If you ask any association board, they will tell you that they strive for a property of residents brimming with community spirit.  Why you ask? Because in the community management world, “spirit” typically translates into having pride in your community.
Promoting community spirit is not as daunting as it might seem. Though it may be the intangible thing that binds associations together, community spirit can be built in very tangible ways. A tightly knit community can be the product of following just a few simple steps.

1. Identify your goals – and where you currently stand.

The first step in establishing community spirit is determining what kind of community you want to be. Do you want to be an active community? A caring community? Do you want to be a community that’s a leader in association living or one that epitomizes the values of traditional communities? Once you define your goals you can create an action plan and work toward meeting them.

2. Work with what you have.

Before you can determine what you need to get started, you need to take stock of the current mindset of your residents. It helps to understand what kind of culture residents want and will respond to, plus any similarities that exist among your residents that may be easily embraced. It’s equally important to remember the size of your community and the fact that only a portion of your residents will ever be involved. For those that do volunteer to get involved, try not to spread them too thin by offering too much all at once. Finally, find different ways to use your existing facilities. This 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.

Nothing screams community spirit like a community event. And if you’re struggling with the first two items on this list, a community event will jumpstart the process. Host a movie night, hold an ice cream social, invite residents to a game night, BBQ or a themed party in your common areas. Having trouble getting started? We have a few tips on how to plan and host a great event.

4. Formalize it.

As with any other association initiative, you may want to establish a committee to assist you. Consider establishing a Spirit Committee or a Community Culture Committee that will work on developing and fostering the association’s culture. It’s easy to turn your vision into reality when you task specific individuals with this role and give them reasonable and attainable benchmarks to work toward. 

5. Create lifestyle programs.

Amenities don’t necessarily create spirit, but they are the perfect springing off point when creating lifestyle programs that may appeal to your residents. For example, consider using your gym space to start a fitness club on your property. Or use your outdoor areas to host movie and game nights. And those are just social events.   Once you gauge the interests of your residents, you can also plan educational activities or symposia that connect residents to each other and the world around them. 

Keep in mind that your onsite amenities, while useful for a number of activities, do not need to limit you. You always have the option of renting nearby parks or facilities that serve your purpose better. You can also plan a simple outing such as a night at the movies, a wine tasting/pairing event, or get tickets to a local game or theater show. Before doing so, however, you want to make sure you check on your expenditures for social functions and what their limitations are under governing law and/or your documents.

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. Before planning events, ask for suggestions and once the event is over encourage your residents to tell you if they enjoyed an event they attended. Their ideas may surprise you – in a good way! Asking for input also creates a sense of ownership in the community, which definitely builds spirit and pride.  

7. Put people to work.

Put your committee to work and draw them in by empowering them. Not only will you be building a stronger, more engaged community through volunteerism and advocacy, but by empowering them you will also be creating a sense of pride in their work, in their community. A good activity to bring a community together is to plan a community beautification project. These types of projects have a way of bringing people together like no other. And talk about having pride in your work and community, nothing does it better than seeing the fruits of your labor when you walk outside your home and see your beautiful neighborhood.

8. Use your tools.

Use all the tools in your arsenal to keep in touch with your association members. Social media, newsletters and online portals are all great ways to communicate in meaningful ways, just remember not to inundate residents with messages.  A weekly update of upcoming events works wonders.  If the tech tools or social media aren’t your thing, consider working with a community association management company – they’ll be able to help.

9. Strengthen your brand.

It may be hard to see your community as a brand, but it is one. Now, we’re not talking about logos or a slogan like you see with major companies, but a brand at its core is an emotional connection to a product or service. For your community, that can mean strengthening how your residents feel about their association. Define how you want them to feel and make sure all communications and events not only emphasize that, but continue to build on it. 

While spirit may be hard to measure, you can always tell when it’s present, especially in a community. Residents who take pride in their community have a tendency to join ranks and develop an unbreakable bond. That, in itself, creates a community spirit that can’t be easily broken. For more information, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s community association management leader.
Tuesday July 05, 2016