Good communication goes a long way. It is the foundation of any happy HOA. When there is clear and effective communication between homeowners and management, it has a positive impact on the overall wellbeing of the association. Conversely, when owners don’t receive the information they need, they can feel lost and left out.
During emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, owners will need guidance and direction as new information develops quickly. A strong communication system that eliminates the need for face-to-face interaction will help ensure that everyone receives the information they need so that they can keep themselves safe.
Below are some effective communication tools that HOAs can start using right away to ensure their entire community gets the message.
Property managers and board members can use email to share HOA news, updates, instructions and more. They can use this tool for formal announcements, or more casual messages like an invite to a community BBQ. Most homeowners will have an email address, and understand how to check and send messages. Email is cost-effective and convenient; messages can be sent at any time.
If your HOA doesn’t currently use email to communicate, be aware that gathering residents’ email addresses will require some effort. However, if your HOA does have a website, you can create a new page where they can sign up to receive notifications electronically.
On the date in which this article was published, social distancing measures are being practiced globally to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This is not the time to go knocking on doors to solicit email addresses. However, once distancing requirements have been lifted, you can speak to your residents and ask them for their email addresses in person.
Many HOAs do have an unofficial Facebook page where owners can sell items, talk about community issues, and connect with their neighbours. Social media platforms are cost-effective and relatively accessible, however, not everyone has a Facebook account. Messages can be shared instantaneously, along with links and documents.
While social media is good for getting messages out quickly, it is not the best platform for sharing sensitive or important information. It’s hard to control who can access this information, and not every owner will see it.
Furthermore, it can be hard to stop angry owners from posting offensive or negative things on an HOA Facebook page, even if you do have the power to delete comments. People are more likely to say hurtful things here, so exercise caution. Once something has been posted, you can delete it, but more often than not, your community will have already seen it.
A well-designed website is an excellent tool to have if you want to improve communication with your HOA. You can share announcements and updates, and give owners access to a password-protected resident portal where they can book amenities, submit service requests, and review governing documents.
A strong website is easy to navigate and can easily become the central communication point to which other communication platforms, such as email or to social media, can be found. Some managers even use their website to store downloadable forms, post meeting minutes and share newsletters.
Don’t be afraid to hire a professional if you need help designing your website. It may cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, but it’s worth the investment.
HOA management software provides associations with multiple communication tools, and can resolve the generational divide by allowing residents to select their preferred method of commination. Managers often prefer to use management software because they can customize and control how messages are sent out and who receives them.
With comprehensive software, you can send out announcements and attach important documents. Owners can receive your messages via email, text or automated voice message. You can also store documents, forms, letters and more in a file library, and control who has access to each file. Owners will appreciate the fact that they don’t have to search around to find the information they need. Everything stays in one designated area.
Video Conferencing Software
Board members have been experimenting with video conferencing software such as Zoom and GoToMeeting during the COVID-19 outbreak, and they’re proving to be quite effective. Virtual meetings can be conducted from anywhere. Much of the software is free, and participants can join meetings from their desktop or download an app and use their phone. Some software can support up to 150 participants. You can share links, screens and in some cases, entire files or documents.
There may be some initial technical challenges when learning how to use a new video conferencing program, but the rewards are worth the initial time investment.
The Nextdoor app is a social networking platform, but unlike other social platforms, this one was designed specifically to connect residential communities and neighbourhoods. HOAs can interact with their neighbours, share community news, and even recommend local services and businesses that they like. New users must enter their zip code so that they are connected to the appropriate community.
Most HOAs use the app to sell and buy items and organize events. However, some people misuse it. There have been instances where owners share a community passcode for a gate, or post unkind things about board members.
Nextdoor should not be used for official association business because you cannot control what someone else says on this app. It’s unlikely, but if an owner says something defamatory and the HOA endorses it, you could be liable.
Rules that always apply
No matter where you’re communicating, remember to act professionally. It’s easy to answer a hurtful comment with an equally hurtful response, but that will only create additional problems for your HOA. Plus, emails, announcements and social media posts can always be saved and possibly used against you. If you are trying to resolve an issue with someone who is being unreasonable, don’t get defensive, or ignore the owner. Give them the information they need to move forward with the issue, and if they chose not to use it, you’ve at least done your due diligence.
Know Your Audience
The communication tools you decide to use should align with your community’s preferences. If your HOA is not tech-savvy, then you may want to choose one digital communication tool, such as HOA software, and combine that with more traditional communication methods. This way, you can stay remain in touch if in-person communication is not possible. Help your homeowners learn how to use the new software. You may be surprised by how quickly they adjust. Conversely, if your community is relatively young, you could use Facebook, HOA software and video conferencing.
Be clear and concise
Effective communication tools ensure that your community receives your message, but if the message is unclear, the tools won’t help recipients understand it. Be clear, and be concise.
Your HOA is unique. Different homeowners will have different preferences when it comes to receiving messages, so use a few different communication tools to ensure you reach everybody. Don’t be afraid to try a new communication method. It might be the one that brings your community closer together.