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Strong support circle

Working with the IREM Foundation to empower IREM Houston Chapter’s growing membership

By Jo D. Miller
Cram Crew Helpers (left to right): Chapter President Sheryl Green, CPM®; Marissa Virgadamo,
CPM®, ACoM; Derek Montz, CPM®; and Taylor Polaniec, CPM®, ACoM
Cram Crew Helpers (left to right): Chapter President Sheryl Green, CPM®; Marissa Virgadamo, CPM®, ACoM; Derek Montz, CPM®; and Taylor Polaniec, CPM®, ACoM

There is a common saying in the Lone Star State: “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.” The same goes for the IREM Houston Chapter’s efforts toward promotion and involvement with the IREM Foundation.

For decades, primarily due to a lack of awareness, we didn’t utilize the IREM Foundation scholarship program or encourage members to apply for funds. The IREM Houston Chapter had a successful, 25-year-old scholarship program of its own, and we focused primarily on promoting that resource. But that all changed in 2008 when the Foundation Board urged IREM chapters to partner with the Foundation to better support our members and grow the Institute’s reach.

This new partnership meant that chapter leaders could commit to large fund contributions while also being more directly tied to the purpose and mission of the IREM Foundation. “Working more closely with the Foundation and directing resources into the Foundation Scholarship program gave our chapter a sense of understanding and ownership that we’d never had before,” said then-president of the IREM Houston Chapter George D. Griffin, CPM®, ARM®, CCIM.

As soon as our local members began receiving financial support through this IREM Foundation partnership, we immediately began promoting this successful relationship on an ongoing basis. We included this news in event announcements and on our website, and we included Foundation mentions on all of our local course marketing. Additionally, on all of the chapter’s widely followed social media accounts, we shared success stories and testimonials from previous scholarship recipients. These efforts proved a great way to tell the IREM Foundation story. Each year, the count of Houston applicants and the ongoing scholarship support expanded.

Growth for members

In the years since, our support of the IREM Foundation has grown, as has membership here in our local chapter. Support from the IREM Foundation allows members, especially many of these newcomers, to expedite their journey toward an IREM certification, encourages greater engagement within the association, and helps the chapter attract and retain high-quality professionals.

It’s also important to share in our messaging to members that funding approval is not need-based; by removing the stigma of “needing funds” vs. “utilizing funds,” it’s made applying for scholarships more desirable.

“We promote the fact that members and chapters contribute money to the Foundation because they believe in IREM education, knowledge, certifications, and genuinely love to pay it forward,” said 2023 Houston Chapter President-Elect Laura Le Harvey, CPM®, of Stream Realty Partners, who benefited from these scholarship opportunities earlier in her career.

Strength for the industry

“By demonstrating to leaders of commercial property management firms that IREM is committed to the companies’ employees, these firms in turn become more committed to IREM,” said current Houston Chapter President Sheryl Green, CPM®, of Camden Property Trust, AMO®. Employers quickly pick up on this additional value of IREM membership. Once members have taken courses with IREM Foundation funds, many can leverage fund-matching programs from their employers to support future courses.

At a time when some companies are reducing professional development opportunities, scholarships allow members to continue with their IREM education journeys. Green added, “When we share the figures from our chapter of how many dollars have been awarded in scholarships, or when employers see a consistent string of newly installed CPMs, ACoMs, and ARMs on their staff, it adds clout to our mission of enhancing career growth and strengthening our profession.”

Growth for the chapter

Partial Board Members (left to right): Laura Le Harvey, CPM®; Nicole
Foster, CPM®; Sheryl Green, CPM®; Lillie Norton; Kaci Hancock, CPM®, ACoM; and Kim Hannigan, CPM®, ACoM

While increasing profits and membership counts were never the sole driving forces of our IREM Foundation partnership, we have ultimately seen these numbers rise as a result. Each member receiving funding is moved closer to earning a coveted IREM certification. When these professionals receive support from the Foundation, they often begin to see the IREM community through a different lens. With added touchpoints from the Houston Chapter, the goal is always to engage scholarship recipients and enhance their circle of support.

The vast majority of IREM Foundation scholarship recipients in the Houston area remain actively involved with the chapter through local attendance, volunteerism, and even mentorship. Over the years since deepening our commitment level to the IREM Foundation, the Houston Chapter has experienced steady membership growth, with an average of 18 newly certified members annually. It’s truly been a circle-of-life partnership program.

Bench strength for the chapter

Of the 11 newly elected members of our 2023 Board of Directors, nine previously received funding support from the IREM Foundation through educational scholarships and grants. As our succession plan unfolds, future Houston Chapter presidents will continue to feel these close ties with the IREM Foundation and cultivate this long-standing partnership. Our local motto is “Leaders Developing Leaders,” and the IREM Foundation has proven to be a critical aspect of the value we provide to members.

Nothing to lose, everything to gain

Because of the above statistics and success, the IREM Houston Chapter works to maintain our annual Chapter Giving commitment amounts of $10,000 or more. We do this through large local fundraisers, and everyone within the chapter is on board with their support.

“It’s apparent that IREM is passionately dedicated to giving back to its members. Without the support of IREM Foundation scholarship funds, I would not have been able to achieve my goal of sitting for the final assessments and tests. I am now a Certified Property Manager because of it!” shared Kristie Luby, CPM®, a senior vice president of property management with Avison Young.

As we’ve developed a closer relationship with the IREM Foundation, we’ve become inspired by its steady growth and expanded grant programs. The IREM Houston Chapter is certain of the invaluable return on our investment, and we wholeheartedly urge other chapters to partner similarly with the IREM Foundation to grow their circles of success, both in giving and utilizing available funding programs.

Journal of Property Management

Jo D. Miller is the IREM Executive Director of the Houston Chapter, where her greatest love is supporting IREM members and watching her chapter thrive. Since 2018, she has also actively served the IREM Foundation and currently sits on the Foundation Board of Directors.

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