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Top 10 Ways to Drive UP Homeowner Engagement in Your Community Association

Top 10 Ways to Drive UP Homeowner Engagement in Your Community Association

Why do people choose a community association such as a condo, townhome or homeowner association? Is it because they want a maintenance-free living experience and chances to meet and mingle with neighbors?

Or, are they looking to feud with people about noise issues such as barking dogs, revving motorcycles and upstairs neighbors walking in high heels on hardwood floors at 5am?

No matter the motivation to buy into community associations, which now number over 338,000 in the U.S., a bigger issue emerges: how to get homeowners engaged in association administration and operation, as well as involved in beneficial relationships with other association homeowners. Today so many people seek attention and connections through social media. Wouldn’t it also make sense to relate in person with people who live right next door?

Unfortunately, the current reality is that most homeowners don’t want to be concerned with association matters, nor do they want to serve on the board. If they have served, they want nothing else to do with it. Other homeowners might have once attended a board meeting and decided never to do it again because they saw only a dysfunctional mess. People yelled and complained, few decisions were made and little action was taken.

It begs the question: What can we do about this state of affairs? Do we simply accept it as all community living now has to offer? Or do we proactively reshape community-association living to build greater expectations?

I believe we should take bold steps toward improvement. Here are my suggestions for creating a new, higher standard for community living:

  1. Highly functional board. Everything starts at the top. A community must have an effective board of directors. More important, the board president must show presidential (pre-2017) leadership. This sets the tone of the community and determines how homeowners live within in it. For example, if the board is action oriented, the homeowners will experience a well-run and -maintained community, which will lead to greater satisfaction with community living. On the other hand, if you have a passive board that doesn’t raise assessments, keeps reserves low and puts off capital projects, the homeowners will say and believe nothing ever gets done, which will lead to much lower satisfaction.
  2. Board meetings that are both effective and FUN. How in the world can a board meeting ever be fun? It can be. It starts with a pre-meeting meet and greet at a proper location. That doesn’t include a cold and damp basement, a loud bar or a vacant condo unit without chairs and electricity. Meet somewhere such as a library’s community room or a quiet, suitable space with business-meeting amenities. We want the homeowners to attend the meetings and have chances to interact. We also want the board to conduct focused, proactive meetings that result in great business decisions that enhance the homeowners’ community-living experience.
  3. Social events. Social events are crucial. They gather the homeowners in a relaxed setting so they can get to know one another. If you’ve tried arranging a social event and no one showed, try a different venue or bring in other attractions such as music and food. If you have children in the community, you could invite a magician or include a water slide or bounce house. Holding the annual election at a restaurant or having a board meeting catered can help boost attendance as well.
  4. Contests/Recognition. Want to supercharge homeowner engagement? Consider creating community contests. For example, homeowners who attend the most board meetings, stay the entire time and behave appropriately are entered for a chance to win a prize. Also recognize board members for their service, as well as homeowners who volunteer at the annual election meeting before the voting takes place. Ideally, the annual election meeting will attract the most attendees.
  5. Rules and regulations. The association must have clear, well-written rules and regulations. They allow the board to set fair legal boundaries within the community. The rules and regulations also need to be enforced. This lets homeowners know the board takes its role seriously and the association supports good, friendly behavior among neighbors. Consider reviewing your association’s current rules and regulations to see if they could use a tune-up.
  6. Training. How do board members know how to act as board members? What are the best practices for the president, secretary and treasurer? Board members should concern themselves with how they act and focus their actions on what’s best for the association. Ideally, they should also seek and receive some type of board-member training. While Illinois law doesn’t require it (even though I think it should), the board may consider attending a training session held by the Community Associations Institute (CAI) or the Association of Condominium, Townhouse, and Homeowners Associations (ACTHA). Board members might also look to their management company for training.
  7. Welcoming committee. The association should make any new community homeowners feel welcome from the start. The management company and an association welcoming committee should greet them, give them a personal tour of the association, explain the rules and regulations and encourage them to attend upcoming board meetings.
  8. Communication. Frequent, detailed communication is critical to the association’s success and well-being. A quarterly newsletter is a great start. An online portal that provides homeowners with updates and information is even more important. Homeowners want to feel like they’re a part of the community; your communication will help ensure that they do.
  9. Quality vendors. A strong association has access to responsible and trustworthy vendors. Maintaining relationships with the same vendors further benefits the association because they know the building and, over time, the homeowners and board members. When choosing vendors for any capital project, focus on quality and accountability more than price. You can’t have a comfortable living environment if your vendors are not serving the association with reliable professionalism.
  10. Highly effective management company. Yes, it is true: An essential component of enjoyable community living is having the right management company, one that takes action and cares about quality. The right company knows how to help the board ensure things are done correctly the first time to avoid more problems. A good management company will further provide board-member training and an efficient online portal for the board members and homeowners. It will have a meeting space designed for fun and productive board meetings as well.

SUMMARY

Don’t settle for status-quo community living – strive for great community living. Whether you’re a board member, a vendor, a property manager or a homeowner who might volunteer for the association, commit to making a difference. Together, we can reshape and redefine community living.

AUTHOR

Salvatore J. Sciacca aka “Condoboss” is the nation’s leading expert in the community property management industry and is also recognized for his stress relieving blogs and insight on personal and organizational transformation.

Salvatore has also traveled extensively around the world and has meditated with Buddhist monks in Nepal and met the world’s happiest man, Matthieu Ricard. He’s passions include cooking, traveling, meditating and hiking. He is also the founder and executive director of the Chicagoland Italian American Professionals organization and an amateur chef.

Salvatore can be reached at: 312.455.0107 x102 or at ssciacca@chicagopropertyservices.com.

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