Want to guarantee happy condo owners? Five tips for improving board communication practices
Originally published in 2016. Revised in 2019.
No one ever complains about too much communication, but everyone complains about too little. Is it possible to get it right? Absolutely! Here are 5 tips that condos and HOAs can use to improve communications with owners and their property manager.
Forty-nine percent of condo owners complained about the lack of communication from their boards Condo Information Centre) data from 4,500 owners).
Every director on the board of a condo, HOA, cooperative or community association faces the same challenges. Expectations put on directors are very high and usually unrealistic. Everyone thinks directors are super heros and will do everything. Directors are unpaid volunteers, so directors and owners must be reasonable when setting expectations.
This does not excuse any board from doing a poor job, but everyone must understand that there is always more that could be done. The goal is optimization and not maximization. There will always be more that could be done, but the questions is – is the additional communication worth the extra cost, time, and effort.
So how to accomplish this task? Here are five simple ways to introduce a culture of transparency and clear communication in your condo.
Embrace a philosophy of transparency
Directors serving on the best condo boards make communications a priority and have internalized the philosophy that good governance includes communicating effectively. These boards know that openness and transparency come from good communication practices.
Make it a standard operating procedure to provide owners with all the condo’s records. The only exception is personal information about an owner, some contracts and possibly details about legal issues.
First Step: Set Expectations
Before even thinking about how to improve communications, it is useful to review the existing tools before considering any new ones.
The incremental benefit from each additional piece of communication declines. Thus, the goal is to optimize and not to maximize communications.
Some free tools are time-consuming but difficult to use, and some come with a cost and are very easy to use.
The best solution is the one that fits within a budget and is do-able. Deciding on a Cadillac solution on a bare-bones budget is not a sustainable solution.
- Use technology
Going digital is the only way. Yes, I’m slightly biased towards technology, but using technology saves time and money. No one has time to sift through boxes of paper files to find a report. Paper records are not safe from hurricanes, tornadoes, fires or floods. Digital backups ensure that records survive.
- Publish a condo newsletter
A newsletter connects owners with their board. Any one can write for a newsletter. is an excellent way to keep in touch with owners. Newsletters do not need to be masterpieces, lengthy tomes or produced with the latest and most fabulous design tools. What is important is that it gets done and sent on whatever schedule that was agreed in point 1.
An excellent newsletter gets finished. If it remains as a draft, no one knows if it is worthy or not. Just get it done and into the inboxes of owners.
If using email marketing software is of interest, here is a link to an industry review of tools.
I’ve seen excellent newsletters that are released once a quarter or even only once or twice a year. Newsletters can be time-consuming to prepare, so organize a newsletter committee of owners who volunteer to write them instead of trying to do all the work themselves.
If it is not possible to go 100% digital, then send what can be sent by email and print the rest. Printing and mailing is time-consuming so outsourcing the printing and mailing to a service provided by Optimal Outsource.
- Digital Notice Boards
Digital notice or message boards in a central location are a fantastic way to post news and last-minute reminders such as upcoming maintenance issues or the annual meeting (or AGM). It is easier for high-rise condos to find a central location, but townhouse complexes can usually find a common area where owners and tenants can go to find up-to-date information (look near the mailboxes). Makes old-fashioned cork bulletin boards go the way of the dinosaur unless there are no good options for a digital solution.
- Free Document Storage
Some boards use Dropbox or Google docs to store their records. This is often the first step taken in a transition away from paper. It can be used but it is not a system designed for boards of directors, adding and removing users can be tricky and time consuming, and folder systems are not the best way to make documents findable.
Websites are great ways to showcase your community to prospective residents, share photographs, create discussion forums, post news updates and provide a self-serve portal for owners to retrieve documents at their leisure.
- Cloud-based Software
The best solution is to use a cloud-based board management software like BoardSpace to upload and organize documents. Directors, owners, & property managers login and find information right in front of them.
By implementing these five best practices for improving condo board communication, you can promote a culture of transparency and openness that supports a great community.
If you have any questions about this checklist of best practices for condo boards, share them with us on Twitter @BoardSpaceinc #CondoBoardChecklist or our Facebook page.
Learn how to create an email campaign, add a digital message board and find out how BoardSpace organizes your documents.