When people look for a new home, they’re seeking more than a place to live. It entails something beyond four walls and a roof. That “something” is lifestyle. 


Increasingly, “lifestyle” is what challenges community associations the most. Creating and maintaining community standards, and enhancing property values is a straightforward (though not always easy!) process. But what about your role in creating a better quality of life for your residents? Well, that’s where things start to get a little more complicated.


Creating that perfect combination of neighborly involvement and engaging activities can feel mystifying...but it’s definitely magical when it happens. If you’re fortunate enough to have partnered with a community association management company, you’ll find they can really help to get you to achieve that goal. But in the meantime, here are some recommendations for your HOA board on how to work towards a desirable community lifestyle. 


1. Start with your unique culture.

Every community is different and unique, but here’s something you’ll find that’s the same everywhere: if you look hard enough, you’ll find a predominant culture. Maybe it just so happens that a lot of your residents are outdoorsy, or fitness-minded. Maybe they’re active adults who seem to engage in a variety of arts and cultural activities. Or perhaps they’re mostly young families who need a way to connect with one another. No matter what it is, if you look hard enough, you’ll find emerging trends – if not in your community as a whole, then at least within pockets of it. When you identify these cultures and subcultures, you’re on your way to enhancing the overall community lifestyle by creating community events centered around the interests of these groups of residents. 


2. Look for promising leaders. 

Bringing people together will be essential to creating a lifestyle. To do that, you’ll need leaders within your community. You’ll be able to recognize these people pretty easily – they show up at meetings, they’re vocal, and they seem to take initiative when it comes to the community. Foster a strong relationship with these community leaders, and enlist their help in planning and executing community activities that capture the interests of your residents. Maybe it’s a hiking trip. Maybe it’s an exercise club. Maybe it’s a book club or a night of card games. Whatever the activity is, good leadership will make it a success. 


3. Assess the space and facilities you have. 

Unfortunately, you are bound by the realities of your community and its facilities. This may limit the type of activities you’re able to host on-site. And while it’s true that a little imagination can go a long way, the realities of your amenities will determine what you can host on-site. Of course, you can always plan off-site activities if your group cultures would benefit from them. 


4. Communicate the right way.

Communication is going to be most important when it comes to getting residents to participate in your activities. Make full use of community boards, your website, special invitations and board meetings. Social media can be a great tool as well – it’s especially suited for communicating with groups of people with highly specific interests. 


5. Manage organic growth. 

Fostering a culture isn’t like following steps in a cookbook. Done correctly, most of this growth will happen on its own – so long as you manage it. It’s kind of a delicate balance of hands-on and hands-off techniques. Typically, most activities and groups need a lot of management in the beginning (planning, launching and getting folks involved), but after a little structure is added, you can let the group grow and manage itself. This is how book clubs, bridge clubs, running clubs, and other kinds of collectives go from one or two members to thriving organizations. 


Bringing together residents with shared interests will no doubt enhance the lifestyles within your community. And though making it happen can take a lot of work, the rewards definitely make it worthwhile. For more on how to enhance the lifestyles of your community’s residents, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s community association management leader.

Thursday November 20, 2014