Everyone loves a well-planned event, and the residents in your community association are no exception. Gathering together socially not only gives them something to look forward to, but it is also one of the best ways to achieve community spirit.
“Community events and lifestyle programs provide great opportunities for residents to get to know each other and to share common interests,” says Melissa Ramsey, vice president of community and lifestyle services at FirstService Residential. “They also help increase the sense of community and pride that residents feel.”
To maximize the good feelings and comradery that result from memorable community events, Ramsey offers the following tips:
Hold a big yearly event.
Organizing at least one annual event around a holiday or based on a particular theme is a good way to create anticipation and excitement. “We do some pretty elaborate events that attract a lot of residents, year after year,” says FirstService Residential’s Callie Froese, club manager for the Somersett master-planned community association in Reno, Nevada. One popular example is the “Touch a Truck” fall festival that Somersett holds every October. Kids (as well as grown-up “kids”) have an opportunity to check out their favorite trucks and cars up close, go on hayrides and select pumpkins from a pumpkin patch.
Froese also organizes several other large and small events for the community throughout the year. “Some of our so-called ‘small’ events include an Easter Eggstravaganza, potlucks, pool parties, a summer luau, golf events and a community Olympics event,” she says.
Give yourself plenty of planning time.
If your community lacks experience running events or if you don’t have the assistance of an event manager, Ramsey warns that you may not realize the amount of work it takes to plan and run a major community event. “It’s a good idea to start planning as much as 6 months out,” she says. “This way you’ll have enough time to determine your budget, get all your approvals and line up vendors and caterers.”
Form an event committee.
With or without the benefit of an event manager, having an event committee – as well as subcommittees, if necessary – will help disperse the workload. Assign specific tasks to each committee member, such as ordering food, purchasing supplies, decorating and promoting.
Institute a way to measure success.
What’s your reason for having a particular event? Is it to do something positive for the larger community, as with a park cleanup activity? Is it to raise awareness (think health fair or Earth Day celebration)? Or is it simply to bring neighbors together and encourage new friendships?
Make sure to establish your objective up front and to create a way to evaluate whether you’ve accomplished it. “This combination gives you a concrete way to measure success,” says Ramsey. She recommends sending out surveys to attendees shortly after the event to help you determine if you’ve hit your mark. “Of course, there’s nothing like seeing residents laughing and smiling to know you’ve done a good job.”
Savor the moment.
Sustain the good feelings created at your event by providing a recap on your website, in your community newsletter and at your next board meeting. Post pictures on social media as well. You might even want to have an evening get-together when those who attended can share their photos. It’s another great way to get residents together and involved.
Don’t overlook lifestyle programs.
No matter what kind of community you live in or how much space you have, implementing lifestyle programs is possible. Use existing onsite space or local offsite facilities to bring smaller groups of residents together to share common interests. For example, you could use your clubhouse to hold game nights, movie nights or weekly classes. You might start a walking, running or biking club using community or neighborhood trails. Or you could plan a community night out at a local restaurant, theater or comedy club.
One of the primary reasons many people choose to buy homes in associations is for the sense of community they expect to find. That’s more likely in a community that creates the right opportunities for residents to get together. As Ramsey points out, “A successful event creates conversation among owners and, potentially, the greater community. That can lead to an increase in home sales for an association.” By developing a robust calendar of events and lifestyle programs, you’ll be helping to ensure the success of your community.