What do you want your community to be?
It may seem like a simple question, but the answer is more complex than you think. Your vision determines your priorities, what you spend your money on and more, so knowing where your community is going and how to get there is the key to your community’s success. If well-crafted, your vision will remain in place as boards or leadership change and residents come and go, always a beacon guiding you toward what you want your community to become.
What’s the risk to not having that guiding beacon?
As Yogi Berra so perfectly said, “If you don't know where you are going - you might end up someplace else."
“A community needs to ask itself what it wants to be before it can truly determine what policies and rules it needs in place,” explains Derrick Lee, director of client relations at FirstService Residential. “If its focus is on lifestyle, for example, the community needs to evaluate its policies with that in mind: ‘how does this specific policy impact residents' daily lives and overall resident experience?’”
A well-written vision statement will capture what community members most value about their community now, as well as what they want the community to become.
So, what does that mean for engagement?
For starters, if your board hasn’t articulated its vision yet, create one! Why? Because your board’s vision for your community can help increase resident engagement in a few different ways. For starters, you can’t create a vision without talking to the rest of the community. The simple actions of asking for input and discussing the vision across the community through surveys, brainstorming, meetings and committee work engages residents that may never have thought to get involved in the first place. And, once they are motivated to become engaged, residents are more likely to stay engaged. Asking residents to help create a common vision is a great way to inspire that engagement.
A strong vision will also inspire community members to work together to achieve it. If your vision is to be an active family lifestyle community, create committees to plan a variety of family-friendly events like late night stargazing, unusual holiday-themed parties, rainy-day activities for kids and more. Ask for volunteers to plan indoor events as well as “out in nature” activities and kids-only fun to go along with family events. People will gravitate toward the areas they have the most interest in and stay involved in that planning. In this case, your vision is about families, so you should dedicate your volunteer resources and time to planning and promoting family activities. Don’t waste any energy on planning a romantic Valentine’s Day event for adults only!
By sticking to that vision, you develop a consistent brand and message that residents will respond to (and new buyers will gravitate toward). Your homeowners and residents will be more likely to want to serve on planning committees than if your messaging is all over the place and doesn’t appear to have a theme.
Of course, residents are also going to be more likely to attend events that line up with the community vision as well. That elegant Valentine’s Day event or high-end wine tasting might not be right for a community dedicated to active families, but it could be perfect for a luxury high-rise. Likewise, if your lifestyle committee is dedicated to a luxury resort and spa ambiance and amenities, maybe you don’t want a committee planning wilderness hikes or camping trips. Keeping events tied to the vision the community created will encourage attendance by making the events feel more special— like they are something that only that community gets to enjoy.
It’s important to remember that following your community vision to plan events and drive engagement is not meant to limit your residents in any way. For example, if a group of like-minded residents at your spa community do want to go on a camping trip and solicit other residents to do so, they can—and should! What we are talking about here is official events that are planned and promoted by the community’s board and staff, events that reflect your brand, as well as the look and personality of your community.
If you’ve been to a Walt Disney World resort, you’ve seen the principles of having strong vision in action. Each resort and hotel is designed with a particular audience in mind, and everything about the property fits the personality of the audience it was designed for. The menu items available on-site, the décor, even the shape and style of the swimming pool are created and designed to appeal to that audience and no other. After all, why would the staff of the Grand Floridian worry whether their activities and décor appeal to guests who choose to stay at the All-Star Music and vice versa. Having a strong vision that dictates what’s important to every resort works beautifully!
Inspiring resident engagement and involvement is important to the long-term success of any community. Starting with a clear vision will help you create programming that will establish your community’s brand and attract the residents you want, inspiring them to be actively involved along the way.
For more information on how to create a vision, check out our articles on communicating your vision with management and creating policies that work with it.