For the most part, community spirit is not something that just “happens.” It requires an association that promotes the concept of community spirit and residents who are willing to contribute and enhance the living experience of their neighbors. But the benefits of having a tight knit community far outweigh the effort that goes into building one, and believe it or not, the task is not as daunting as it may seem. 
Here are a few tips that will get you well on your way to creating a community brimming with spirit.

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

The best place to start when establishing community spirit, is to decide what kind of community you want to be. Do you want to be an active community? A community that is known for being a leader in association living? Or are you a more traditional community? There is no right or wrong choice, but once you’ve made your decision, you can create an action plan, set goals and work toward them.

2. Work with what you have.

Next, you need to take stock of the current mindset of your residents. It’s hard to build a culture if you do not understand what kind of culture your residents will embrace. You may also want to determine what, if any, commonalities exist among your residents. Also, never forget the size of your community and the fact that only some residents will get involved. And for those that do get involved, remember not to offer too much upfront. You don’t want to spread them too thin. Finally, when evaluating the facilities and amenities in your community, don’t focus on what you don’t have. Instead think of creative ways to use what you already have. 

3. Bring people together.

Nothing brings people together like an event. If you’re struggling to make items one and two on this list work, a community event should do the trick. Host an ice cream social or invite residents to a luau in your community’s common areas. If you need a few ideas to get started, click here.

4. Formalize it.

You may also want to create a Community Culture Committee to assist you – a group of volunteers that are tasked with developing and cultivating the association’s culture. Tasking specific individuals with this role – and giving them reasonable and attainable goals to work toward – will help you bring this vision to fruition. 

5. Put people to work.

We talked about establishing a committee, now is time to put them to work. And while work isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, a job well done has a way of not only bringing people together, but also creating a sense of pride in what they are doing. 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. You’ll often find that giving people ownership of a task or project draws them in even more.  A good activity to consider is a community beautification project. These types of projects have a way of bringing people together like no other. 

6. Create lifestyle programs.

In step two we talked about using the amenities and facilities you have. One way to do so is to design lifestyle programs around those things you already have in your community. If you have gym space, a fitness club may be an easy thing to develop, outdoor space is perfect for movie nights, and game rooms can easily be used for game nights. You may also want to gauge the interest of your residents and plan a few educational activities. And you don’t need to limit yourself by your onsite amenities. You can always plan outings such as a night at the theater or a wine tasting or sporting event. Before you plan these types of outings, check on your expenditures for social functions and what their limitations are under governing law and/or your documents.

7. Listen to feedback.

Community spirit is not created in a vacuum. Before you start planning events, ask your residents for suggestions, and once an event is over, make sure you ask for their feedback. Use your communication tools – online portals, social media, and newsletters – to encourage your residents to tell you if they enjoyed an event they attended. You may be surprised by their feedback – in a good way! Asking for input also goes a long way in building community spirit and pride.  

8. Use your tools.

Every association has tools that help them function more effectively. Use all the tools at your fingertips to keep in touch with your association members. Social media, newsletters and online portals are all great ways to communicate in meaningful ways. But remember not to inundate residents with messages.  A weekly update of upcoming events works wonders. And if technology isn’t your thing, 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, much like major companies, is a brand. We’re not talking about logos or a slogan, but 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 and make sure all communications and events build on it. 

When residents take pride in their community, it shows. And more importantly, it creates a bond between neighbors that can’t be easily broken. If that doesn’t spell community spirit, what does? For more information, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s community association management leader.
Monday July 25, 2016