Motivating Homeowners to Become Active Participants in Their Community
It is not uncommon to find apathy in communities. The challenge is in generating the interest and commitment of every homeowner by transferring their pride of ownership from their home to the entire community. This is best achieved by educating the homeowners from day one on the benefits of living in a community association. Once homeowners fully understand the impact an association can have positively (or negatively) on their property value, they are much more likely to become committed volunteers in order to protect their investment. The sooner the education process begins, the sooner they become active. Education is one of the most important tools we have at our disposal and is best handled with a two step approach:
- Contact local Realtors who have homes listed in the community and offer to assist them in explaining the benefits of community association living to prospective buyers. Realtors will usually welcome assistance if it helps them close a sale. Many times they themselves may not be fully aware of all the benefits of living in a homeowners association. It is a perfect time to help educate them and to leave a positive impression with them about the community.
- Welcome all new homeowners into the community by acknowledging their arrival. These new owners are typically excited about their new purchase and it is the perfect time to educate them about the community and to get them involved. Having a well informed Welcome Committee in place is crucial for these two steps. Otherwise, the responsibility falls on the Board and the manager.
With existing homeowners, it is necessary to take a different approach. Obviously, providing education on the benefits of living in an association is still of paramount importance.
Consider holding quarterly informational meetings for the homeowners.
Informational meetings can be very useful as they provide the homeowner with the opportunity to interact with the Board and manager on a more frequent basis. It's a perfect venue for keeping homeowners informed of upcoming changes, events, for soliciting ideas, and for recognizing volunteers. The meetings always need to be kept on a positive tone and suggestions and comments need to be responded to with interest and enthusiasm.
Creation of Committees.
To start generating active participation by existing homeowners, the Board, in conjunction with the management team, needs to dedicate time toward promoting the community and organizing committees. The manager should provide the Board with positive guidelines and recommendations on setting up committees. Factors to be considered are: Types of committees beneficial to the community, what the goals for each committee should be and how they will need to perform to meet these goals, what methods they will use to report to the board, what the approval process will be for funds for each committee, etc. It is also important to gather input from the homeowners as to the type of committees they would like to see in their community and what types of activities they would be interested in. An annual meeting is a perfect time to actively pursue homeowner involvement. All homeowner suggestions should be welcomed and there should be immediate follow up on all recommendations by requesting that homeowners exhibiting interest take part in organizing their preferred committee.
Consider contacting prior Board members to act as liaisons to the committees and to assist in getting volunteers. Be sure to recognize volunteers repeatedly and with enthusiasm and praise for their commitment to the community. In addition to recommendations from the homeowners, types of committees to consider are:
Architectural Control Committee (ACC), Welcome, Social, Landscape, Education, Neighborhood Watch, Finance/Budget, Contract Review.
Two of the most important committees for generating interest and excitement in a community are the Welcome Committee and the Social Committee. If you can get these two committees formed, and get the homeowners involved in social activities, involvement and interest in the operation of their entire community will naturally occur over time.
The Welcome Committee would be responsible for meeting and greeting each new homeowner. The committee might bring the new homeowner a welcome basket filled with information about the community, local phone numbers, numbers of local restaurants that deliver, homemade treats, bottled water, etc. This will be the "first impression" the new homeowner has of their new community and will always remain a positive reminder of the wise decision they made to live in such a friendly community.
The Social Committee- This committee takes on much initial responsibility when trying to create enthusiasm and will need the full support of the board. Its members will need a clear understanding of their goals, their structure, what funds are available for events and how they will be expected to account for funds. Ideas for the social committee could include:
- Memorial Day Barbecue (the association would provide the food) homeowners could be asked to bring a favorite dessert - there would be door prizes for the best dessert, funniest hat, etc.
- Christmas Decorating Party - The association purchases the decorations and volunteers spend a day decorating the community.
- Recipe Exchange - Have homeowners submit favorite recipes for different items each month. i.e. favorite chocolate dessert, favorite side dish, etc. Print the favorite recipe (determined by a different committee each month) in the newsletter and the winner might receive a gift certificate to a local restaurant. (One can usually get a restaurant to donate a gift certificate for free advertising in your community newsletter).
- Progressive Dinner Party- These are popular in many communities where it is convenient to walk from home to home. Each participating homeowner provides a different item: appetizer, salad, side dish, etc and you eat "Dinner" as you move from house to house.
All of these items are focused on helping the homeowners get to know each other, so that they begin to feel part of a special community. The work put in by the Board and the manager to generate a more active, involved, and friendly community will pay off in the long run by creating a greater sense of unity and understanding among the homeowners, the Board, and the manager.
Barbara Barron Herndon, CPM®, AMS®, MCA®, PCAM®, Association Times, December 2006