5 Ways to Optimize Your Homeowners Association’s Resident Data
Your residents are the lifeblood of your community. To engage them more effectively and take good care of the business of your HOA, capture and organize member data so you can make optimal use of what you know about the people who live in your neighborhoods. Use these five approaches to data gathering and analytics to help you maximize resident involvement—especially through the website you use to help conduct HOA affairs.
As communities grow and evolve, responsibility for gathering resident data can pass through many people’s hands. The result can be a collection of very differently organized files that make it difficult to pull all your records together into one cohesive document. Not only that, but variations in the way you record certain types of information can make your files even more challenging to organize.
If your files already are a bit…untidy, it’s time for some digital cleanup. If your community is new and just beginning to record its member information, it’s time for preventive setup.
For example, as data files grow, record keeping can vary enough that some addresses show the full name of the state and others only use the two-letter abbreviation popularized by the U.S. Postal Service. Some entries may be in all caps. Others may be missing essential data, such as a ZIP Code or an area code. Addresses may spell out directionals and suffixes—north, south, Street, Avenue, and so on—some of the time, and abbreviate them in various ways on other records.
These sound like picky little details—until they’re the reason your data aren’t cohesive. To make sure you maintain consistency, set up a quick list of rules for entry, complete with examples that make your expectations absolutely clear.
Break it down
It looks so much easier to enter first, middle, and last names into one column of a spreadsheet than to break up the information into separate columns. Likewise, it may be tempting to enter street address, city, state, and ZIP Code into a single column. But in the real world of data integrity, you want those pieces of information divided up into their most significant units, each in its own column.
If you enter an entire name into one spreadsheet cell, how can you search for multiple people with the same last name? Similarly, if you enter an entire address—or even just the city, state, and ZIP Code—into one cell, how can you search for people in a specific location? This becomes especially important—and problematic—if many of your residents treat your HOA as a second home and maintain a separate primary residence that serves as their contact and billing address.
Additionally, the software that powers homeowners association websites can offer you the ability to import your member data directly into their system, but if your data aren’t organized the way their import file expects them to be, your options may be limited—or you’ll have to divide up and re-organize your data to match.
Anticipate your data
Beyond basic personal details and simple geographical information, you may need to accrue other data about your residents. These can be as simple as the number of pets, parking spaces, or boat slips for an individual family, or as complex as lot designations and build phase numbers. You also may want the ability to add informational tags that identify specific roles your residents fulfill.
As you plan for the stability and viability of your neighborhoods, look ahead to think through and capture the new kinds of information you’ll need to acquire from your residents. Set up your member-data spreadsheet to accommodate these categories before you need to fill in the information. In other words, plan ahead for what you’ll need to know so you have a mechanism at the ready to store the data. While you’re at it, look for a homeowners association website software provider that enables you to customize your resident input form so you have a place to store each and every important, unique detail.
Stay ahead of your community members
If you’re entering your member data incrementally as new people move in to your community, it’s essential that you keep up—and if you choose the right website software to power your homeowners association’s website, you won’t even need to type in the information at all. That’s because you’ll be able to import your resident data when you create your website, transferring the information from your in-house records to a template that you download from the administrative area of your website.
Look for a software vendor whose application also gives you easy access to download your member data—and that enables you to customize the input form each prospect must complete to achieve website membership so you can require and obtain the information you need for analytics and more.
Back up and protect your information
Even the best-kept records do you no good if you don’t secure and maintain them. The old observation that a file isn’t backed up unless it’s store in three separate places that aren’t under the same roof holds true for all types of essential records. Your website can serve as a primary backup of the information you enter about your residents.
Of course, it’s important to make smart decisions about how you delegate responsibilities for the resident data in your care. For one thing, you don’t want a long list of people making updates, because that’s a prescription for potential mistakes and accidental duplicates. It’s also essential that anyone with access to website member data use smart privacy practices to avoid jeopardizing their computer system and its files.
Choose your tools so they advance your mission
Along with how you prepare, organize, maintain, and protect your member data, it’s essential to ensure that all your tools help you maximize your efficiency when it comes to how you collect and acquire that information. Chief among those tools should be the software that runs your website.
Instead of a do-it-yourself approach to website creation, choose a website software provider that understands, anticipates, and accommodates the unique needs of homeowners associations like yours. At HOA Start, we’ve designed and built our website software to ensure that you have the right capabilities for the success of your community, including the toolset you need to track and manage your resident data efficiently.