What is a Strategic Community Plan? 
A Strategic Community Plan is intended to provide unified direction and purpose for the organization to the board and staff.  Generally a Strategic Community Plan (SCP) for a community association is a “big picture” view, projecting a long range into the future.  It is a document specifically designed to identify strategic goals for the entire organization and it will outline strategies and action plans to achieve those goals.
The size, dynamics, complexity, desires and needs of a community will determine how detailed and involved a Strategic Community Plan will be.  Some communities may have the need and choose to develop and facilitate the entire plan as outlined below; others may feel the need to only create The Vision and a few Goals.  We recommend that every community utilize a SCP in one form or another.

Benefits of having a Strategic Community Plan
  1. The SCP’s direction is intended to remain consistent, surviving annual changes in the board and periodic changes in key staff positions.
  2. Consistency provided by the SCP will supersede and override most “personal agendas” within the board and staff.
  3. It provides a basis for daily decision making.
  4. It unifies staff and bonds various departments together to work towards the same objectives.
  5. It provides information to the membership as to what should be expected in the future and eliminates many unwelcome surprises.
  6. The SCP will help an association in being prepared, strategically and financially, to meet its obligations and fiduciary responsibilities in the future.
To be included in Strategic Community Plan
  1. Information on the development, demographics and evolution of the community.
  2. Results of relevant surveys.
  3. Visionary thinking.

Components to be incorporated into the Strategic Community Plan
The Vision – how the board wants the community to be seen in ten years; this will be the result of effective implementation of the SCP’s strategies.
  1. The Mission – how to proceed to reach the Vision; it is the basic purpose of the association’s existence.
  2. Goals – the long-term organizational targets which make up the main body of the SCP.
  3. Objectives – measurable milestones that will be met on the way to achieving a goal.
  4. Strategy – the means by which is intended to accomplish a goal or objective.
Strategic Community Plan involvement
In theory, the Strategic Community Plan evolves from the membership to be reflective of the greatest good for the greatest number of members (i.e. via survey results).  However, the board has been elected by those members, to represent the interests of the community association as a whole, and has a responsibility to temper the collective desires of the individual members with sound business judgment as to what is best for the organization itself.   As with other aspects of good management, the board has the responsibility to generate a Strategic Community Plan for the organization.   Along with the Board of Directors, other involvement may include:
  • The SCP Task Force – based on the desires of the board, a Task Force may be created to perform most of the work.
  • A Facilitator – coordinates the process and sits at the table with the board to guide the discussion, maintain focus, and challenge the group.
  • Members At Large – represent the community and are present to listen carefully and provide feedback and opinions when asked.
Implementation of the Strategic Community Plan
Once the final draft of the SCP has been approved by the board, it needs to be woven into the fabric of the culture of the organization and referred to as often as possible in order to keep it fresh and in the minds of the membership. Examples of this may include:
  • Bound copies of the entire plan provided to board members and key staff;
  • Emailed to membership;
  • Posting SCP on community website;
  • Utilizing the Vision and Mission as a header on the community website;
  • Reading of the Vision and Mission at the start of board meetings;
  • Incorporating Vision and Mission into all hard-copy documents distributed by association (billing statements, agendas at meetings, letterhead)
It is then the responsibility of the Community Manager (or GM, ED, etc.) to implement the strategies outlined in the plan by effective use of the employees and/or contractors.  The SCP also becomes one of the vital tools used in preparing the annual budget.  The community manager is typically directed to make either monthly (via management report) or quarterly reports to the board on progress towards achieving the goals and objectives of the SCP.
It is also recommended that the entire SCP be generally reviewed annually and thoroughly reviewed every three to five years to remove completed goals and to add new ones as appropriate.  This keeps the SCP a vital document and the organization always moving forward. 
Having developed and implemented a Strategic Community Plan, your community will be well on its way to becoming a well-oiled machine that meets the needs of the owners and other stakeholders in the community.  Depending on the size and complexity of your community, a modest investment in strategic planning can return large dividends in the form of satisfied owners and higher property values.  If you are interested in developing a Strategic Community Plan for your association, contact FirstService Residential.
Saturday September 26, 2015