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Best practice: community, harmony and spirit

By Jeff Gilmour – ARC (Association of Residential Communities)

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Best practice: community, harmony and spirit

By Jeff Gilmour – ARC (Association of Residential Communities)

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Residential communities are not about buildings – they’re about people, about communities. The houses are just where the people live. The community is about how they live.

Ways to promote community spirit

To promote community spirit in your community, try one of these activities:

  • Support local charities and schools. Sharing your time, talents, and financial resources as individuals, small groups, and as a corporate entity is a true reflection of community spirit; giving back to the greater community has many positive knock-on effects.
  • Print a community T-shirt. Not only will this increase community spirit, but it also generates additional revenue for the association and serves as a marketing tool.
  • Hold a blanket and clothing collection for less privileged communities in preparation for the winter months.
  • Create a neighbourhood assistance programme. Residents volunteer to provide neighbours with all types of assistance and a monthly coordinator assigns volunteers to their respective jobs, or volunteers provide cards and personal calls, transportation for medical appointments and rides to the airport, meals for families with an illness or death in the family, loan items of medical equipment such as canes and crutches, loan items such as cribs and high chairs for grandparents with visiting grandchildren, handyman services for small jobs, and an extensive resource of those willing to discuss their medical experiences with those facing these challenges. Volunteers coordinate each major service under an elected programme director.
  • Hold a neighbourhood swim-a-thon or other fun and challenging event.
  • Build and install park benches along walking trails and ponds. Find the craftsmen in your community and have them build community park benches with materials provided by the association. This saves money and is a great community spirit project both for the volunteers and for the enjoyment of the residents.
  • Recognise children. Use your newsletter to note worthy accomplishments in academics and athletics for the younger members of your community. Coordinate with schools and your neighbourhood parents to get a list of achievers.
  • Sponsor a safety seminar. Did you know that more than 80% of child safety seats are improperly installed in vehicles? Coordinate a safety seminar with emergency services to educate parents and grandparents on this and other issues such as bicycle safety.
  • Promote health and wellbeing. Use your clubhouse to host a blood donation drive before the holidays and/or offer blood pressure and cholesterol screening.
  • Schedule a movie night – outdoor movies are all the rage lately.
  • Conduct a resident survey.
  • Facilitate neighbourhood block parties. Use your newsletter to encourage each neighbourhood in your community association to have an annual block/street party. It is a great way to meet new neighbours and foster community spirit.
  • Choose a signature shrub or tree and celebrate each Arbour Day with communal planting.
  • Publicise upcoming events and success via internal portals and Estate Living. More and more community association members use online partners – why not use them? They’re a professional way to promote upcoming special events and meetings. Additionally, residents can reply to portal engagement and boards can obtain instant feedback!
  • Publish event photos. What better way to promote community spirit than to show non-participants all the fun that they’re missing?

All of the above-mentioned activities are great in theory, but how do you really get residents involved?

  • Hook them from the word go. When new owners move in, send over a board or committee member to welcome them to the community. Find out a little about the new residents and their interests. Let them know about the community and how it works. Don’t just bombard them with copies of your community’s rules and regulations. Follow up with a phone call approximately four to six weeks later just to check in and see if they have any questions. This is also a great time to have them fill out a questionnaire to find out the activities in which they would participate. Ask those who give you new and exciting ideas if they want to help organise the activity.
  • Create activities for new residents.
  • Give away freebies. Everyone likes to get something for nothing. Solicit a donation of goods, services, or the money to purchase giveaways for your next event. The sponsor (possibly local estate agents) will gain visibility within your community and you’ll draw more people to the activity.
  • When the residents do make it to the activity, they can mingle with each other and learn more about the association and its benefits.
  • Send thank-you notes. When someone volunteers – in any capacity – say thanks. Knowing that the board or manager appreciates their involvement goes a long way. It also may start a chain reaction of positive publicity for the board.
  • Practise positive customer service. If a resident writes a letter, sends an email, or leaves a message, make sure that you reply within 24 hours, even if you don’t have a definitive answer yet. Let the resident know that you’ve received their message and that you’re working to find an answer – and give them a realistic time period during which you will respond. This does two things: it acknowledges their concern and it provides a realistic expectation of the time that it will take to get back to them. Sometimes, a perceived lack of customer service creates animosity between residents, board and management, and results in lack of resident participation in association-sponsored activities.
  • Hold board office hours. Have one or more members of the board available once a month to address residents’ concerns or questions. With a five-member board, this is only about two nights out of the whole year for each board member. This openness counteracts the rumour that boards are not open to input. Have the association’s governing documents, resolutions, and meeting minutes available just in case someone wants to see them. Again, this interaction shows residents that the board cares about the community and is open to new ideas. It also personalises the board, and puts faces to sometimes-infamous names.
  • Look for a reason to celebrate. Celebrate your association’s success. Celebrate holidays – big and small, traditional and quirky. It’s a great way to meet neighbours and get people enthusiastic about the community.
  • Sponsor association participation in community-wide events. Don’t limit involvement to the boundaries of your
    association. Encourage resident participation in local organisations, and send local officials and organisations your association’s newsletter and upcoming programmes.
  • Establish committees with meaningful responsibilities and clear charters. If people have defined roles and responsibilities with a goal in sight, they’re more apt to participate. Also, hold your social events at locations where people are already gathered. Have a pool party or a volleyball contest during operating hours. You might involve people who weren’t planning on it.

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