5 Ways to Protect Your Community and Its Residents Online

As a homeowners association administrator, leader, or board member, you want to ensure that your residents enjoy a safe, trouble-free experience in your neighborhoods. When you choose the right HOA website software provider for your community, you can extend those protections all the way online, with abundant features that provide security and privacy throughout every page. That’s why it’s critically important to review all the features, options, functionality, and security provisions of any website software products you consider.

Easy, built-in, secure payments

Payment collection is an essential role for homeowners association administrators, and those who still labor under the limitations of manual systems feel—quite rightfully—that their processes get in the way of their productivity. If their websites don’t include the ability to accept secure payments online, then they only have two choices: attempt to add that functionality to their websites, or stick with old-fashioned processes, including e-mailed invoices and mailed payments.

But the process of adding online payments to an existing website brings up a long list of complicated tasks, including the need to validate security and negotiate with an online payment processor, who will demand a fee for every transaction it processes. In fact, by the time you investigate, evaluate, and select from among a range of options, you’ll wish that your website included payment processing as a standard feature. Sadly, many HOA website software providers do not include this feature, or if they do, they leave a considerable amount of customization for their customers to undertake.

Extensive individual privacy features

You want to supply your residents with extensive features and simultaneously protect their privacy in every possible way. Unless you’re confident that your HOA website software provider incorporates the security features you need, you may be left guessing as to how thoroughly you’re really protecting your residents. Along with overall protection, you also want to offer your residents the ability to make their own individual decisions about how much of their personally identifiable information they share on your website.

Some homeowners association website software providers offer blanket protection for resident information, but they don’t make it possible for residents to reveal or protect individual pieces of information. For example, on a member directory feature, some residents would prefer to share an e-mail address but not a phone number, or vice versa. Of course, on some HOA websites, you don’t have to worry about protecting this type of information because the site offers no member directory features at all.

Document security protections

Homeowners association generate a large volume of official documents, from covenants to board meeting minutes, and all of this information requires various levels of availability and protection. For example, some documents must be available to all residents, whereas others should be shared only with the members of specific committees or with the board itself. Rather than share documents manually by e-mailing them on request, or by printing them out and disseminating them at community meetings or by mail, the easy way to make important information readily available is to post it on your website for resident download.

Just as you want your residents to have access to these documents, however, you may prefer to keep many of these files away from public view. Unless your homeowners association website provider makes it possible to establish an online document repository in the first place—a feature that many of these software products lack—you don’t have to worry about protecting your documents. Ideally, you want the ability to make documents available to specific individuals or groups on a case-by-case or folder-by-folder basis, designating some files as publicly available and limiting others to a very narrow audience.

New-member signup options

You want new residents to be able to sign up easily and securely for full membership on your website, but you also want to exclude people who don’t qualify to join. Some communities actually do prefer to enable anyone who signs up to become a website member. Others prefer to add members by invitation, or by uploading member data directly through the administrative side of the website. In the best possible scenario, you can choose among all these ways to add new members, and still retain the option to screen prospects who sign up.

With an easy-to-use administrative dashboard, you can select signup methods, and change your policies if and when you need to do so. With a full range of options at your disposal, you can select the options that best suits your community, and not feel constrained by the setup of your homeowners association website software.

Privacy options for pages, functions, and features

To use your HOA website as a marketing tool that presents the advantages of your community to prospective residents, you need to leave at least some portions of the site publicly accessible. However, many areas should remain off limits to the public—but exactly which areas is a matter for each individual community to decide. Some homeowners associations prefer to make their event schedules accessible only to residents, for example, whereas other communities, especially those that stage large, truly public events, prefer a broader visibility for this type of feature. Similarly, some communities prefer to describe their amenities on a regular webpage and protect all aspects of amenity signup so only residents can view them.

Again, the ideal situation gives you the ability to designate these features as public or private, and to apply these settings to each document, page, or feature on an individual basis. Only your community and its HOA administrators can make these decisions, which is why you need the freedom to make these choices in the first place.

Have it all

Rather than spend hours on extensive online research into a long list of homeowners association website software providers, build a spreadsheet to make comparisons, and conduct a lengthy review, you can make this process very simple. At HOAStart, we offer you every one of the features we’ve described here, so you don’t have to decide which ones you want and base your website provider decision on those criteria. We understand how much homeowners associations need website software with flexibility, versatility, and in-depth functionality, and that’s why we build all these features into what we offer.