Impactful communication is the key to participation and transparency in your association and board meetings. It helps to display the business within the community and encourage members to take a bigger part within the association. It gives everyone the opportunity to understand what has happened, what is happening and what may be happening in the future. By proper and timely communication and postings, you can avoid many of the problems that happen when members of the association feel “left out” of the community’s business. Let us help you avoid these issues by detailing 7 guidelines to ensure everyone feels valued and informed within their association.
1. Strategize Your Statement
Determine what is your goal of the message and what will be the most proper way of delivering it. Is this a time-sensitive issue? Where will members be most likely to receive this information? How will your message be interpreted? Planning out your message up front will help you prevent possible issues.
This is not a newsletter and you want to ensure people read and understand the message you are trying to convey. Stick to a single topic and keep it brief. We advise having other board members, neighbors or your management team review the communication – this is a great way to ensure the message is properly communicated, relevant and that it displays the appropriate tone that is trying to be conveyed. It is always important to be sensitive to the tone of message and try to relay it in a positive way. It is very easy to misinterpret an e-mail or a letter and you want to guarantee that members are not offended by the communication, especially if it is sensitive in nature.
2. Stick. To. The. Facts.
You should always avoid rushed communications if you do not have all the pertinent information. It is important that the members feel they can trust that the communications they receive are truthful and unbiased. By putting out errors or misinformation, you may lose any faith members have in the board or with management. Always double-check the information with other board members or management to ensure that your communication is only relating proper and factual information.
3. Maximize your Message.
Preferably, you want to update your residents about all business of the association. Nevertheless, you should only focus on time-sensitive or high-priority items. If there is ongoing information that you would like to distribute to the community, you should consider creating a newsletter that is sent out monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. By creating a newsletter you can help keep residents who want to be informed of all things relevant to the association and reserving messages for only important and emergency communications.
4. Transparency Is Key.
Nothing creates more problems within a community than members of the association who feel like the board of directors are operating behind the scenes or not considering the sentiments and feelings of the rest of the membership. Proper and timely communications help to encourage participation and is the cornerstone of a successful, trusted and well-run association. Always welcome homeowner’s opinions and make sure that they are not only listened to… but heard. Doing so will help both board members and homeowners understand the reasoning behind the other’s opinion. Always keep your residents informed, otherwise you may be inviting misinformation and rumors into your community. A great way to keep the members up to date is with a newsletter. If you haven’t already, reach out to the community to see if anyone may be interested in authoring the newsletter or being part of a social committee. By involving members of the association, you help to gauge other’s interests and bring new perspectives. Some communities even host social events which can help encourage participation and create stronger relationships within the association.
5. Open Ended Communications
Homeowners should feel comfortable voicing their concerns and opinions to the board, as well as the association’s management team. When homeowners participate, it helps build a better community. Always ensure that a portion of your open session meeting is dedicated to a forum to allow members of the association to address the board and/or management. Also, homeowner communications sent to your management team should be forwarded to the board or discussed during the appropriate time within your meeting. However, I would discourage homeowners from addressing individual board members outside of meetings as this poses a problem by the rest of the board or management team unaware of what may or may not have been said or any agreements made. Finally, you should make renters also feel included within communications. They are also a part of your community and it benefits everyone when information about the neighborhood and association is shared, just make sure any communications with renters are relevant and that they are privy to the information being shared. Never assume that landlords are relaying all information to tenants, as if there is an emergency or a planned water shut-off – tenants should be well informed and prepared just as your homeowners. You should establish a method to ensure that you have the information of all residents, including tenants.
6. Diversify Your Delivery.
Although many people rely on digital forms of communications, it is imperative to be aware that all people may not be comfortable with computers or smart devices. Everyone receives communications differently and we recommend varying your delivery. Work with your management company to ensure that all members of the association have the opportunity to receive the communication. This can include postings to your community’s website or social media group, e-mails, text messages, posting to a community bulletin board, or a letter mailed out to homeowners. It is important to understand the needs of your association and what is the best way to deliver your message to its members. We recommend that homeowners designate their preferred method of communication when completing their annual registration forms.
7. Seek Out A Responsive Management Company
One of the main goals in retaining management is to ensure that your members have a way to communicate with your association’s manager. Not all companies or managers are the same and you should feel comfortable with the management team knowing that request and inquiries by your board and fellow homeowners are being responded to and completed in a timely manner. A good management company will not only have timely responses, but also provide a platform for members to access much of their required information or to make requests on a digital interface, either through their website or an app on their smart device. Also, the company should have an emergency after hours contact that can address time-sensitive issues like leaks, floods, or electrical failures. If the board or homeowners are not receiving communications, or their inquiries are not being responded to, you should start interviewing other management companies or managers.