Community spirit: that intangible thing that binds associations together. But building it happens in very tangible ways.
Best of all, it’s not as daunting as you might think. A tightly knit community can be created by having your association follow just a few simple steps. Let’s go over some of those ideas right here.
1. Identify your goals – and where you stand in relationship to them.
The first step is figuring out what kind of community you want to be. Do you want to be an active community? A caring community? One that’s at the forefront of association living or one that recalls the values of traditional communities? Defining your goals will help you create an action plan to meet those goals.
2. Work with what you have.
You can’t create a culture independent of the people who live in your association. Take stock of the current mindset of your residents. Try to take the pulse of what commonalities they have and what kind of culture they will respond to. Also, never forget the size of the population in your community. Only a portion of your residents will ever be involved and you don’t want to spread them too thin by offering too much. Finally, don’t focus on the amenities your community doesn’t have, but rather what you can offer. Finding different ways to use your existing facilities can breathe new life into them. For example, trying different layouts for events or simply repurposing furniture in the clubhouse can make things seem fresh and new while being practical.
3. Bring people together.
If you’re having trouble with the first two steps, jumpstart the process with a community event. Hold an ice cream social, a game night, BBQ or a themed party. Follow these steps to plan and host a great event
and you’ll get better results.
4. Formalize it.
You may want to establish a community culture committee – a team that is focused on developing and fostering an association’s culture. Tasking specific individuals with this role – and giving them reasonable and attainable benchmarks – will help turn your vision into a reality.
5. Create lifestyle programs.
Amenities don’t necessarily create spirit. However, you can use them to design lifestyle programs that are appealing to residents. If you have a gym space, then start a fitness club. You can use a pool or outdoor area to host frequent pool parties or water volleyball tournaments. With a game or billiard room, you can institute game nights or let the residents use the facility on a more casual basis. Once you gauge the interests of your residents, you can easily plan educational activities or symposia that connect residents to each other and the world around them. Don’t forget – you don’t have to be limited by your onsite amenities, either. If there are parks or facilities nearby, consider renting them out for offsite events and get-togethers, or you could simply organize an outing to a blockbuster movie, the theater for a musical or to a local wine store for a tasting/pairing event. Of course, check on limitations on expenditures for social functions under governing law and/or your documents to make sure everything’s on the up and up!
6. Listen to feedback.
You can’t create community spirit in a vacuum. Use your communication tools – online portals, social media
, and newsletters – to solicit member feedback and input. Encourage residents to tell you if they enjoyed an event they attended whether in their own community or a different location, or what they didn’t like. They’ll have ideas that will surprise and delight you, and asking for input creates a sense of ownership in the community that has a way of building spirit.
7. Put people to work.
Work isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but a job well done has a way of bringing people together like nothing else. Draw people into the process by keeping their “eyes on the prize,” focusing on and creating a consensus around a set of outcomes through an empowerment process. This allows you to build a better community through volunteerism and advocacy. Empowering people not only gives a sense of ownership, but also a sense of pride. For example, if you plan a community beautification project, you will see how it brings people together in every sense of the term. You can also coordinate your volunteer efforts and work to engage residents to join committees or run for leadership positions.
8. Use your tools.
Social media, newsletters and online portals are all great ways to keep in touch with your association members. Make sure you have all of these communication channels firing on all cylinders. Communicate in meaningful ways and don’t inundate residents with messages. A weekly update of upcoming events works wonders. If the tech tools or social media aren’t in your wheelhouse, consider working with a community association management company – they’ll be able to help.
9. Strengthen your brand.
You may not realize it, but your community, like major companies, is a brand. We’re not talking about logos or colors or a slogan; strictly speaking, a brand is an emotional connection to a product or service. For us, that means how your residents feel about their association. Define how you want them to feel – as part of a group of elites, a community of like-minded individuals, a collection of people living life to the fullest – and make sure all communications and events build up that spirit.
While you can’t measure spirit, you can definitely tell when a community has it. When residents take pride in their community, they tend to form an unbreakable bond with their neighbors and a spirit that can’t be easily shaken. Follow these steps and your association will be well on its way to getting there.
For more information, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s community association management leader, or fill out the form below.