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What to look for in a Trade Association



1. Corporate Structure & Legitimacy

It is important to know if a trade association is funded and operated as a legitimate 501(c)(6) tax-exempt non-profit association or a for-profit privately owned association.

RESA is the only 501(c)(6) tax-exempt trade non-profit trade association in the home staging industry. The purpose of RESA is dedicated to improving business conditions of our members and the industry as a whole, rather than for the benefit and profit of an individual owner(s). There is a significant difference between a 501(c)(6) trade association and a 501(c)(3) charity as well as a privately owned association. Please refer to the *IRS code Definitions below for further explanation.

2. Bylaws

Does the association have bylaws? How are bylaws enforced? Do the bylaws follow the corporation code in the state where the association is incorporated? These are all very important factors to ask, as the bylaws ensure that the association is operating in the best interest of its members, while protecting the integrity of the association’s mission.

3. Neutrality

It is extremely important for an association to be 100% neutral in both structure and leadership. The executive staff should be paid employees with no conflicts of interest.  The volunteer leadership should be well diversified. Neutrality ensures that the association represents all of its members fairly and with their best interest in mind. The association should have a no conflict of interest policy for their leadership and board of directors, both locally and nationally.

4. Diversity of Membership

It’s important to join an association that has a well balanced and diverse membership including all backgrounds, years in business, and educational designations. With diversity comes unity and strength which allows members with different educational backgrounds to offer unique contributions. Learning to recognize and utilize differences will benefit your business. Associations with a diverse membership offer a bridge to communicate with competitors in a collaborative environment. It is very important that a trade association be dedicated to the needs to its primary source of members. RESA has a strict policy that no more than 30% of our voting membership can be associates.

5. Member Support

Associations should have full-time staff that are dedicated to furthering the mission and goals of the association. Associations should offer their members opportunities to make an impact on the way real estate is viewed and sold on the local level through chapters. Staff support should be an intrical part of the oversight of chapters in order to ensure chapters are focused on the professional development of its members, as well as advancing the mission and goals of the association.

Associations should have resources that are relevant to its members throughout all phases of their business. Associations should be comprised of all backgrounds, designations, as well as welcoming non-designated stagers.  It will always be in the best interest of the industry for it’s industry association to support non-designated stagers. By allowing non-designated stagers to join we help elevate them to a professional status by offering them educational opportunities they may not otherwise know about.  This raises their level of professionalism that ultimately benefits the consumer.



6. Industry Advancement

It is very important that an association have a long history in advancing the industry as a whole. From inception RESA has worked to advance professionalism and excellence in real estate staging for all stagers regardless of their backgrounds, affiliations and training. RESA works with all of the key players in the industry which include stagers, the industry’s top training providers, furniture and decor resources as well as a wide variety of business support services.

It is important that our industry remain unified as together we are stronger. RESA can advance our industry further by all of us working together in a coordinated effort to accomplish our common goal.

7.  Opportunities & Professional Development

It is vital to the growth and development of the industry for an association to create opportunities for its members to further their professional development as well as their formal and continued education.

RESA offers many opportunities for our members to elevate their professional expert status through leadership, education, peer-to-peer support, industry awards and events. We also offer a RESA Approved Instructor opportunity to our RESA-PRO members to teach the Staging to Sell, What Every Agent Should Know Course.

8. Consumer Confidence

It is very important that an association be a neutral party in the industry. Potential real estate stagers are consumers. When they call an association they should be confident that they are dealing with a truly neutral association. Consumers should feel secure in knowing their association is a neutral body who will genuinely refer them to resources free of conflicts of interest.

9. Relationships Within the Real Estate Community

It is important that an association have legitimate relationships within the real estate industry including; real estate staging training providers and local REALTOR associations. REALTOR associations work with RESA to bring the Staging to Sell, What Every Agent Should Know Course to their members. RESA has secured relationships with the industry’s top training providers. Our training providers support RESA as the industry trade association because they are confident RESA is operated with transparency and with no conflicts of interest.


10. Industry Standards

Associations should be setting industry standards. RESA has developed a legitimate accreditation program for real estate staging training providers. RESA reviews training provider's policies, procedures, class materials and fiscal soundness in order to ensure that the provider meets or exceeds RESA's industry standards. Because RESA ensures that training providers meet or exceed our standards in education, the industry as a whole benefits. Stagers will be trained according to these standards and operate their businesses accordingly. This means that industry professionals will operate in a cohesive fashion, resulting in bringing more legitimacy and professionalism to real estate staging.


*IRS Code Definitions

What it means to be a 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code; this is how RESA is organized.

Trade associations that meet the requirements of Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(6) are exempt from federal income tax as business leagues. The same provision extends exemption to chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues.

Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code provides for the exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade and professional football leagues, which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.

A business league is an association of persons having some common business interest, the purpose of which is to promote such common interest and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit. Trade associations and professional associations are business leagues. To be exempt, a business league's activities must be devoted to improving business conditions of one or more lines of business as distinguished from performing particular services for individual persons. No part of a business league's net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual and it may not be organized for profit to engage in an activity ordinarily carried on for profit (even if the business is operated on a cooperative basis or produces only enough income to be self-sustaining).  The term line of business generally refers either to an entire industry or to all components of an industry within a geographic area. It does not include a group composed of businesses that market a particular brand within an industry.

Chambers of commerce and boards of trade are organizations of the same general type as business leagues.  They direct their efforts at promoting the common economic interests of all commercial enterprises in a trade or community, however.

What it means to be a privately owned for profit association (RESA is NOT)

A privately owned association is created for profit for its owners or shareholders. The decisions that are made are geared towards maximizing profits for the owners or shareholders. The goals of a for profit association will always be determined to ensure the greatest bottom line that will benefit the owners in the long run.

What it means to be a 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (RESA is NOT)

No person, or company may own a 501(c)(3)

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are commonly referred to as charitable organizations. Organizations described in section 501(c)(3), other than testing for public safety organizations, are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions in accordance with Code section 170.

The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization's net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any organization managers agreeing to the transaction.

Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct. For a detailed discussion, see Political and Lobbying Activities. For more information about lobbying activities by charities, see the article Lobbying Issues; for more information about political activities of charities, see the FY-2002 CPE topic Election Year Issues.