opportunities to join organizations, all offering endless benefits to my business.  I'm sure they expect that I will be bringing some benefits to the table as well.  Quite frankly, I have not joined any of them.  Why?  I am very leery of joining an organization not knowing entirely what is required of me or what that membership will entail.  I also find the total of the fees staggering. 

Here is a list of the Associations I have been tempted to join and their respective fees-

Designation Related:
Internation Association of Home Staging Professionals - $150 annually

Industry Related:
Real Estate Staging Association - $120 annually

Decorating Alliance of North America - $175 annually

American Society of Home Stagers and Redesigners - $99 annually

Networking Groups:
Leads Club - $336 annually (according to the info I could find)

BNI, International- Fee was unclear but according to their pitch of 'less than $1 a day" I am going to estimate $350 annually.

Local Business Associations:
Chamber of Commerce - $300 annually

Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors - $145 annually for affiliate membership plus $200 initiation fee

Porter County Builders Association - $450 annually for affiliate membership

Northwest Indiana Creative investment Association (a group of property investors) $36 annually

The total to join all of these associations borders on $2500 to be paid yearly.  In the grand scheme of things this may seem like a nominal amount of money, but how many of these groups can you reasonably be active in, run your business and still have a life? 

I truly believe that to be a member of something it cannot be in name only.  It seems like a waste to me to just pay your annual fee and not do anything else.  If you are going to get a return on your investment, you must put a level of effort into it. Most of these groups meet monthly and some weekly.  Could I maintain that level of activity with a family to care for? Would I really be a benefit to any of these groups if I joined them all?  Could I really maintain the level of involvement in all of them required to benefit my business? 

I have asked myself all of the questions and it comes down to this - which of these groups am I convinced are right for me and which do I feel I can be of benefit the most?  All of them have their pros and cons and I have yet to reach a concrete decision. 

Balance between my professional and family life is extemely important to me and that is what will weigh most heavily in these decisions.  I have to be able to give my best to both and not be wasteful with my time and resources. So, that is what I must decide - what associations will it be mtually beneficial to be involved in?

Comments (29)

Linda Sticklin
Home Staging & Organizing - Berwyn, PA
I have found that belonging to my local business association has been the most rewarding on a personal and professional level. In a smaller group, it is easy for other members to get to know you on a personal level. I also think it is important to give something back to the community that I live and work in. Being a member of a smaller professional group has given me many opportunities to contribute. It is not all about what business leads I can generate for myself, although that has been an added benefit of the membership. I plan to drop some of my other memberships in the new year.
Dec 06, 2007 06:06 AM
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Marci - Thanks!  And I believe the Grand Foobah is the keeper of the membership scrolls. ;)

Karen - If you only knew how busy SIF keeps me - you would know why I am so hesitant to join others!  JK, but you are right, you can't beat it for the dues!  The BBB membership sounds good.  $1,000, huh?

Julia - I don't know if we have one of those around here.

Linda - I have been contemplating the Chamber of Commerce for a long time now.  The thing that I like about it is the opportunity to give back.  Unlike BNI you aren't restricted to one member in your field, all business owners can join.

Dec 06, 2007 08:09 AM
Alayna Berek
Adams Realty - Hope, RI
Wow, I have never heard of a few of those.  I think you need to track where leads are coming from and stick to those.
Dec 06, 2007 08:15 AM
Shell Brodnax
Real Estate Staging Association - Valley Springs, CA

Welcome to the wonderful world of Real Estate! Realtors pay thousands per year just to be involved in NAR. In my coaching business i recommend that stagers join their local Board of Realtors, their local WCR, and to Form a RESA Chapter. I don't recommend joining the chamber of commerce or OTHER networking groups.

If you want to get business from Realtors then you must hang out where the Realtors hang out.

RESA chapters are a networking group- we have business resource meetings each month and invite a speaker and then invite Realtors, lenders and title reps. Everyone comes to network with each other. Overtime by socializing with your industry peers they will seek you out for help with staging. I have patterned RESA meetings after WCR. I have been with WCR since 2003 and been to hundreds of meetings and it has grown my business time and time again.

The Real Estate Industry revolves around networking and associations and this is why the staging industry has followed suit. Personally as the CEO of RESA while I really want our membership to grow, I would prefer if a stager joined RESA they actually take advantage of what we have to offer. Trade organizations are not about how many discounts you can get. Its about the networking, the influence, education etc.  If you join a group get invovled!

Dec 06, 2007 09:34 AM
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Shell - I totally agree!  If you are going to get, you'd better be willing to give.  That may be why I am so reluctant to join groups because I tend to over involve myself and get stretched pretty thin. 

I had been encouraged to join the builders association because I do vacants and spec homes.  I didn't join becaus the builder that encouraged it also made it seem like the pending job with him hinged on it.  I didn't want to be forced to join anything and quite frankly the $450 fee would have meant losing money on the job.  I didn't get the job and I'm okay with it.  I'm not comfortable with those kinds of pressure tactics - I'm not sure if I would have maintained the membership just to work with someone who would act in that way. I imagine joining GNIAR would be just as beneficial as the builders mostly all use Realtors.


Dec 06, 2007 09:57 AM
Toronto's 2 Hounds Design: Decorating + Staging
2 Hounds Design + Home Staging - Toronto, ON

It seems like everyone wants to take our money 'to help' grow our business. I think the best thing we can do to grow our business' is to put that money to good use marketing ourselves, building a great website....

There are associations, well groups, that are free to join, ask little of us, and will provide better networking to grow our business. Just take a look at your local Meetup groups. Then you can network for free and have fun doing it.

Dec 06, 2007 10:23 AM
Shell Brodnax
Real Estate Staging Association - Valley Springs, CA

I know Realtors understand the importance of memberships and they do build that into their budgets. I know I just got mine and its 135 for my WCR and 200 for my local board. My local board has marketing meetings that I could attend without being a member. I am not invovled in my local board because I am so invovled with WCR BUT the agents that I do business with want to know I am a member regardless if I am invovled or not. We have a saying "support those that support you". I dont hire anyone in my life for anything unless I get their name from a referal from people I know. I live my life from networking and it works for me.


I know TONS of people complain that they join and group and it did nothing for them. Of course it did not if you dont get invovled I always tell them. Networking groups is about getting to know others and even more important others getting to know you. This means get invovled, join a committee, do an amazing job on that committee. oooo i have a blog coming. stay tuned

As far as the better business bureau. I dont understand their 2 yr limit, they are turning down business. RESA implimented a BBB type program called Staging Excellence Alliance. It comes complete with a company profile report, a dedicated member logo. Exact same concept and we will keep track of complaints, we have conflict management assistance, customer satifcation surveys etc. Its free with a RESA Membership. the BBB Wanted to charge me 500 to join locally.

Dec 06, 2007 11:18 AM
Gary Barnett
Home Matters - Indianapolis, IN
Home Matters Property Stylist Group, Indianapolis

Shell, if I join RESA, can I as the only Indiana and Indianapolis member become a VP by default?

In all seriousness, every day that goes by we become more and more impressed with RESA, what it stands for and the body that it helps.  I happened to catch another post you did about industry awards and it said somewhere that you don't have to be a member to be nominated.  This little thing speaks volumes about your organization.  Not sure this was appropriate for Kimberley's post, but I just felt the urge.

Now, Kimberly, I'm finished doing my "Behind the scenes staging duty type stuff and I want to talk about the IHSA some more.  Marci wrote that "She thinks she is a member, but doesn't really know for sure"  If she is a member, does that mean she has missed all of the meetings?  Now that I think about it I may also be a member and just don't know it.?

Dec 07, 2007 05:18 AM
Terry Haugen STAGE it RIGHT! 321-956-2495
Stage it Right! - Melbourne, FL
Kimberly, some people rely heavily on the associations they join.  In my experience, I've never gotten the benefit vs. the cash outlay, by joining this group or that.  Therefore I now belong to none.  Not only do associations require "cash" to join, you also have to spend time going to meetings.  I prefer to do my own method of networking and stay out of the groups.
Dec 07, 2007 02:15 PM
Terrylynn Fisher
Dudum Real Estate Group - BuyStageSell.com - Walnut Creek, CA
HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc.

Hey Kimberly THANKS for bringing up the topic.  Shell, thanks for adding the RESA piece.  As you may know I think RESA is a GREAT addition to the staging industry.  I don't know how many more ways to say that you may not think you need it now, but a MEMBER RUN TRADE ASSOCIATION, in the eyes of the public will in the longrun have more clout and give your industry more notice by the public than your training associations.  They each have their place, yes.  And they are different, I mentioned in other blogs, the REMAX analogy is your training association type model, RESA is more like NAR for Realtors. 

The value is that the PUBLIC will view the MEMBER RUN TRADE ASSOCIATION as a more impartial and all inclusive view of the industry who will set standards for all.  Peer governance and consequences to ethics violations give the public more confidence in our industry to self regulate. Then if someday you'll need a lobby for laws, RESA can speak for the industry based on thye needs and wants of all of the members.  The MEMBER RUN TRADE ASSOCIATION is the perfect forum to be the voice of the industry as it includes all. 

There will be times that you may not utilize any of it in your business.  However, I know as a member of CAR and NAR, I hope not to need many of the benefits, but am quite grateful they are there if I do need them.  There is NO way I would not pay my dues to NAR, CAR, and I have local MLS dues, Board of Realtor dues, CRS Certified Residential Specialist dues, SRES Senior Real Estate Specialist dues, CSP Certified Staging Professional dues and I am sure there are a few others I have forgotten.  These are a cost of doing business.  IF the clients are not now asking what are your affiliations, they will begin to as the industry becomes larger and more noticed.  It gives credibility that you are willing to publicly state that you are willing to abide by certain standards.  Most of us do our business so as never to have any ethics or moral issues become part of our business.  But it is about public perception.  Just my opinion of course.

Terrylynn Realtor/Staging Specialist

Dec 07, 2007 05:16 PM
Heather Chotard
In Style - Edmonton, AB

I couldn't agree with Terry Haugen more.

That is exactly why I don't join any either. It seems to me (like Dane stated) The groups want "our money" but to grow "their business". Thank you anyway, but my business is still pretty new. (1 yr) I still have a ton of things that I have to purchase in order to "grow my own business". Joining a group to say I joined isn't one of the costs I see beneficial right now.

And this is why I belong to none.


Dec 08, 2007 01:29 AM
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Dane - I can totally see what you are saying.  My hesitation to join is only in part about the money.  If I feel a group is deserving of my time - I really, really believe in it- then the money is secondary.  Unfortunately you cannot determine the value of most groups without membership.

Shell - I did not realize there was a limit on membership to the BBB.  that seems odd to me.  Is there a BBB for the BBB? ;)

Gary - You, Lind and I should get together and have a conversation about RESA in Indiana.  There are no members here yet.  That is either a grand opportunity or an albatross.  As far as IHSA is concerned, I do believe Marci is a member.  As the Supreme Commander, I'm sure I can get you in on my iron clad recommedation.

Terry - I respect your choice to remain a maverick.  Do you find it harder to network with no regularly scheduled gatherings?

Dec 08, 2007 01:41 AM
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Terrylynn- Your opinion is very valuable in this case because you see the staging industry from both the inside and out.  Your argument to join RESA is very persuasive.  I am going to talk to Gary and Linda about it a bit.

Heather - As a startup, these decisions are understandably harder for you.  Having limited funds and time makes every decision crucial.  I am just at a point now where my business does not occupy every waking moment because I have a large portion of it worked out already.  When you are more confident about the position of your business, the question of associations will resurface as it has for me.  It is good to keep an ear to the ground to determine what you will do when that time comes. Until then - SIF is the place to be!

Dec 08, 2007 01:46 AM
Donna Dazzo
Designed to Appeal, LLC - Manhattan, NY
Home Stager in the Hamptons & New York

Kimberly, I started my home staging business full time a few months ago, and subsequently joined BNI.  It's an international networking group, with each chapter having about 25 members.  At least that's what it the number is in NYC.

The motto of the group is "givers gain".  The members meet weekly and are expected to provide referrals to each other.  There is no duplication of careers in the group.  For example, I am the only home stager.  Since joining, I've started working with the realtor in the group, and the title insurance guy and the real estate lawyer have contacts with high-level realtors they want to put me in contact with. 

You can also refer yourself to other people in the group.  For example, I had trouble with my computer so the "computer guy" came over and helped me at a reduced rate.  I want to redo my ads to make them more upscale, so I'm entertaining a bid from the advertising person in the group. 

You are correct about the fees.  In addition, you have to pay a quarterly fee for the space and the breakfast, which of course can vary location to location.

As you know, networking is one great source of business, and I hope that proves to be the case.  I will keep active rain posted as the year goes on. 

Dec 08, 2007 01:59 AM
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN
Donna - Thanks so much for your input on BNI.  I'm sure it will help others make a decision on whether they will join. I had seriously considered joining until I checked our local rosters online.  I found that the only builder(s) in the group are members of my church and the agent I already either work with or know that they have a stager of sorts on their team already.  It kind of killed it for me.  I'm glad your experience has been afruitful one.  I'd love to hear more about it as your involvement progresses.
Dec 08, 2007 03:40 AM
Shell Brodnax
Real Estate Staging Association - Valley Springs, CA


RESA has local chapter government, State Presidents and 12 National Regions that have 12 RVPs. Indiana falls into the

RVP Region 2, IL, IN, MI, OH, WI 

Cari Pilon is the RVP for that area. However We do have the Indiana State President Open. To apply you just email a letter of interest and a Resume or at aleast a summery of what you have done etc. My most imporant qualification is leadership. I review it we talk etc. The first year posistions are appointed then we have elections from here on out. State Presidents help members in their state form chapters, get them going etc.

Kimberly, I appologize I worded the limit incorrect. I meant to say you have to be in business for a minimum of 2 yrs in order to join (at least if you have a website) then it was 500 bucks for me. SO, I took Penny Schoenbecks idea of the customer satisfaction survey and the BBB and we wrote a program that includes both. Actuallly the BBB end was a sugessted from a training company. So we wrote the basics of the program and the board and the Executive Committe hammered out the details and made it happen.

Just wait until Jan!.


Dec 08, 2007 08:27 AM
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN
Shell - That makes much more sense.  i can understand them wanting you to have some history under your belt before admitting you.
Dec 08, 2007 08:51 AM
Gary Barnett
Home Matters - Indianapolis, IN
Home Matters Property Stylist Group, Indianapolis
Shell, the first part of my comment was made in jest.  The second part was not, the more we hear about RESA, the more we are impressed.
Dec 08, 2007 04:52 PM
Kim Dillon
Creative Eye Home Staging - West Chester, PA

A lot of good information in this post and comments.  After reading this, I think I will try harder to be active in the memberships I already have rather than joining more.  For 2008, I will give my all to the NAR local afficiation and my local chamber of commerce.  I do have to say the fact that the BBB is getting "picky" is appealing! 

Kim Dillon, Creative Eye Home Staging

Dec 08, 2007 10:00 PM
Shell Brodnax
Real Estate Staging Association - Valley Springs, CA

While trade associations do charge a fee, that is because we have to in order to be able to provide the services that helps one grow their businesses. As far as not getting anything out of it. I recently wrote a blog on that subject. Just joining wont get you anyplace. You must be involved.

If you join and become part of a committee, then you get the chance to get involved doing something for the group you joined. By being an active member you get to know others and they see you in a different light.  Once involved people see you as the expert and they want to get to know you and then use your services.

BY accepting a leadership position in a trade association you get to use the fact that you are a chapter president, or state president, or chapter secretary etc in your marketing. the same effect happens. Also, when you are in a chapter and you are marketing one of your meetings it gives you an excuse to get out in your community to market that meeting or event and you get to know lots of people that way. Again the key thing is its a non-direct way to meet a potential client.

Doesn't everyone hate getting a telemarketing call? Or some sort of sales pitch? By using a trade assoc. as a networking voluntarism tool you network, and you fulfil a civic duty in giving back to your community.

Dec 09, 2007 05:14 AM