What is community? Most will agree it is a group of more than two people that share common goals and intentions. I like this definition – “Community is a way of relating to other persons as brother and sisters who share a common origin, a common dignity, and a common destiny. Community involves learning to live in terms of an interconnected ‘we’ more than an isolated ‘I’. It involves making choices which reinforce the experience of relatedness and foster the sense of belonging and interdependence. Community begins, but does not end, in our face to face relationships with the persons who are closest to us.”(Making Life Choices by Margaret Betz.)
Developing community can be a challenge as often people may desire to be left alone or participation in events may be low due to seasonality. There are several ways to develop community. Communication is essential in fostering a sense of belonging, awareness and increasing participation in committees and events. A good community association manager will enjoy working with the condo association or HOA on communication ideas. If the association doesn’t have a professional CAM, consider the potential value – a good CAM brings professional administration and communication and just as important, brings knowledge of relevant legal and legislative changes and how they affect condo & homeowner associations. Find a community association manager.
Some HOA or condominium association residents may only be present for certain months of the year and then their residence changes to another location. They depend upon communication to keep them informed about events, news, business and issues relating to the community association. If no communication is present, they may get a sense of not being important to the community association or may even suspect wrongdoing by the Board of Directors. Communication is a tool to get the facts out to owners and can dispel false rumors.
Perhaps an association cannot afford a newsletter or even an additional mailing to owners. In this case, they can utilize electronic means of communicating such as emails and websites or they may create a committee to raise funds for a newsletter. A lot of vendors will jump at the opportunity to advertise in a condo association or HOA newsletter as they desire to promote their business. A newsletter committee can develop criteria for the vendors allowed to advertise and this can be a source of income with which to improve communications.
Events and social activities can promote community. Perhaps a singing or dance competition, movie night or even a festival can be held.
My HOA has an annual fall festival that is free to owners and completely paid for by donations from the vendors that serve our HOA. We have a bounce house for kids, face painting, activities such as sack races, raffles for toys for the kids and gift cards for the adults. We held our event last weekend and had over 150 attendees. It was fun, fellowship and free! We had the local police department discuss safety tips with the kids and crime prevention tips with adults.
Local fire departments can participate as well as the Red Cross depending on interest and needs of your community. National Night Out Against Crime is usually held in August each year. You can discuss participation with your local municipality as some events, speakers and canine demonstrations are free. Organizations, municipalities and vendors will often offer promotional items. For instance, a city may distribute t-shirts, flashlights or activity books for kids via their police department and at no cost to the community association.
A neighborhood walk can be done to generate awareness about crime watch or community watch. One HOA recently held “Dive-in theatre” in which they showed movies by their community pool. Events and activities can provide residents with a sense of community, can improve communications and can help decrease crime. Though there is no guarantee, the results often improve relationships and community feeling. When utilizing outside vendors, request that they name the community association as “additionally insured” on their insurance. This will help to minimize potential risk to the association an important part of responsible “risk transfer” – something that you should discuss with the condominium association or HOA insurance agent or attorney.
Holiday lights can raise the morale of a community association. If an association cannot afford to purchase lights, they can do a donation drive for people to donate their old lights or they can take advantage of off season sales. When installing holiday lights, it is important to take into consideration residents of different faiths and also the skills of those installing the lights. If using volunteers you may want to consider having your attorney draft a waiver for them to sign or discuss insurance coverage of volunteers with the HOA or condominium association insurance agent.
Proper planning can help the community association to minimize risk, develop cost-effective processes and can explore options. Retirees are an asset to an association as they often volunteer to serve on committees and can be a resource for information and experience-based knowledge.
Community can be healthy and can raise the morale of a neighborhood, reduce crime and bring joy to the residents. City and county programs may be available to explore. Parks and recreation departments or police athletic leagues can be utilized to obtain possible activities and options. The Community Association Institute – CAI – is a wonderful resource of information for CAM managers and community association volunteers. CAI has great booklets for increasing the knowledge of volunteers and developing community. I encourage you to contact and support your local chapter. Find your local CAI chapter.
Thanks to Wendy Murray for this post. Wendy is Regional Director, Marketing & Sales for Associa. Wendy Murray’s contact info is firstname.lastname@example.org 954-922-3514.