The end of the year provides an opportunity to reflect on past achievements, reassess priorities, and plan for the future. If your association has obstacles or challenges, now is an excellent time to develop a strategy for overcoming them. Asking questions such as, "Do we have a clear direction for our community's future?" or "How can we improve budget planning to handle unexpected expenses?" will assist your board in recognizing challenges and establishing goals and resolutions for the upcoming year.

What additional steps can your association take to ensure a successful year? Here are 8 New Year's resolutions worth considering.

1. Review your governing documents

Your association's governing documents contain bylaws and operating rules that provide a framework for managing your community. As laws and regulations change, reviewing and updating these documents is essential. Document updates may be necessary when transitioning from developer control to homeowner board control. Changes may also be necessary to improve the community. As part of your association's New Year resolution, consider forming a committee for document review. A revision committee appointed by the board is one of the most effective ways for associations to review and update their governing documents. The committee should set a timeline, meet regularly, and discuss suggested revisions. Once the committee makes its change recommendations, it should submit them to the board. This will simplify and help expedite the entire process.

Looking for more information about updating governing documents? Read: 6 Steps to Amending Your Association’s Governing Documents.

2. Review your insurance policies

Every association must have comprehensive insurance coverage to protect itself from financial losses and legal liability. However, determining the appropriate level of coverage for your association can take time and effort. Insurance policies can be complex and challenging to understand, and choosing the wrong coverage or underinsuring your property can leave your association vulnerable to devastating losses. As your association sets goals for the new year, make sure to take a look at your insurance policies - both what you have and need. Careful examination enables you to make essential changes to safeguard your community against possible risks. As a value-added service, FirstService Insurance Brokers (FSIB) assists the communities we serve with insurance procurement to ensure comprehensive protection.

3. Conduct a review of your financial records

As a board member, you are responsible for maintaining your community's financial health. Keeping your association financially sound means having enough funds for day-to-day expenses and future projects and repairs. One effective method of evaluating your association's financial well-being is through a thorough review of its financial records. During the review, work with your management company and your association's certified public accountant (CPA) to scrutinize your documents and ensure they are accurate. A financial review should include bank statements, board meeting minutes, insurance policies, reserve studies, and other related documents. Understanding the community's financial status allows board members to identify areas of strength and weakness. Furthermore, it will enable them to identify growth opportunities and improvements for the coming year.

4. Review your repairs and maintenance budget

Board members know that maintaining building assets requires routine maintenance and repairs to keep them in good shape. Maintenance activities can include simple lightbulb replacements, landscaping, pool cleaning, elevator maintenance, and other related tasks performed regularly. As a new year's resolution, plan and review your maintenance and repair expenses to examine any recurring repair and replacement patterns. A comprehensive assessment of all the repairs undertaken in the past year and the estimated repairs for the upcoming year will help your board avoid any last-minute surprises, allowing you to forecast and plan for new ones.

5. Enhance board member education

If you haven't already done so, consider prioritizing ongoing education as part of your New Year's resolutions. Learning and developing new skills can enhance your ability to lead your community more effectively. With many online and in-person resources available, board members have plenty of opportunities to stay informed about industry trends. Conferences, seminars, and training sessions present valuable opportunities for board members to expand their knowledge base.

“In Florida, newly elected board members not only commit to upholding their fiduciary duty but vow to impact their community's well-being positively,” said Katharine Effron, vice president at FirstService Residential. “One method of achieving this is through ongoing education. This allows board members to stay abreast of industry best practices and cutting-edge technologies that can significantly improve the quality of life for their residents.” A good management partner will sponsor ongoing educational opportunities to support you in your role.

6. Boost resident participation

Residents are happier, and associations are more successful when community members are actively involved. If your board is struggling to engage residents, a good place to start is by identifying residents’ shared values. Asking residents what matters to them most will help you define your community vision, inspiring community members to work together to achieve it. Residents often feel they have no say in how their associations are managed. Encouraging residents to volunteer for a committee or particular community project is an excellent way to empower them, according to Alyson Theale, vice president at FirstService Residential. “Boards have a unique opportunity to create a framework that supports resident involvement. Encouraging their participation in the decision-making process is one way to accomplish this,” she said.

7. Improve communication with residents

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any thriving community association. Keeping residents informed of the community's activities and progress fosters an open and collaborative environment, giving residents a shared sense of responsibility for their community. As simple as it may sound, one of the most challenging tasks for board members is communicating effectively. Effective communication encompasses many components, including establishing a process and procedures and using the proper communication channels to reach your audience. An experienced property management company can assist board members with developing a plan that ensures relevant, current, and accurate information is communicated to residents via multiple channels.

For additional communication improvement tips, download our guide, How to Improve Communication in Your Community: A Recipe for Success.

8. Examine your vendor agreements

Association boards should regularly review their vendor agreements to ensure they provide the agreed-upon service. A yearly review also provides the opportunity to identify discrepancies or areas for improvement in the new year.

Setting goals for the year ahead that are achievable and measurable is an important part of any association's success. Establishing realistic goals provides clear direction and focus for your board members and residents. Additionally, evaluating your progress and making adjustments and changes as necessary will help you stay on track.

FirstService Residential can assist you in setting goals for your association – and meeting them. Contact us today.

Wednesday December 27, 2023