Communication between the association and homeowners, whatever form it takes, is a crucial part of successful HOA management. Consistent and open communication can mean the difference between a happy community and a mob of angry homeowners. If you ask any Community Manager or management company employee, they will tell you that the number one complaint from homeowners is that they feel uninformed and uninvolved in their association.
While your first response might be to tell them to seek an active role on one of the association’s ancillary committees, many homeowners will say that they do not have the time because of other obligations. Therein lies the conundrum. The simple truth is that you cannot force a passive homeowner to play a more active role in association affairs but there is an easy solution. Communicate, communicate and communicate some more!
Advancements in technology have made slow and ineffective communication a thing of the past. The figurative doors to association correspondence have been blown wide open! These advancements have changed the way we structure our communication channels. As an association volunteer, the structuring of these channels might seem like a daunting task for a board member and one that they do not have the time for. Let’s be honest, their role in the association, whatever it may be, is a volunteer role which means that they have other things they need to allocate their time and energy to.
This is where your management company steps in. It is the role of your management company to assess the needs of the community and develop an effective communication strategy, specific to the association. With that being said, the role of the Board of Directors is to determine whether or not they want to increase communication to the community.
Do the majority of the members prefer written or digital correspondence? This is the first step in determining what method you are going to choose. If most of your homeowners prefer to utilize their email, mailing out a quarterly newsletter would be an unnecessary expense. In this case, information would be received in a more productive manner through the use of an email blast. This is not to say that an email method would work for all communities.
While there are several methods to use for communicating information to homeowners, management companies and self-managed associations are turning to text messaging to keep owners informed. Think about how many emails your personal account receives on any given day. With the skyrocketing number of spam mail in our inboxes, it is easier to overlook the information that is actually important. This is why some associations are avoiding emails all together and sending it straight to the homeowner in a text. Several HOA website vendors have noticed this trend and offer some form of the service for a reasonable price.
Keep in mind, there are still people that prefer to receive their information in a hard copy format, hence why the newspaper industry still exists. The goal is not to discount their preferences, but to determine what is best for the members as a whole. For example, in an age-restricted community, a majority of the homeowners tend to view printed materials as a desirable source of information. If that is the case, there is no harm in sending out a printed newsletter to highlight upcoming projects, events and association objectives.
There are many benefits to increased correspondence. From a management perspective, there is a benefit in the reduction of administrative work. Owners that are more informed tend to have fewer questions or things they require clarification on. While this might seem like something that only benefits the management company, it benefits the Board of Directors and the homeowners too.
When there is less time spent responding to questions that could have been avoided, there is more time for the association’s managers and administrative staff to direct their attention to more pressing matters. The question that you have to ask yourself is whether or not the current communication efforts are satisfactory. If they are, continue to do what you are doing! If they are not, reach out to your management team and see what can be done to cost-effectively increase correspondence.
Bret Barnes, CMCA
Arizona Community Management Services, LLC