HOA and condo association communities are as complicated and nuanced as the people that call these communities home.
Neighbor-relations, CC&R regulations, legal requirements, financial reporting, and protecting home values are just a few of the issues that HOA/condo boards, community management firms, and residents need to wrestle with on an annual basis.
Managing this web of relationships is challenging when communication is adequate; it becomes impossible when miscommunication, secrecy, and suspicion are allowed to run free. Communities break down when communication breaks down — it’s really that simple.
Creating an environment based on strong communication isn’t easy and takes dedication and hard work on the part of all community constituents. That said, HOA and condo boards, in partnership with their chosen community management firm, need to take the lead when it comes to building a community culture anchored by transparency and open lines of communication.
At Comsource, we take great pride and care when it comes to fostering great communication with the communities we work with and the HOA and condo residents we serve. Drawing from our vast experience at communities of all kinds and sizes, we offer our four keys to building a culture of transparent communication that will keep your community happy, healthy, and financially sound.
Put Transparency Front and Center
Communicate everything you can all the time in a way that’s forthcoming and easy to understand. It’s not the job of residents to dig up information or pull information from the board or community management company; the responsibility for transparent communication falls directly on those running the community.
This means that there can be no secrets. Board meetings must meet legal requirements and policies must be clearly articulated. Finances must be disclosed fully within the law, and when challenges arise, the board and community management firm must be open about what’s occurred, how residents might be impacted, and what the plan is for moving forward.
A community management approach based on secrecy, obtuseness, evasiveness, and covering up is a recipe for disaster. Once residents lose trust in the board, community management firm, or both, the health of the community is at great risk. If you create a culture of transparent communication that’s projected from the HOA board and community management firm to the residents, you’ll wind up getting the same back in spades.
Create a Process and Execute
In order to communicate well, your board and community manager needs to have a process they can execute. Without processes in place, communication will be fragmented, inconsistent, and ineffective. Develop a process and a plan to empower your board and its partners to deliver information clearly and effectively.
- Designate a board member (or board members if your community has greater need) as a communication lead that acts as a liaison to the residents and community management company
- Understand what must be communicated legally and across all functions of the community
- Establish style guides and templates for various forms of communication (email, newsletters, posters, board presentations, etc.)
- Create and document policies around communication best practices, including the timing, method, and frequency of communications, as well as the do’s and don’ts for social media and online engagement
- Ensure that there are clear protocols for what is communicated directly by the board and what information is distributed and managed by your property management partner
- Alignment between the board and the community management firm is critical to presenting a unified, transparent, and consistently effective communication process
Create a System Based on Ownership and Accountability
The best communication plan on the planet means little if your board members don’t own the plan and are not held accountable for its shortcomings.
This one is really simple: Assign responsibilities, build in checkpoints, and clearly articulate and remedy shortcomings or failures when they arise.
Finally, if something gets miscommunicated, falls through the cracks, or causes confusion, step up and take responsibility publicly. Your residents expect honesty and transparency; when you screw up, let them know and tell them that it won’t happen again.
Paper flyers and posters in the community center can play their part but they cannot be the primary communication tools used by your board. Using social media platforms and online portals is a great way to get information to your residents and provide them with information resources 24/7/365. There is a balance that needs to be achieved by every HOA community. Passive communication (resources that are always available online — i.e. CC&Rs, payment forms, etc.) and active communication (board meetings, emergency communications, important announcements, etc.) must work together to create a clear big picture for residents.
An HOA board or community management firm cannot simply upload every last bit of information to an online portal and wash their hands of communication duties. And your board cannot inundate residents with five emails a day, each on a different topic. Like most things in life, balance and moderation are the keys to success. Communication among your board, its community management firm and your residents is no different.
When in doubt, share, and do so in a way that’s consistent, regimented, transparent, and easily consumed by the residents you serve. When you deliver open, transparent communication, your residents will return this courtesy in kind, making for a happier, healthier, and more vibrant community that will be more resilient in trying times.
If you’re struggling with communication or with other community management issues, Comsource can help. Reach out to us today to learn how we can be your go-to resource for a wide range of management services that are essential to your community’s continued growth and success.