We Are WMFHA - A Look Back at 2020
No one would have predicted the immense challenges our state and nation would face as we started this new decade. Expectations were high. Optimism prevailed for a new, exciting year.
Then we all heard of a virus in Wuhan China. While that seemed far away and mysterious, we then had a report of the first known case of this new coronavirus in Washington state. From there, the virus spread and the Seattle area became the epicenter of COVID-19 in the U.S. None of us could have imagined the magnitude of the worldwide pandemic that would soon follow.
Elected officials were forced to do the unthinkable – prohibit all gatherings, shut down businesses, and impose orders to stay home and isolate to stop the spread of the virus.
The housing industry was quickly forced to make some big innovations to how we do business, and we dealt with that adversity with professionalism and compassion. We are a service industry. We are a people industry. We care, and we’ve shown our mettle during this incredible year by rising to the challenge.
2019 was a banner year for WMFHA and our members. Membership growth was high, member engagement was tremendous, and our career development offerings and networking events were outstanding.
Then, one day in March, our office team packed up our files and computers, and left the office to begin working from home. Today, our team is still working from home.
The uncertainty of the time created a thirst for information and connection, and WMFHA stepped up to be the central hub of information and support for our members. We began our aptly named 6 Feet Apart webinar series, on the then new to us platform called Zoom. WMFHA conducted more than 20 free webinars on valuable subjects of interest, with attendance of over 2,000 of our members.
Shortly after a successful Emerald Awards honoring nominees for their contributions to our industry, all in-person events and education were canceled for the foreseeable future. Any event in-person is still unavailable under current protocols.
Undaunted, WMFHA developed a “virtual” Tapas & Topics networking event, once again utilizing Zoom meetings so that we could all see each other’s faces and keep connected. EdCon, the hugely successful education conference and trade show exhibition featuring the popular Maintenance Mania competition, had to be canceled for 2020.
But out of adversity comes opportunity, and WMFHA developed in its place APTConnect: an online, multi-day educational conference and supplier partner marketplace which featured outstanding and informative classes.
We’ve all become experts at coordinating and attending Zoom meetings and webinars. WMFHA was able to still hold our popular Business Exchange, the speed-dating version of a reverse trade show, virtually.
Our association is vibrant and successful due to the WMFHAbulous contributions from our volunteer members. To sustain momentum, we began holding Board of Director and committee meetings also by Zoom. A nice by-product of this odd time was an increased attendance at those meetings.
Unfortunately, we had to cancel our most precious events: Jockeys & Juleps VIP Night, Maintenance Appreciation Bowling Challenge, Chili Cook-Off, Holiday Giving Gala, and our yearend Holiday Social. Our Eastern Washington EdCon and the popular Corks, Forks & Brew events were also unavailable to host.
We held our informative Washington Apartment Outlook virtually, with excellent contributions from Matthew Gardner, Dylan Simon, and our own Brett Waller. A portion of revenue from each registration went to our Better Government Fund to fight against policies adversely impacting rental housing.
To serve our important supplier partner members, we held our first Supplier Roundtable, which will be revisited in 2021.
Devotion to our charitable partners was even more critical during this stressful year. We were not sure if we could raise donations for our non-profit partners. Rather than giving up since we couldn’t host events, we doubled down. Instead of raffles, auctions, and activities for one day, we leaned on social media, marketing, and event revenue proceeds for fundraising.
It started with raising an amazing $15,930 for Northwest Harvest in the spring! In the fall with WMFHA’s match of $25,000 for each organization, our caring membership raised an incredible $63,400 for Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN) and $51,900 for Childhaven! These funds were desperately needed to serve our communities in this trying time.
In the fall, our mission to provide educational opportunities to further career development took a turn for the better. We were finally able to hold a virtual, interactive Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) course, honoring educational scholarships that were awarded in February. Fair Housing Fridays, Budget Bootcamp, Basic Pool, and more classes continued as well, albeit online.
Webinars explaining new legal and legislative changes were invaluable for our members. “Ask A Lawyer” presentations were critical in sharing information and best practices.
In a testament to our resilience, WMFHA’s property membership grew by 11% in 2020, the second highest growth for any affiliate of National Apartment Association throughout the country. From our humble beginnings in 2003, we are now the sixth largest NAA affiliate in the country!
Following our award-winning year in 2019, in which WMFHA won the NAA Excellence Award for Community Service, we took home two prestigious awards during 2020’s Excellence Awards event. WMFHA now holds the award for Membership Engagement, and our own past Board President Sheri Druckman accepted an award for Outstanding Service to an Affiliate. Leading on the national stage is a gratifying evolution of this association.
Thank you to all our members who follow us and engage with us on our social media platforms. It has been an important format for us to connect and support the work of our industry.
Our appreciation also goes to our fantastic lobbying team of Kathryn Hedrick and Krystelle Purkey. They continue to advocate for the good work we do and educate our elected officials on the importance of a vibrant housing industry.
Continued threats to our ability to serve residents of this state result from ongoing government regulations. These continue to be our biggest challenge, although we are progressing to becoming a go-to rental housing resource for policymakers. We have built some valuable coalitions and partnerships to elevate our voice and influence.
We work closely with our public relations partner, Quinn Thomas. The results of that relationship have been dramatic. Their PR efforts and our coalition with the Rental Housing Association have landed us over 150 news stories and media articles last year. Crucially providing the perspective of the rental housing provider, we’re balancing a narrative that has been one-sided for years.
Forming Partnership for Affordable Housing (www.partnershipforaffordablehousing.com) has given us an important platform to fight the never-ending, mis-guided effort to pass rent control in Washington. Similarly to California and Oregon, that type of legislation would be detrimental to our industry.
After nearly 20 years serving WMFHA and over 40 years in the industry, our Lifetime Board Member Joe Puckett elected to step away from the association and government affairs. We wish Joe and his wife Judy the very best in their future and thank him for his many years of devotion and service to advocating for rental housing.
The WMFHA team is outstanding and continues to astound me each day. Katrina Bishop, Kelly Wakefield, Brett Waller, Tricia Johnson, and Sloane Cerbana have dedicated this past year to providing value and quality to our members, despite a global pandemic and working from home. Their dedication gives us strength to serve others and I appreciate each one of them.
Our esteemed Board of Directors and Executive Officers provided the encouragement to support the industry through these challenges. Their steady leadership was much appreciated. Going forward, this association is in good hands thanks to the dedication of our elected leaders.
Executive Council members in Eastern Washington supported our efforts to provide value and benefits east of the mountains. A special outcome of the conversion to online was the ability of our WMFHA family at great distances to join us on Zoom calls, events, classes, and webinars.
Now it’s time to turn a page in our history and embrace a new year with optimism!
In 2021, one of our initiatives will be to continue our work on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Our industry and workforces are growing in many ways and we will grow with them. Our commitment to DEI work will include collaborating with a consultant and developing a roadmap toward racial justice for our organization and members.
2021 will find our association moving to a new home. Our current office lease expires in May of this year. We are excited to move to a much larger space in Renton, allowing for continued growth of the association and our services.
We hope to once again be able to meet in person this year, whenever that time comes. Connection is a human need. We need WMFHA and we need each other. Our goal will always be to deliver value to our members.
Our resilience and passion prevailed this past year. I am proud of how the rental housing industry has responded to these difficulties. We continue to support our communities and neighbors and should look back on 2020 with pride of our collective accomplishments.
Best wishes for a brighter year to come.
Jim Wiard – Executive Director, WMFHA