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How to Start a Community Lifestyle Program

Five older adults walking together on a walking path outside

Many of today’s homeowners’ associations (HOAs) are embracing a lifestyle community vision to enhance the quality of life for residents, remain competitive in the homebuying market, and increase property values. As part of that effort, communities across North America are implementing lifestyle programs to accommodate the evolving wants and needs of residents. Read on to learn what a community lifestyle program is and how to start one of your own.

What’s a Community Lifestyle Program?

A community lifestyle program is an initiative that offers a range of activities, events, and functions to meet the diverse interests of association residents and foster engagement. Designed to boost the connection and sense of belonging between residents and the managed community, a well-executed and healthy lifestyle program drives excitement, instills a comprehensive social component, and creates unique member experiences.

Why Start a Community Lifestyle Program?

More and more, communities of all shapes and sizes are integrating amenities and services that add value, encourage resident participation, and set the community up for success. A community lifestyle program positively transforms an HOA by establishing an avenue for residents to get involved and board members to demonstrate good stewardship to the community.

What Are the Benefits of a Community Lifestyle Program?

By catering to the interests of residents and bringing neighbors together, the fabric of the community itself is strengthened. A lifestyle program contributes to a strong community built on a foundation of trust and open communication between the association’s board and its residents. Lifestyle program benefits can also include:

  • Greater homebuyer interest
  • A better quality of life for residents
  • Enhanced home values
  • More meaningful neighborly connections
  • Well-organized events and activities

Outdoor party with people dancing

6 Steps to Creating a Community Lifestyle Program

Starting a lifestyle program in your community promotes harmony and nurtures a vibrant atmosphere. Here are six steps to help you create a community lifestyle program of your own.

1. Identify your community’s interests.

While no community is the same, most consist of like-minded people with common interests, routines, and lifestyles. Identify the common themes in your community by reaching out to residents. Survey them to understand their interests, preferences, and needs. Consider asking questions that will help you absorb what residents like to do, their daily habits, or extra-curricular activities, such as:

  • Demographics information. How old are you? Do you have children or other dependents in your household?
  • Interests and hobbies. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What community activities and events are you most interested in?
  • Preferred timing. What days and times are most convenient for you to attend HOA events?
  • Amenities usage. Which amenities do you use? Do you have any suggestions for better use of current amenities?

2. Define the lifestyle program’s responsibilities.

Much more goes into managing a lifestyle program than planning events. Depending on the size of the community, governing document guidelines, and what you envision a lifestyle program to accomplish, lifestyle program tasks can also include:

  • Event forecasting. Identifying communal patterns, actions, and behaviors that inform future desires, programs, and activities that resonate with the changing resident demographics.
  • Event management. Including planning and managing vendors, budgets, communication, and resident participation.
  • Communication. Exploring channels to keep residents informed of upcoming events and activities and ensuring residents are equipped with the details they need to participate.
  • Fresh ideas. Brainstorming new ideas that keep residents engaged, entertained, and wanting more.

3. Assign someone to lead lifestyle programming efforts.

Because a community lifestyle program can be a significant undertaking, consider assigning a dedicated team or director to lead lifestyle programming efforts. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Talk to your community management company. Some community management companies offer a community lifestyle program spearheaded by a management company-employed lifestyle director. With a deep understanding of HOAs and how to improve resident-board relationships, leveraging this value-added service could greatly enhance community culture.
  • Hire a community lifestyle director. Bigger, resort-style communities with active residents and multiple amenities may be best served by a dedicated, onsite lifestyle director. If your community management company doesn’t have a lifestyle program, your community manager may be able to assist you in finding a director who’s perfectly suited for your community.
  • Form a lifestyle management committee. Starting a committee for lifestyle services is a convenient option for communities with a limited budget. Recruit resident volunteers to organize a lifestyle committee or social committee to generate enthusiasm and maintain interest in the managed community lifestyle.

Learn everything you need to know about forming a committee. Read “The Complete Guide to Community Association Committees” now!

4. Plan activities that cater to your community.

Whether it’s a single-family home community, luxury high-rise, resort-style community, or something else, your community has a certain culture, and your lifestyle programming should align with it. To make everyone feel included, plan various traditional and signature events and activities that cater to all facets of life and that residents can look forward to. Categories of interest may include:

  • Community service
  • Onsite festivals
  • Kid-focused events
  • Offsite outings
  • Celebrations

Additionally, lifestyle and wellness programs are very popular among residents. Consider making health and wellness a priority in your community with offerings and events like:

  • Nutritional coaching
  • Trail rides
  • Yoga on the lawn
  • Agrihoods
  • Community gardens 

5. Use community resources and amenities.

Amenities are one of the main reasons residents choose to live in a managed community. From fitness centers and playgrounds to pools and tennis courts, amenities are pivotal in shaping neighborhood life. Funded primarily through paid dues, amenities usually reflect residents’ needs and interests. Here are a few lifestyle program event ideas that make use of your community’s amenities:

  • Tennis tournament at the tennis court
  • Movie night at the pool
  • Fourth of July party on the lawn with music and bounce houses
  • Educational session and coffee at the clubhouse
  • Tie-dye community picnic at the playground

6. Promote activities and events.

Regular communication with residents is essential to heightening positivity and engagement within any HOA. Promote activities and events well in advance and in a variety of forms—personal, public, written, and verbal. The more forms of communication delivered, the better. You want to make sure that owners know about the event and have plenty of opportunities to plan to attend. Some ideas on where to post event announcements include:

  • Board meetings
  • Community website
  • Social media
  • Newsletters
  • Community apps
  • In-person
  • Bulletin boards

Effective communication is important for a board. Read “8 Proven Communication Tools For HOA Board Members” to strengthen your communication efforts.

Learn How to Get Residents Involved in Your Community

Starting a community lifestyle program is a great way to grow interest in your community and increase resident involvement. However, it’s not always easy. Read “A Guide To Getting Homeowners Involved In Your Community” to learn tips on how to do everything from recruiting new board members to finding someone to grill burgers at the next neighborhood cookout.