Many boards have difficulty creating a sense of community among the members of their association. They struggle to get residents more involved, to work cooperatively and to care about their neighbors. If you’ve been successful in bringing your community together, congratulations! You’ve accomplished a lot. As a cohesive unit, your association can more easily accomplish its goals and run its operations.
At the same time, your association doesn’t function in a vacuum. It’s also part of a larger community. Getting residents more actively involved in your town or city – and even on the state or provincial level – doesn’t simply benefit them as individuals. It also benefits your association by:
- Enhancing your community’s reputation
- Increasing your political influence
- Informing the association about activities that might impact your community
- Providing opportunities to partner with local businesses
What can your board do to encourage residents to become more active in the larger community? We’re glad you asked! These 5 tips are a good place to start:
- Provide opportunities to give back locally. Let residents know about charitable organizations, events and activities in your area. You can do this by posting information on your community website, in your newsletter and in common areas or by sending out periodic emails. Communities that are managed by FirstService Residential, for instance, can have their property manager send out emails using FirstService Residential Connect, the company’s proprietary software.
Forming a community group or team to participate in a local event has the added benefit of contributing to residents’ sense of community within the association. For example, your association might sponsor a team for a fundraising run or walk. An obvious time to do this is September 28, which is National Good Neighbor Day in the U.S. Many cities throughout Canada have events on Neighbour Day, which is held at different times in the Spring depending on the city.
- Share local news. Sign up for emails from your town or city government so your board knows about issues that would be of interest to residents. You could also recruit volunteers from the community to attend city or town council meetings. Share any relevant information from either source through your association’s normal communication channels. In addition, ask residents who are already volunteering locally – such as on the PTA – to write periodic summaries of their activities for your newsletter.
- Write up or team up with businesses. Have residents submit write-ups or reviews of local restaurants or other businesses for publication in your newsletter. Consider inviting local businesses to participate in a “trade show” at your community so that residents can learn about their offerings. Or ask a representative from a newly opened business to do a presentation for your residents. Other possibilities are holding events at a local restaurant or other venue and getting business sponsors for some of your community activities.
- Encourage political participation. Let residents know about potential changes to local policies or ordinances or if bills are being considered at the state or provincial level that might affect your community. Encourage them to write letters, send emails and make phone calls. You can make it easier for them to make their voices heard by providing legislators’ contact information. “Often, we feel that we’re at the mercy of legislation, instead of remembering that, as constituents, we have a voice in government,” says Chuck Fallon, FirstService Residential chief executive officer.
Your property management company may even be able to help you schedule a group trip to meet with representatives and attend hearings. For example, FirstService Residential in Nevada organizes a “Day at the Capitol” trip that coincides with the state’s legislation sessions. The goal is for board members at communities managed by First Service Residential to meet with lawmakers and attend hearings. “This one-day event gives board members the opportunity to act and to have a say about the future of their association,” says Steven Parker, president of FirstService Residential Nevada.
- Publicize area features to prospective buyers. If your community is located in a desirable part of town or enables easy access to some of your city’s best features, highlight these on your community website and in your marketing materials. Future homeowners who specifically move to your community because of what the area offers can be great liaisons with the larger community and can potentially assist your board in promoting resident involvement.
Residents who feel like an integral part of their town or city will also feel more connected to their community association. And when residents care about where they live, your association can’t help but reap the benefits!