How Do We Change the Attitude of Homeowner Apathy in an HOA?
Homeowner apathy is a question we are asked by numerous Boards, and we can all agree, it is a universal problem. Board members should remember that the majority of people do inherently care about their association so they should not feel discouraged. Homeowners simply need certain pushes or opportunities to be placed in front of them as well as the right leaders to cultivate them. Apathy is an issue that we must, at least once, give a hard try to overcome, otherwise, all things will fall on the shoulders of the Board, and that is a recipe for burnout. This post will discuss how board members can give a valiant effort to lead their communities through the stagnant fog of apathy with the following steps:
- Talk to your Members: Whether you’re a new community getting started or an established community trying to revive itself, it all starts with engaging our membership. Now, we all know getting a quorum for an annual meeting is hard enough, so it is encouraged to think outside the box and utilize other mediums at your fingertips. Do you have a community website where a survey can be posted or email blast capability? Do a large group of your neighbors participate in a social media site such as NextDoor or Facebook where a survey can be done? When people see that you are interested in their input about their community, they will respond, especially when you make it convenient.
*Important note, be sure to explain the Board’s plan once the data is collected and communicate a reasonable timeframe for when the owners can anticipate follow up.
- Record your Responses: The worst thing you can do is ask for input and have members think you did nothing with it; so record your response. Not all responses will be helpful or even positive, as we all know every community has at least one of “those” neighbors, but take note of the suggestions that are reasonable and make sense. Be sure to thank people for taking the time to respond, which may sound simple, but this one gesture can go a long way in reinforcing to a person that they have been heard.
- Decision Time: Here comes your significant role as the Leader and where you can really “get it right.” The Board now must decide what suggestions/project/events they are going to focus on for the community and what type of committee this would fall under. Once the Committees are decided upon, the Board should type up a brief committee charter which will explain how they will enhance the community, layout their format on submitting requests to the Board and what they can expect from the Board in return. Remember - for any group of volunteers to be successful; they must fully understand their purpose, limitations, and goals because when they do not, you will lose them as fast as they sign up.
- Time to Follow Up: Now it’s time to follow up with your membership, and hopefully, you have done this within a reasonable time frame of 2-3 weeks of the survey results so as not to lose momentum. Use the same mediums to communicate and possibly even a printed mail out. The communication will be from the Board thanking each person for their participation, explaining the time and effort the Board has put into reviewing all the responses, analyzing the requests for feasibility purposes, etc. – and yes they do need to know the efforts the Board has put into this project, this all part of gaining volunteers as people will mirror their leaders. A brief description of each committee should be given as well as a listing of the pre-approved projects currently under each one plus a call for volunteers.
- Almost, but you are not done yet….So if this works as it should, you now should help your committees set up their first meeting, select a Chairperson(s) and explain they will be the point of contact for the Board and find out if they have any questions before sending them forth to prosper.
If, on the other hand, you still do not have enough volunteers, now is the time to put on your PR and Marketing hats. As leaders, your job is not over yet, and you need to give this one last try by pulling out the names of those people that shared the same suggestions that are being focused on and communicate with them directly. Ask them to be on or even chair the committee explaining to them how wonderful their idea was and how the community needs passionate and creative individuals like them. Make them feel important; everyone wants that, as a leader one of your jobs is to encourage and now is that time.
- Appreciate and Recognize: Whether it’s a simple certificate of thanks at your Annual Meeting or an Annual Committee Member dinner you put on, appreciate and recognize all of your volunteers as they are like the rest of us who need that validation to keep going.
This can be a lot to digest and ask of an association Board, but know that by the time apathy has set in, this is a process that is necessary if a community wants to resuscitate its volunteer base and keep it going for a long time to come.