Starting a STR Advocacy Group: Tips from an Industry Expert
All across the globe, more and more people are participating in the sharing economy. One of the ways in which people do this is through home sharing services such as Airbnb and Vrbo.
Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t “get” services like these and just see them as a general nuisance. Fortunately, that’s where we at NoiseAware come in. However, we can’t do it alone. We need people who are advocates on the ground to stand up for someone’s right to Rent Responsibly. At the forefront of this movement is Megan McCrea, NoiseAware user and Rent Responsibly advocate.
NASTRA President, Megan McCrea
Megan is the President of the Nashville Area Short Term Rental Association or NASTRA, for short. NASTRA is a not-for-profit organization run exclusively by volunteers. Their mission is to support and enhance the short-term rental (STR) industry of the Metropolitan Nashville area while simultaneously building strong communities. NASTRA focuses on advocacy, support, and education for STR owners, and most importantly - awareness.
We recently had the chance to chat with Megan and pick her brain about the background of NASTRA, what draws her to the STR industry, and where she thinks it’s headed in the future.
“I had no desire to be in the limelight. I was very happy working behind the scenes”. That’s Megan’s answer when we asked her how she came to be president of NASTRA.
Megan started volunteering with NASTRA in 2016, as a way to connect to fellow hosts in Nashville. “I met the past president at an Airbnb event that they did in Nashville and she said, ‘here is what our organization is about -- I hope you’ll join.’”
Almost immediately after joining the organization, she began to volunteer. Through these efforts, she met several fellow hosts. “There is a reason you hear the phrase ‘Nashville Nice’... these hosts are some of the nicest, most welcoming people you’ll ever want to meet,” says Megan. To see the city of Nashville was treating these STR homeowners/ fellow hosts so unfairly ignited a fire in her for activism she didn’t even know existed.
In the Greater Nashville area, homes that are to be used for home-sharing need to have a permit. Those that do not are liable for fines and even jail time if they continue to operate after being cited and fined. Still, that doesn’t keep unpermitted people from using the service and giving a bad reputation to the short term rental community as a whole.
Early on, NASTRA combatted this reputation by using hard data and facts to back up their claim that most STR owners are responsible homeowners and property managers.
“I’m trained to look at data because of my background in media and marketing. I started digging into the data and quickly realized ‘this doesn’t add up’. We presented our findings to the city of Nashville in factual, unbiased analysis. It was compelling to see that there was all this hoopla for homes that made up less than 2% of the housing in our county. Furthermore, complaints against STRs were actually disproportionately lower than complaints against all other types of housing. It was about really fashioning a big picture truth rather than just feeding an imaginary narrative”, says McCrea.
Despite the ground covered by NASTRA over the past few years, there is still a lot of room for growth as an organization. “Going back to the data again, we have 6,000+ permitted properties in Nashville, but we only have approximately 700 homes in our membership. That’s a really small number by comparison”, states McCrea.
Beyond advocacy, NASTRA is about fostering the STR community in Nashville through education and fellowship amongst its diverse member base. “Because it is such a small group of people, if something big happens, our attention gets diverted to that - but we’re still trying really hard to be more than just advocacy. We are truly about educating hosts, helping them be successful, and making sure they’re renting responsibly and being good neighbors to the Greater Nashville community”, McCrea says.
Advice to Future and Current STR Advocates
With home-sharing services growing and not going anywhere any time soon, advocacy and education for current and future hosts are needed now more than ever in towns and cities all across the globe. This inevitably starts as a grassroots effort.
So what steps does someone have to take if they want to start an organization like this in their community? McCrea addresses this:
“First of all, just start. It won’t be perfect. It may be hard. But there is an entire community of hosts around the world going through the same thing who are often willing to help. NASTRA is where it is because of other groups across the US that offered their guidance to us.
On that note, don’t go it alone. You need a support system locally - especially a strong board. The NASTRA board consists of 2 fellow homeowners and 2 property managers- 5 of us in total. We have one board member who helps process memberships, another who helps handle our finances, another who handles our website, etc. Each person has their role and the expectations are clear. That said, we all pitch in and help where and when needed. Make sure you recruit people who are passionate for the cause and want to help people, not just after it for reasons that serve themselves.
Last but not least, think ahead to how you will fund your organization- that is a critical part of making your organization work and stay afloat. You need to constantly find ways to raise money through different means- memberships, sponsorships, fundraisers, business alliances, etc. This is the only way you can grow your organization.”
For more information about starting and running a local host organization check out our Top 10 FAQs about running an STR Advocacy Group, a collaboration between Rent Responsibly and McCrea of ways to start and/or ramp up local host organizations.
With this incisive approach, it’s quite clear that Megan McCrea and NASTRA are going to be making big strides in the future as the short-term rental industry experiences more growth and as a result, more scrutiny.
We’re excited to see such an effort from an organization of people who are passionate about seeing the industry thrive. We’ll be following Megan’s progress and the adventures of NASTRA as they continue to grow and become a larger influence in the Nashville area!
If you’d like to join or donate to this incredible organization, visit their homepage at NASTRA.org. About NASTRA: NASTRA’s mission is to advance the interests of the vibrant short-term rental industry of Metropolitan Nashville through advocacy, education, and sharing information. Their members and friends are comprised of homeowners, concerned citizens, and businesses who support the short term rental community and seek to advocate for fair home sharing in the Metro Nashville area.
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