5 steps to create a lifestyle program using community amenities
Now more than ever, communities are searching for ways to increase resident engagement and create a social atmosphere. One way managers capitalize on their available community amenities is through lifestyle programming. A thriving lifestyle program will connect your residents and help build great relationships throughout the community.
5 steps for the perfect lifestyle program
- Select events your residents will enjoy
How a community defines its lifestyle impacts the types of programs it chooses. For example, a family-focused community may want events and activities for children, like an outdoor movie night or easter egg hunt. A luxury high-rise property may prefer more upscale programming, such as sunset yoga on the roof deck or complimentary facial massages. Ultimately, it comes down to like-minded people connecting and engaging through shared interests.
Before you embark on lifestyle programming, ensure your board has a clear vision for your community, built from resident feedback and input.
Julie Sanchez is a senior community association manager and lifestyle director for the MetroWest Master Association in Orlando, Florida. She suggests that, even if a vision has been defined, boards should occasionally conduct surveys to ensure that programming stays aligned with your evolving community. “Ask about demographics and age groups, days and times that people can participate, what kinds of events people are interested in, and more importantly, who is willing and available to volunteer to help plan and execute,” she says.
Besides collecting and implementing resident feedback, it is also good to keep an eye on social trends that encompass many hobbies and interests. “The most dynamic and comprehensive lifestyle programs typically encompass a broad and diverse base of community-wide events, clubs, classes and other activity offerings in multiple dimensions of health and wellness,” says Judy Julison, senior vice president of lifestyle programming at FirstService Residential.
“These may include programs that respond not only to the residents' social and recreational needs and interests but the physical, creative and intellectual, vocational and environmental elements of lifestyle programming. Nurturing social connectivity, enriching residents’ quality of life and enhancing property values are always overriding goals.”
Read eight community event ideas to engage your residents for more ideas.
- Hire a Lifestyle Director
Depending on how intense your program is, you may be able to use active board committees and other volunteers—working with your community association manager—to manage your lifestyle program. Your property management company may also have resources to help train your board members to be effective in this role.
However, if you are part of a large master-planned community or luxury high-rise with a multitude of amenities and a robust lifestyle calendar, it may be in your community’s best interest to bring in a lifestyle director. “The association board should initially consider the level of demand for programming that may exist and how adding or enhancing this component at their property would favorably impact the resident experience,” Julison explains. “Available resources, the economic impact of adding another staff member and the pros and cons of other potential options must also be evaluated.”
When you hire a lifestyle director, choosing the right person is essential. Your professional property management company should have the depth of resources and expertise to help your community hire someone who fits in well with your community and works well with your other staff and volunteers. “Attitude, attitude, attitude!” exclaims Sanchez. “You want to hire someone positive and engaging, who can connect with various age groups and cares about your residents. Experience with planning events and social activities is important but having that experience doesn’t matter if your lifestyle director doesn’t connect with your community.”
Julison notes that previous experience in hospitality, event planning and marketing, recreation programming and public relations experience can be helpful to a good lifestyle director. “A high level of energy and enthusiasm, a dynamic personality, professional presentation, and a positive ‘can-do’ attitude are other important qualities that typically serve them well,” she says.
- Use your amenities
Amenities are often high on the list of homeowner must-haves, but your community pool, walking trails or pond can be more than just another feature. Whether it’s a Fourth of July holiday pool party, a scavenger hunt, or a fishing tournament at the pond to raise money for a local charity, consider using the features you already have to engage residents. Your amenities are a natural draw and create the perfect venue for bringing people together.
- Think outside the box
Your community likely has a few traditional events that generate great anticipation. Your annual “Easter Egg Hunt Extravaganza” or “Summer Splash Bash” are popular for a reason. To keep things fresh, you should continuously seek new ways to incorporate evolving resident interests. Consider hosting a community clean-up event centered around Earth Day or a rally around a local cause that may have meaning for your homeowners. Remember that the quality of the event is not necessarily tied to the money spent. It’s all about creating the best experiences and the most engagement possible.
- Communicate your events
Once you have plans, communicating with your residents is the final piece of this puzzle. Your community may already offer a robust lifestyle program, but if you’re not seeing the level of engagement you want, you may not be communicating effectively.
Communicate your activities and programming consistently using multiple channels to reach your residents. If your community is professionally managed, you may have access to a mass communication tool like FirstService Residential Connect to help promote your events and other opportunities for residents. Although social media, community websites, and newsletters are great ways to promote your programs, don’t discount “old-school” methods like elevator signs, posted signage, bulletin boards, or flyers to inform residents about upcoming activities.
Then, have fun! The whole point of a lifestyle program is for residents to enjoy it, including board members and other volunteers. A good lifestyle program can make your community more desirable to future buyers, build a great sense of community and improve the lives of your current residents.