By Jessica Jones, CMCA
“Individually, we can only do so much, but when people partner together, the possibilities are endless.”
If you’ve been with our Management Company for any length of time, you’ve probably heard us talk about the importance of community. We encourage our Board Members to host picnics, BBQ’s, ice cream socials, movie nights, etc. We, as human beings, were created for community. I believe that it is actually a part of our DNA, to desire and crave relationships.
Right now, many of our associations are facing the same question: how do we get people to pay? The answer is simple: get them involved. Homeowners need to feel like they’re a part of something before they can take ownership. When Homeowners take ownership, they feel a sense of pride and want to help care for their community.
I believe there is a direct coloration between community and delinquencies. The Associations that take time to cultivate community are usually the Associations that don’t have a need for a Statement Fees or Emergency Assessments.
Before you panic at the thought of getting a Bouncy House set up in the cul-de-sac, keep this in mind: We have communities that plan out events as large as picnics complete with face painting and fireworks but as small as ice cream bars in the community park. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. The goal is to cultivate relationships.
Developing community doesn’t necessarily have to be an “event” either. Consider creating a Facebook Fan Page or a Twitter account just to keep people updated on the happenings in your neighborhood. Association Services also offers our eCommunity software, where you can share a calendar, upload a newsletter and send out an eBlast…all with the click of your mouse.
Now, I know what you’re going to say: The Board has sent out letters saying that we need volunteers and no one will help! And I agree. Nine times out of ten, people will not get involved unless they are personally invited. That means you may have to walk to their door, introduce yourself and say, “We think you’d be an asset to the Board and we really need your help.” Make them feel valuable, as opposed to a lot or unit number.
Another thing to keep in mind, is that community doesn’t happen overnight. It could take years to get the majority of your neighborhood out of their homes and over to the picnic. But don’t be discouraged. Three households is probably three households more than you had last year!
I personally manage 15 community associations of all different sizes, in Pierce, King and Thurston counties. Out of the 16 that I manage, 3 are what I would consider financially healthy. No major delinquencies, no need for an Emergency Assessment. What do all 3 have in common? They all budget for an Annual Social Event, that’s held at the same time every year. The community can count on it. Now, I’m sure that the Board Members would tell you that it started out small and for the first few years not a lot of people came. But the Board Members were consistent and now the annual events are all successful.
The life and people found in your community is essential to the growth and future of the association. Start planning and start small, but just start now. When we become connected to other people, we all benefit.