Having the right HOA communication tools can make all the difference in keeping your community in the loop. Having open, effective communication improves life in an HOA, because residents feel included. There’s nothing worse than being kept in the dark about what’s going on. Often, it’s not done intentionally, but it feels that way to the resident.
What Should You Do?
The board can take their pick of different HOA communication tools at their disposal, and they should choose more than one. That’s important because not everyone will want to get their information in the same way. Here, we’ll go through what channels they can use and what the pros and cons are to each one.
This is good for residents as it can be a one-stop-shop to find information on their community. However, it isn’t private, so you can’t share everything on your website. A website is an ideal HOA communication tool if it’s also where residents can log in to their members-only portal.
That way you can post images and public information on your website, which allows potential residents to see what the community is like. Then residents will have access to all of that, and be able to log into a back-end portal. There you can include members-only documents, residents will have a place to add maintenance requests and view their community directory.
The one downside is that older members of your community may not have a computer. Even if they do, they may not know how to use it well or go online often. This is why you should have another communication channel.
If you have a lot of elderly residents in your HOA, then calls may be a good option. Everyone (or almost everyone) has a phone, and calling is an excellent option in case of emergencies. However, it’s time-consuming because you could be on the phone for 20 minutes explaining something to a resident.
So, you could use software that allows you to type in your message and automatically call people. Then when residents pick up, an automatic voice delivers your message. This is less personal, and won’t work if a resident has a specific question but it’s a good option if you need to give a group of people the same message efficiently.
The calling software should tell you who picked up and who didn’t so that you know who you may need to follow up with.
Calls are a good option for older communities, but it’s not the most efficient way to give your community regular updates about what’s going on.
Emails are the best way to regularly send out information to your community, and let residents reply to you. Email can also be free, your board can set up an email account for free. They can send out notices from there without any cost. The main drawback to that is that residents can reply all without meaning to, which is messy and can be embarrassing.
If you’re willing to invest in emails, then you can make them more attractive and avoid the dreaded ‘reply all’ function. If you do choose to spend money on emails, then you’ll be able to see who opened your emails and clicked on any links you included. The other advantage to emails is that you can send different emails to different groups, or send them to individuals.
I mentioned groups above, as you could have groups for emails. You could also have a group on Facebook. This could be a group for the whole community or for specific clubs or committees. This is a good option if you’d like members of your community to have more say in what goes on or if you’d like them to talk to each other.
However, this can become a downside quickly if people start arguing. Having clear rules of use can be helpful if you’re concerned about that happening.
If your HOA has a lot of clubs or committees, then having groups on social media is a plus. This could be a closed Facebook group, or a group chat on iMessage, whatever works best for the members of the group. They aren’t so good for getting official HOA news out, but they are good for networking and getting people involved in community activities.
Texts can be linked to groups, as they might use a text message chain to chat. But texts can be used by the board to get some last-minute information out to everyone. For instance, if a tree has fallen but not caused any damage, sending a text is a good way to let people know. If it has caused damage, you may want to call!
Like calls, texts can take up time and become expensive. That’s why it’s good to use a text message service if it’s an HOA communication tool that your community likes. It will allow you to reach everyone with a cell phone quickly, and it lets them reply to you if they have any questions.
Texts are a good balance between calling people (which isn’t always popular if your community is younger), and emailing (not always ideal if your residents are older).
6. Hybrid Meetings
At Vinteum, we’ve noticed that this has become a trend. Depending on the situation where you live it might be possible to meet with a few people if you’re socially distanced.
However, getting a lot of people in one room isn’t possible anymore, so people are choosing to have semi-online meetings. That way residents can participate in the meeting without having to be physically present.
Online meetings are here to stay, so offering online or hybrid meetings is very important. If you’re a seasonal community, then it’s a huge advantage. Even if not people attend online, having that option there shows that the board is open and would like people to come to meetings.
A newsletter can be integrated with your website and emails, but it’s here as a separate point because it’s an important HOA communication tool. A monthly newsletter must include information that residents ask about, that could be events or maintenance, or paying dues. It must be of interest to your members or people will stop reading your newsletter. You should also include some images, and make sure to proofread!
After that, you should see how residents want to receive the newsletter, some people may want it printed out. If they do, then go for it! Ideally, everyone should get and read information from their HOA board. If some people don’t like getting emails, or calls, then a printed newsletter may hit the spot.
8. Online Portal
If you’re looking for an all-in-one system where you can send emails, calls, texts, and create chat groups then a portal may be for you.
Online portals also let you host online meetings, store documents, create your website, and much more.
This is the ultimate HOA communication tool, as there is software that was made for community associations. Depending on what you want from your portal, then you can also manage maintenance requests, amenities, create surveys, and pay dues.
Having a community portal can be a hub for everyone, if residents know that the board posts news regularly, that documents are there and they can talk to neighbors it will become the place everyone goes. Most portals also have an app, so you and residents can check what’s going on in the community on the go. It also ensures that everyone gets notifications on their phone which helps keep people up to date.
Whichever HOA communication tools you choose, make sure that you communicate with residents in the ways they prefer. You should also be in touch with members of your community regularly with open, honest, transparent information.