5 Ways to Build Community Spirit Through Your HOA Website
You want your homeowners association to do much more than simply confirm compliance with architectural covenants, collect HOA dues, and manage community affairs. Ideally, you want to promote the neighborhood spirit that distinguishes your community from other places. One of the easiest ways to facilitate that kind of spirit is to build a community website that eases many HOA tasks for administrators and residents alike and takes care of many complex, time-consuming functions. While you research HOA website software providers and before you choose one for your community, look for these five types of functionality in the software you select.
Protect member privacy
On homeowners association websites, perhaps nothing signifies your basic respect for your community more than the extent to which you protect the privacy of the personally identifiable information your residents entrust to you when they sign up for site access. That respect goes hand in hand with the security of your site itself. But beyond these basics, look for features that you can implement as private—and members only—or make publicly accessible.
Two of these must-have features include a member directory and an HOA board listing. Some communities include minimal information on each of these and make them public, but most homeowners associations prefer to keep these features private.
Beyond the overall reach of these listings, you also need to consider resident preferences. Some will want to share their contact information freely in the member directory. Others will prefer to remain unlisted. Still others will fall somewhere between fully visible and fully private, perhaps agreeing to share an e-mail address but not a phone number, or vice versa. Look for homeowners association website software that gives residents individualized control of each piece of their personal information so they can opt in if they choose and to the extent that they prefer.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
If you ask most residents what signals community spirit, they’ll point to leadership that communicates clearly, frequently, and transparently about issues that matter to them, and that provides ways for members to engage with one another in productive channels. To build that kind of open exchange for your community, look for a homeowners association website software provider that offers the types of communication features you can use to achieve these goals.
To post community news, an online bulletin-board-style newsfeed gives you an easy-to-use channel for timely updates. Ideally, your HOA website software offers you the option to enable or disable resident comments, as well as to determine whether to make individual posts visible to all members.
To promote conversation among residents, some communities turn to social media sites. Rather than force your members off your site to converse, look for a chat feature that you can secure as a members-only channel directly on your website.
When you need to announce new policies and procedures, provide updates privately, or send out messages that you don’t want to post as part of a newsfeed, you need filtered messaging that enables you to search for members who meet specific criteria and then send them an e-mail message—or a text, if they’ve opted in to receive them—about important matters.
Share special moments
Most homeowners associations make a point to share photos of community events or from member submissions. On a publicly accessible photo gallery, these types of images can make a big contribution to marketing efforts. In a gallery that only residents can see, members may feel more comfortable sharing images that provide a window into family life as well as community events. As you research homeowners association website software, prioritize providers that enable you to set up multiple galleries and control their visibility individually.
Simplify HOA administration
Depending on where you’re located, your homeowners association may face some fairly stringent requirements in terms of the range of documents it must make available to residents and to the public. Beyond actual requirements, you may wish to share other sources of information simply to make them more readily available to residents and eliminate the need to e-mail copies of digital files. Look for an HOA website software package with a document repository feature that places extensive control of document visibility in the hands of website administrators.
In virtually every community, homeowners association leadership spends a considerable amount of time ensuring that when homeowners want to add features to or remodel their property, the results comply with HOA rules and covenants. The back-and-forth communication itself often becomes time consuming, and if you depend on e-mail to track requests and replies, you quickly can lose track of who said what to whom.
As you research homeowners association website software, look for a provider that offers a built-in ticketing system. This type of convenience feature enables your residents to submit their requests through an online form, receive official responses from administrators directly through that ticketing feature, and keep all documents and correspondence together in one place. From initial request through final determination, whether a resident receives approval or a request is denied, all the information remains in one cohesive location, ideally with the ability for administrators to add private comments visible only to themselves.
Invite everyone to get involved
HOA committees give residents an opportunity to get involved in shaping the policies of their community. Look for homeowners association website software that enables you to designate some committees as open to anyone who applies, whereas other committees will require approval or even are accessible by invitation only.
Another way to share the responsibilities for homeowners association administration is through appointment of sub administrators. If your homeowners association website software includes this feature, you can give partial administrative access to individuals whom you designate as sub-admins. When these residents log in to your website, they can access specific, limited portions of the administrative back end so they can take care of select duties by delegation.
At HOAStart, we’d like to simplify your quest for the ideal homeowners association website software. We offer all these features and many more. Why not sign up for a free 15-day trial (no credit card required) and try out all our features for yourself?