The Art of Engagement

January 10, 2018 Trung Pham

Over the last few decades, community engagement in an HOA meant a small handful of owners canvassing their nearby neighbors. These volunteers worked countless hours to obtain and consolidate the voice of their community. The process went a bit like this: the board makes a request or shares information with residents, collects the feedback in one of many communication formats of the resident’s choosing (i.e. snail mail, email, or even verbal agreement), a designated board member gathers the results from all of these formats and organizes them in the community’s chosen format like Microsoft Excel and then shares the information with the appropriate parties — vendors, maintenance workers, and other key members of the community— who may have even more rigid formatting requirements that need to be followed, in which case, the designated board member reformats this information to meet the needs of each vendor and now they are ready to execute on the consensus decisions. And don’t forget that this information is often sensitive, so these records have to be sent and stored securely. And, some of these interactions occur each month! Every topic that required resident engagement, from “What color should we paint the new clubhouse?” to the dreaded “Your assessment is late.” had to go through this process.  It makes you really appreciate where we are today.

Thankfully, with the turn of the century, an influx of new technologies in the form of mobile phone applications and social media platforms have begun to change the dynamic of getting homeowners more involved in the governance of their neighborhoods and help board members manage more efficiently. And, community, state and local laws are evolving to accommodate. For instance, in many communities, all board communications must be printed and mailed to homeowners. Now in many communities, sending documents securely via email is the new standard.

Just as the laws are evolving to accommodate the new technologies and the way we communicate, as community leaders, we too must evolve to meet the needs of the communities we serve.

But, that is easier said than done. In order to usher in these new technologies and reap their benefits, we have to make sure our boards, residents and processes are in a place to accept the change. If these aren’t in alignment, your community could end up with new technologies and no adoption from residents. Or technologies that work in the short-term, but aren’t flexible enough to grow with your community’s long-term needs.

Here are four steps to help ensure your community is ready to take its technology to the next level.

1.  ALIGN THE BOARD.

Before evaluating any technology solution, as a board, sit down with your fellow constituents to decide what problems you want the technology to solve for your board and your community. Look back on lessons learned from the last annual meeting. Were there a large number of proxies due to low community turnout? A technology platform that’s mobile may help. Assess any limitations—i.e. the aforementioned requirement that all community documents be printed and mailed vs. sent digitally. If your community can share digital files, then a technology solution with secure document storage is a must to ensure your board does its due diligence. Does your board go back and forth between vendors, attorneys and community managers — then easy (but restricted) access for these key members should be a high priority.

 

2.  LEARN WHAT WORKS.

The next step is teaming up with your professional management firm to see what nearby neighborhoods have done. One of the best things about being an Associa client is that the local branches have access to the entire Associa network and we can leverage our relationships with other communities to share best practices for all of our client communities.

 

3.  IDENTIFY RESIDENTS’ INTERESTS.

Don’t just consider your board’s needs when evaluating technology solutions. A good solution will simplify your board responsibilities and streamline your operations, but it will also be a tool residents can enjoy. Make sure the tool has features that solve issues for residents too—like easy access to payments, clubhouse reservations and other common functions. 

 

4.  CHOOSE YOUR PATH.

Now that the board is aligned, and you know what has worked for other associations in your area that have faced similar challenges, and you’ve considered what your residents need to adopt a new tool, it’s time to choose a technology solution that works for your community. Find a solution that’s flexible enough to provide the solutions your specific community needs and is secure enough to meet your legal requirements when handling private community information. Finally, make sure the platform you choose is proven and endorsed by a partner you trust so you don’t have to worry that it will lose funding and get discontinued—this will provide the assurance that your technology investment will continue to evolve with your community’s needs over time.

 

At Associa, we know that streamlining communications with residents is the key to keeping residents happy, saving unnecessary board time and making the community run smoother.

That’s why we’re introducing TownSq to our client communities. TownSq combines the social and administrative aspects of community living.

One of the most exciting aspects of the platform is its ability to let homeowners and board members instantly communicate with each other. Not only can the board quickly send out immediate notification of an urgent meeting, but your association can create polls to collect homeowners’ feedback, and send updates about ongoing community projects. The app also provides access to financials, online assessment payment, maintenance requests and the flexibility to manage projects with your community manager – any time on any device.

And to show you how it helps communities, we’ll be sharing real life stories of communities just like yours that are using TownSq to achieve their goals.

At the end of the day, whether you use TownSq, Facebook, or the community center bulletin board, it’s important to remember that as the needs of our communities continue to expand and become more complex, community associations must leverage technologies to ease the burden of leading their respective communities while minimizing the amount of time it takes to gather the true pulse of the homeowners.

About the Author

Trung Pham

Trung Q. Pham, Regional Vice President, is responsible for the financial performance and local leadership support at several branches throughout Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. He’s also works to serve both his team and Associa’s clients in the Central Region by establishing operational processes that drive efficiencies, synergy of branch procedures, and revenue protection. Trung brings more than 21 years of accounting and finance experience from both the private and corporate sector. He possesses Bachelor degrees in Accounting, Business, Finance, and Psychology as well as an MBA in Finance from both Texas Tech University and Southern New Hampshire University.

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