For the most part, HOA Board of Directors make the right decisions when it comes to their community’s business. From approving annual HOA budgets, to making decisions on repairs and prioritizing improvements, these HOA boards are the trusted individuals who look after the community assets.
Besides, the board members are homeowners too, so the decisions they make affect them also. However, when it comes to relaying those actions to the homeowners, the ball is often dropped. Most homeowners don’t have the time, or quite frankly, the interest, to attend regular board meetings. They just want to know what’s going on. Yes, board minutes are available if you call and ask for them, or they may possibly be published in a clunky, archaic website that doesn’t work on your mobile. But we all now live in the age where information is fed to us in our hand. We don’t want to hunt it down – who has time to do that? And, the harder it is to get the information, questions start arising on the transparency of the board and the quality of decision making, which can quickly turn members dissatisfied and reactionary.
Case-in-point: A recent increase in dues caused an outrage from the residents of a community association. The residents questioned the board’s ethics and their ability to make the right decisions. They poked at the community manager and her company for having high fees and marginal service. What they didn’t know is the decision to raise fees was justified – increased utility costs, an updated reserve study and just flat out cost increases of their quality vendors. The board did their job by methodically examining and debating the merits of each line item in the budget, however, they didn’t communicate the process they went through to the residents. Their only communication was the mailed billing statement showing increased dues, which caught everyone off guard. They could have headed off some of the uproar if they only explained their decisions and prepared the residents for the coming increase prior to receiving a cold invoice. Unfortunately, this is an all too often example of poor communication is community associations.
So here’s a thought, why not enlist the help of a communication person, or persons, to be responsible for proactive communication? In effect, they are Community Reporters. They report board actions (public ones of course), status of projects, events, issues, closures, and yes, even explanations about the coming HOA dues increase.
Community reporters should be appointed by the board just like other committee members. They should be trusted individuals who are ethical, factual and will work for the benefit of making the community great. And, if your association is really active, split the duties up with several reporters covering certain, specific areas. Of course, you will need a centralized reporting platform that is mobile push-oriented and allows multiple persons to report in official capacity for the association.
Most importantly, the reporter should not be the community manager. The manager has plenty of other day-to-day business he or she is responsible for. The manager and community reporters should work together and be able to communicate the things they are responsible for. For instance, the manager can communicate board meeting schedules and the short, urgent daily messages to the community, such as gate or pool closures or security alert. The community reporters could then be responsible for communicating events, project updates and the public board actions. Splitting the duties up with trusted individuals will make the job manageable for all involved.
The short of it is, being proactive with your communication will keep the homeowners informed, the questions to a minimum and may avoid hard feelings that can arise from misperceptions about the leadership of the community. All of this leads to greatcommunities!