OK, it sounds like a new Western or the next Sylvester Stallone sequel. But actually, RAMCO is a major NAR Second Century Initiative, involving hard work by association executives to accomplish a mission that many of us have envisioned for decades—a REALTOR®-owned membership system.
So imagine the last time you were in Staples or Best Buy, where at checkout, every branch worked from the same database with lots of information to improve your customer experience. Although we are the largest trade association in the world, our “branch” local and state associations each manage their own membership systems, which do their best to communicate via something called NRDS.
For the past several years, a small group of local and state Association Executives (AEs) have been working together to improve the future, essentially to become as good as Best Buy and Staples in providing customer service. The vision: To create an Internetbased, fully functional membership system owned and operated by the REALTOR® organization for everyone to use. The result: RAMCO.
With strong support from NAR’s CEO Dale Stinton and other top staff, NAR has funded this vision as part of its Second Century initiatives, along with RPR, HouseLogic, and the like. The project team is led by three former Association Executives Committee (AEC) chairs, Travis Kessler (TX), Jim Link (CA), and yours truly, along with a number of other local and state AE leaders. In beta testing right now, the system will be ready for the first set of associations to switch over their databases by mid-March. Local and state associations may opt into RAMCO, which would entail implementation and maintenance fees. Signed agreements already include eight state associations (including MAR) and more than 25 local associations.
What does it look like?
RAMCO is cloud-based, that is, associations don’t actually need a server in their building because everything is accessed via the Internet. Rather than build it from scratch, we acquired the perpetual source code license of a successful web-based system called Cobalt and further upgraded it based on an extensive survey of AE wants and needs. The system is built atop Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Platform, so all the features will be readily familiar if you’ve ever used Microsoft Office products like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.
Members will be able to manage their own real-time “membership experience” online by performing such tasks as completing applications, signing up for classes and committees, updating profiles, and finding historical data such as their committee service record, dues payments, and course records. RAMCO will also help associations establish communication preferences, register multiple people for events, and provide options like online voting. Meanwhile, AEs will be able to automate routine reports, customize screen views for each staff person, track calls and cases, set multiple price points on programs and services, quickly create fields for data such as languages, Facebook accounts, special awards, multiple e-mail addresses, and more!
What is the cost?
RAMCO is completely nonprofit and will eventually operate like a cooperative once RAMCO reaches critical mass and no longer needs to rely on NAR for financing. As with other online systems, pricing is based on the number of users or members in the association. For details about cost and MUCH more information, go to www.ramcoams.com.