To maximize the effectiveness of a homeowners’ association (HOA), boards must make goal-setting an annual task. With the board’s responsibility to maintain and, ideally, improve the community, creating goals can provide a roadmap to ensure that happens. Goals help keep you on track, accountable, financially sound, and much more. The following are some expert tips for setting HOA goals.
Review your governing documents and consult an attorney.
A critical first step is to review—and abide by—your association’s governing documents. The governing documents highlight which decisions can be made behind closed doors versus those that must be discussed in an open forum. Your board must confirm that its vision aligns with what’s mandated within the pages of those documents.
Equally important, make sure your goals comply with existing or new legislation on the federal, provincial, state, and local levels. If you have concerns or questions about the legalities of what you’re proposing, consult an association attorney. They have the expert knowledge to help guide you with both short- and long-term goals.
Ensure your budget can cover expenses.
The financial stability of a community is one of the most significant factors to consider before setting any goals. Review your association’s financial statements and reserve funds and confirm that the existing budget can support your goals. If not, evaluate if the goal is important enough to merit a special assessment or other funding options, like an HOA loan.
Seek input from homeowners.
Goals are a great way to promote better relationships with residents. When you ask for their input during goal planning, it shows that your board values transparency regarding progress and achievement. Ways in which you can involve community members include:
- Asking if your goals for the association align with what homeowners perceive to be the highest-priority factors.
- Communicating changes to the goals as you go.
- Setting meetings intended to gather feedback from residents.
- Forming a committee to assist in the goal-planning process.
Be SMART about it.
SMART is an acronym that’s widely used for goal setting in corporate and management environments. Designed to help streamline ideas, focus your efforts, and use your time wisely, SMART criterion makes goal setting a more thoughtful endeavor. To ensure your goals are easy to follow and attainable, make each one:
Specific. The goal must be well-defined and specific. Confirm everyone has a clear understanding of the goal, knows why it was set, who is involved, what should be accomplished, and the proposed timeline.
Measurable. Having a measurable goal helps you track progress, correct the plan of action if needed, and demonstrate advancement to residents.
Achievable. Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. Work within your resources of time, effort, and money. Setting the bar too high might leave board members feeling defeated and frustrated and residents unhappy.
Relevant. Is your goal important to maintaining or improving your community? Will achieving it make a difference? Is it something most residents want?
Time-based. Set deadlines. If it’s a long-term goal, break it into phases with deadlines for each phase. Also, take into account board members’ availability and their own time commitments.
Make a plan.
Ideally, you should set goals every year before establishing the budget. Best practice is to develop a five-year strategic plan, then use that to create both long- and short-term goals. Developing a strategic plan requires extensive time and effort, but it’s a valuable tool for defining priorities and desired direction and allocating resources appropriately.
A strategic plan will help you determine which goals are most critical, how others should be prioritized, and whether you need additional resources, such as funding, extra staff, or new committees.
Break it down.
Goal-setting becomes easier when you break it down into three “buckets” of goals: annual essential goals, improvement goals, and meeting or communications-related goals.
Annual Essential Goals
These are the mainstay items that belong on your goal list every year. Examples include verifying that governing documents are properly amended and in compliance, preparing the annual budget, managing assessments, and preparing for tax returns and any upcoming audits.
Maintenance & Improvement Goals
These range from routine maintenance of common areas to major improvements like a remodeled pool area or dog park.
- Request homeowner input on bigger initiatives. You might get some great ideas, new volunteers, and improved relationships with the community you serve.
- Create a preventative maintenance plan that addresses the association’s most critical components.
- Review existing vendor contracts to see if they’re still competitive and necessary.
Improving communications with homeowners, vendors, and fellow board members is always beneficial, as it leads to more satisfied residents, better cost control, and more effective collaboration. Some worthwhile communications goals include:
- Establishing a communications policy, including a fire safety policy and a process to relay emergency alert information, such as natural disasters and major power outages.
- Creating a formal HOA complaint process for homeowners.
- Reviewing existing processes to repair strained relationships.
- Investing in technology as needed. Make it as easy as possible for homeowners to pay fees or report issues online to save both their time—and your time.
How an HOA Loan Can Help Fulfill Your Goals
Some goals may be difficult to achieve due to a lack of funding. If an association has insufficient capital, the project may require a loan from a lender specializing in homeowners’ associations. Loans help fund a variety of projects and expenses, from common area improvements to maintenance and repairs, when the annual membership assessment cannot cover the costs. Read our ebook, “Everything You Need to Know About Securing a Loan for Your Homeowner Association Project,” to learn how projects are typically funded, what’s required for approval, the advantages and disadvantages of securing an association loan, and much more.