How and why to set up an HOA website
If you run a homeowners association, you know that keeping members apprised of the latest changes in rules, as well as making it easy for them to sign up for amenities and events, is extremely important in establishing and maintaining goodwill in your community. At the same time, however, many other tasks benefit from centralized, easy-to-access coordination that speeds up members’ responsiveness to your requests for their input or participation. In fact, the easiest possible approach to all of these and still more objectives is to set up a website through which you can communicate with members, enable them to interact with each other, ask for their feedback, and deal directly with any and all situations that arise.
The Prefab Approach: Using Social Media as an HOA Website
You could try to accomplish these objectives through a social media website, using its pre-defined pages and functions to communicate with members, but eventually, you’re going to run into a situation in which the site fails to offer some functionality you really need, or members prefer not to sign up on the specific site you have chosen. “Why do I have to sign up there?” members ask you. “I don’t like that site,” or “I prefer not to join there.” Some of these concerns may have to do with concerns about privacy, given that serious privacy issues have arisen about some of these sites. In other cases, members simply may not want another social media subscription to manage. Regardless of why you receive pushback, if in fact you actually do, eventually, you’re going to want an online access point geared directly to your specific community, an online property that you can brand with your logo, and make accessible only to your members, if you so choose.
Setting Up Your Own Website
When you look into what’s involved in setting up your own website, you quickly discover that it involves a large number of decisions, payments, and other complications. For example you may need to sign up for a hosting account, for which you need to make monthly payments. You also may need to select a content management system, a theme to determine the look of your site, and make all sorts of decisions about how to set it up. Beyond these initial considerations, you now face constant maintenance tasks to ensure that your site files remain up-to-date, and that you apply any and all necessary protective measures to secure your site from hackers. And that’s before you think about how you are going to accept payments online. That involves setting up an account with a payment processor, potentially paying a percentage of every transaction to the payment processor, and dealing with an entirely new set of complicated decisions. Given that all you wanted to do was provide a vehicle for community engagement, not become a webmaster, this may start to seem like overkill.
Complications vs. Functionality
It’s easy to reach a point of frustration, and maybe even to think about giving up on the entire idea of setting up a website for your community. But when you think about how much easier so many of your homeowners association website tasks could be if you could communicate with members online, accept secure payments, skip the need to mail out newsletters and other communications, and make important documents available for direct download, all of it starts to look like it’s too important to give up on the idea.
Research HOA Website Providers
Instead of giving up on the idea of setting up a homeowners association website, what you need is an easier way to accomplish your objective. Now, instead of researching all the tasks involved in setting up a homeowners association website from scratch, you start searching for homeowners association website providers. You quickly realize that seemingly every provider you research offers its own unique set of features, and choosing which set of features offers you the most flexibility and the best communication options to deal with your members can start to feel overwhelming.
Choose Your Feature Set
Rather than simply look through lists of features, make your own list of the features that you find most important. Do you want an online line newsletter through which your members can communicate directly with each other? How important is online bill payment? Do you want to be able to manage community events, create a community calendar, and set up access to amenity reservations directly on your website? Would you like a social-media style-private messaging feature? Are you interested in being able to control the member sign-up process and authorize or refuse membership based on an application you can customize to request the information you want to acquire, or would you prefer to allow anyone who wants to enroll for membership on your site to do so automatically? Additionally, you want a provider that offers you the option of secure online payment without the need to sacrifice considerable percentages of the amounts you collect simply to cover payment fees.
Ideally, you find a homeowners association website provider that offers you all of the features you want initially and the option to add other features if you need them. In other words, you’re looking for a provider whose list of features is so exhaustive that anything you possibly could want is available through that provider.
Once you think through the features that interest you and identify the ones that are the most important to your membership, it’s time to think about the look and feel of the public site you will set up through this provider. Your members likely spend a fair amount of time going to online venues, and their sense of what a website should look like it’s probably fairly sophisticated. As you begin to narrow down your list of potential homeowners association website providers, look closely at the appearance and functionality of the site you would be able to establish if you decided to work with each one of these providers.
Making Your Decision
Of course, the cost of your website also is a factor, and you’ll need to compare providers to select the best balance of features, functions, and price. As you make your comparison, you will quickly find that HOAStart offers you an unbeatable combination of good looks, easy site administration, broad-based functionality and affordable price.