What’s a great way for homeowners associations to bring residents together, create a sense of community pride and encourage social, cohesive, we’re-all-part-of-the-same team atmosphere? Plan community events!
One of the main reasons HOAs organize community events is to help homeowners meet their neighbors and feel more affiliated and engaged with their local or surrounding community – a great way to build relationships and enhance residents’ quality of life. And really, who doesn’t love a party?
Community events can also be held to educate attendees, raise money, support a worthwhile cause, promote a nearby business or organization, or even showcase local talent. But no matter what type of event you’re planning – large or small, sedate or formal, targeted to a small interest group, the entire community or the public at large – you’ll want your attendees to feel that their participation is time well spent.
So how do you plan a successful community event? For guidance, we contacted two experienced property management experts, Any Ferrell and Mike Kuzmin who are both vice presidents at FirstService Residential in Arizona. They shared some proven steps you can take to achieve your community association’s goals and make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
1. Make a plan.
Winging it may be great for birds or improv groups, but it doesn’t fly when your goal is a successful event. Good community event planning is essential. Start by deciding what you want to achieve by holding an event, and then create master list and checklists of everything you need to do to successfully pull it off. What would those details include? We’re glad you asked…
2. What type of event are you planning?
Simple events like landscape seminars, children’s craft events, dessert parties or other small gatherings are easy to plan and create a sense of community togetherness and goodwill. Larger events, like block parties, winter holiday celebrations or grand community galas, require more effort and bigger budgets, but can pay off in terms of resident satisfaction and community loyalty. If you’re not sure what type of events your residents would enjoy or whether they’d be interested in attending, send out a survey.
3. Who’s on the guest list?
What type of audience are you trying to attract. Here’s where knowing the demographics of your community is critical – if yours is an active adult community, a children’s craft event would probably not be your best choice. How many attendees do you plan to have? Will your event be open to the public, or exclusively for residents? The answer to some of these questions may depend on your specific community. How so? Read on…
4. Know your community’s details.
If your event will be held on-site, it’s important to consider community-specific details like space restrictions and rules or regulations that would affect the space, attendees and type of gathering. Your property management company can provide guidance and information to make sure you’re in compliance and don’t overlook important details. And speaking of details, don’t forget the un-fun considerations, like your electrical needs, restrooms, trash cans, security, parking, alternate weather plans and other important details. And very important – check your association’s insurance policy to make sure you’re protected in the event of accident or injury. If not, you may need to purchase supplemental coverage. Which leads us to…
5. Paying for it.
How will you finance your event? You may have enough money set aside in your association’s operating account to cover all of your expenses. If you don’t, you might consider charging a nominal fee for tickets, goods and/or services. But a great way to obtain supplemental funds is to start tapping your professional, personal and community contacts and resources. You may be able to find sponsors for monetary or in-kind donations, or perhaps create partnerships with local businesses, association vendors, non-profit organizations or even home-based resident businesses in exchange for promotion.
“Local business owners who live in our managed communities have always been great partners for us,” said FirstService Residential’s Kuzmin. “Some recent examples include an owner of a local pizza restaurant who supplied all the pizza for an event, and a diner owner who supplied cookies and provided discount coupons to his restaurant for the attendees. Those are win-win situations for everyone.”
6. Create a committee.
Remember that old expression, “Many hands make light work?” Whoever wrote it must have been thinking about event planning. Creating a committee is key. If your association has a Social or Event Committee, great. If not, get the word out to homeowners that you’re looking for volunteers. Once you’ve got your committee, designate one person as the leader and assign responsibilities to each member, making sure they understand their role. In addition, assign one individual to be on-site the day of the event to serve as the point person to make sure everything goes smoothly.
7. Spread the word.
If you hold it, will they come? Only if you effectively promote your event. If your event is just for residents and your community is small, you may be able to create and print simple invitations or flyers and distribute them to residences and/or common areas. But while hand-delivered invitations may be more personal, consider leveraging the power of technology to lower your costs and extend your reach. Use consistent messaging to create your invitation, and then send it for free via email and post it on your community website and social media, including your community’s Facebook page and residents’ personal pages. In addition to saving you time and being easy to update, technology can help you quickly inform a large number of people and connect you with a virtual community – a great way to engage and excite attendees about your event.
8. It’s showtime!
Your big day has arrived, so now’s the time when all your hard work can pay off. Make sure your point person is in charge and your committee members, Board, staff, volunteers and any participating vendors are communicating and know where, when and what they should be doing. And don’t forget to allow plenty of time for set up, break down and clean up. And finally, have fun!
Creating and executing successful community events starts with a great team, a detailed plan and a commitment to achieving a goal – and then it takes time, effort and collaboration to get there. But once all the pieces are in place, the results can pay off for your Board, your community and your homeowners, both current and future. For more information about planning community events, contact FirstService Residential