How to Create an Outline for Your Community’s Strategic Plan
Strategic planning, also known as long-range planning, is the process an organization uses to define its priorities, allocate resources, improve operations, and assess its trajectory. Created by a homeowners’ association (HOA) board of directors, this plan should be used to communicate the vision of the community, establish direction, and provide focus for the future.
As you begin your long-range planning journey, your first to-do should be to create a broad outline. From there, you can hone-in on the essential questions that need to be asked or actions that need to be taken to move forward. Read on to learn the six areas each board should consider when developing an outline for their strategic plan.
Your organizational structure—the hierarchy of association processes and responsibilities—should be considered and solidified as your community works to build a plan for success. Some questions board members may want to ask when thinking about organizational improvements include:
- How do residents participate in community and board events?
- How are our committees structured, and are members actively involved?
- Do we have orientation materials for new board members?
- Is the chain of command clear in all aspects of the association?
Answering these questions and establishing clear roles and processes allows future decision-making to be timely and effective, fostering better relationships and streamlining efficiencies.
Strong communication is key to a positive environment and cooperative spirit within an HOA. Board members need to efficiently get important information out to residents to promote transparency, build trust, and prevent misunderstandings. Similarly, board members should communicate consistently with each other and relevant outside parties to help protect and maintain the community. To ensure you’re covering all avenues and areas of communication, outline your communication strategy from two angles: internal and external.
Internal communication focuses on:
- Board-to-owner communications, including town meetings
- Board-to-committee communication, including annual orientations
- Board-to-management communication
- Community media (newsletters, websites, welcome packages, directories, etc.)
External communications include:
- The development of policies dealing with the local media
- Participation in local government
- Establishing relationships with neighboring communities
Facilities & Common Area Maintenance & Funding
A community’s facilities and common areas will require regular attention. That’s why, when you outline the action items for your facilities and common areas, you’ll also have to think about necessary funding and reserves. An HOA reserve fund is money set aside by a community for additions to major components the association is obligated to maintain and future replacements and repairs that don't occur on an annual basis, such as roof replacement and road and sidewalk resurfacing. Be sure to outline these to-dos:
- List of community improvements
- Additions or expansions
- Alterations to existing structures or areas
The goal is to maintain or enhance HOA living without spending too much. Outlining these details in your long-range plan makes that goal realistic and attainable. As always, revisit your governing documents and confirm all bylaws are followed, as they may affect what you can and cannot do.
Developing a long-term plan for community activities is important because these events help create harmony and increase satisfaction. Plan for special interest groups, seasonal gatherings, and volunteer programs so that there’s always something for residents to get involved in.
You can plan for your community activities by:
- Checking governing documents and local rules for guidance
- Setting dates on your community calendar
- Putting a planning committee together for assistance
- Reaching out to vendors
- Budgeting for event expenses
- Communicating new events and activities with homeowners
Operations and Legal
Coupling operational and legal planning together guarantees your community functions within community, local, state, and federal laws, avoiding the legal and financial ramifications of non-compliance. With expert guidance from your association attorney, review and plan for the operations of:
- Handling of action items
- Contracting procedures
- Staff/volunteer training
- Annual calendar updates
Items that require legal review include:
- Revisions to the bylaws
- Delinquency policies
- Community rules
- Enforcement processes
Organizing your financials for the near and long term ensures you’re optimizing revenue opportunities and preventing the community from overextending its budget. With financials intact, assessments and operations remain steady, and homeowners remain happy. To manage your finances:
- Build out your community’s budget
- Establish a reserve fund for maintenance projects and unforeseen circumstances
- Prepare tax documents
- Create standards for reporting your community’s finances and investments
- Consult with financial experts for additional information and assistance
Developing A Strategic Plan
Once you've laid the groundwork for your strategic plan with an outline, you're ready to move on to the next step: development. For development guidance, read our article "Tips for Developing and Adapting a Strategic Plan for Your Community."