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Using Better Communications to Attract Community Leaders

Posted by Bob Gourley on April 17, 2014 in Communication |

By Bob Gourley

Excellent community governance is the difference between a good community and a great one. Poor community governance can lead to the downfall or outright collapse of a community association. Finding and keeping qualified and interested volunteers within your community is a real challenge. Are you using your communication tools to help with this daunting task?

Is there a more difficult story to share with your fellow homeowners than the story of governance? How many times have you heard about the Board needing volunteers for this project or that committee? How often have you heard about a seat on the BOD going vacant for lack of interest? Used properly, your community newsletter and website can be a crucial tool in finding and developing your community’s future leaders.

Rarely, have I heard stories about an outstanding BOD President whose first involvement with community leadership was serving as BOD President. While there are instances where a community seems to “magically” find new leaders, it has been my experience that the best-run communities actually “grow their own” leaders. They involve community members in projects and cultivate their residents to become their future community leaders. In more vital communities, Board Members are tasked with finding future leaders from the moment they join the Board themselves. This is an excellent strategy for long term governance success.

Altruism aside, public recognition for a job well done is very motivational for most individuals. While it may not be the same as making the front page of the New York Times, being written about in the pages of a community newsletter is rewarding to those being written about. It also inspires others to contribute as they seek the same recognition for themselves. It’s just human nature to want to do well and be recognized for a job well done.

The uninformed remain the uninvolved. If you are not using the resources available to you to tell your story well, you will likely have poor results in finding new leaders. If you find that your community is lacking in leadership prospects, take a look at how you are communicating with those potential leaders. If the only communication with the typical homeowner is to remind them to send in their common fees, pick up their pet’s waste, and stop parking in the fire zones, you can’t be too surprised when they don’t volunteer to be a part of the community leadership efforts.

The well informed become the most involved. If you learn how to project a positive image within your community, you are much more likely to succeed in finding volunteers who want to be a part of that success. Most communities take on tremendous challenges and they do so in the form of volunteer efforts on the parts of Board Members and Committee volunteers. You need to tell their story and celebrate their achievements.

Your regularly scheduled communications should have at least one volunteer success story each and every issue. You should also routinely ask for new volunteers for existing and future projects. The worst thing that could happen is that you will have told a positive story and rewarded a volunteer for their efforts. The best thing that could happen is that you will find success has inspired another volunteer to come forward. That new volunteer is likely to get active and stay active. That may just be how you find your next Landscape Committee member, who also joins the Board and two years later becomes Board President. At least, that’s how it happened for me…

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Informing Unit Owners About Painting Projects: A Colorful Story!

Posted by Bob Gourley on April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized |

By Bob Gourley

Five years ago, my HOA decided to take on the project of changing colors and painting all 20 units in the association. We are a modest community consisting of four buildings built back in the late 1970’s. Brown on brown was the original color palette and the board decided that those colors were not truly reflective of the nautical nature of our Long Island Sound shore side community. The challenge of changing color palettes was tricky but with a proper action plan to aid us, we were able to win over most residents and pull off a smooth transition.

The first order of business was involving the unit owners. Over the years, owners had seen their buildings painted several times. For a brief time, before I was a member of this community, the buildings were painted a shade of brown and grey that I can only describe as the color of an army barracks. Apparently, the painting contractor “got a deal” on some surplus paint that the sitting board agreed to let him apply for a discounted price. That was a bad idea that cost a few board members their seats and a mistake the current board would not repeat. We set out an action plan to assure success. Here’s what it looked like:

  • Announce the building painting project
  • Inform unit owners
  • Select colors
  • Inform unit owners
  • Send out bids for work
  • Inform unit owners
  • Hire contractor
  • Inform unit owners
  • Plan the work with the contractor
  • Inform unit owners
  • Get status reports from contractor
  • Inform unit owners
  • Finish job and Celebrate!
  • Inform unit owners

You may have noticed a step that was repeated throughout the project. Informing the unit owners is the single most important step to assuring a successful painting project. While the contractor was only on property three days applying the paint, more than 12 months went into the plan and execution of the painting project.

Thrusting a painting project upon owners without their consent and involvement is a sure way to thwart your painting project’s success. Even if every other aspect of the project goes smoothly and as planned, if you fail to inform and involve unit owners, you will very likely have freshly painted buildings and freshly minted animosity towards the board and manager for not properly communicating all aspects of the project.

I should point out that this painting project was a major financial undertaking for the community, as I expect a project of this scope would be for any community. We took a potentially divisive issue and used it to unite the unit owners. We also purchased a new entry way sign to reflect the new colors and nautical theme of the buildings. Painting buildings gave us better curb appeal; communication and involvement between board and unit owners gave us a better community.

Bob Gourley is founder of MyEZCondo, a communications firm that produces newsletter and website content material for condominiums and homeowner associations throughout the USA. He also serves as board president of his local HOA.

As originally appeared in CondoManagement Magazine

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When a Community Has No Newsletter…

Posted by Bob Gourley on April 14, 2014 in Communication |

By Bob Gourley

A colleague recently asked for comments on a communication issue within an HOA. A non-Board Member volunteer offered to create an electronic newsletter for the community. Here are my comments.

I have been publishing community newsletters since 2004, paper and electronic. May I assume that part of this person’s request comes from a lack of an existing community newsletter? If so, I would suggest that the Board begin producing regularly scheduled newsletters either on their own or (pardon the plug) via an outside firm, such as MyEZCondo.

Whether the newsletter is hard copy and/or electronic is secondary to the importance of keeping residents informed of the important decisions being made on behalf of their community.

As a BOD president, I would like to echo Ruth’s sentiments of accepting volunteer help any day. In fact, there are very few BOD members that didn’t begin their service as volunteers for their communities. Today’s volunteer is likely to be tomorrow’s active BOD member, maybe even the future president. I wrote an article for Condo Management magazine that addresses much of the issue. If anyone is interested, the full PDF is on my website – http://www.myezcondo.com/News-Feb05.pdf

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Manager Licensing and Your Community; A Story Worth Telling

Posted by Bob Gourley on April 11, 2014 in Uncategorized |

By Bob Gourley

I have had the honor of serving on the Legislative Action Committee for CAI-CT for a few years now. I have watched various bills come and go, insurance regulations debated, the implementation of the Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA), and much more during my stay on the committee. No bill has had me more optimistic about the future of Connecticut’s community associations than the Manager Licensure bill. It is a major step forward in protecting communities and the professionals that manage them all across the state. Even if your community is self-managed, this important legislation will have an impact on you. It is a story your community association members should hear and they should hear it from you.

In the past, just about anyone could apply for a community association manager license in our state. There were no educational requirements or professional licensure maintenance standards. The license could be revoked by the state but there was little in the form of prequalification to attract qualified applicants to the license. That doesn’t mean previously licensed property managers were unqualified. It simply means they weren’t required to prove their qualifications. All of that has changed with the implementation of the new law. And that’s good news for condominiums and the professionals who manage them.

The National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers (NBC-CAM) was created in 1995 by the Community Association Institute (CAI). CAI created the program in response to a need for stringent professional standards of community association management. Prior to the State of Connecticut requiring certification by NBC-CAM for community association manager licensure, several other states had already recognized NBC-CAM certification as the “gold standard” by which community association managers were judged. In 2012, only 74% of the applicants passed the initial exam, meaning more than 1 in 4 candidates were denied the opportunity to become licensed because they failed to achieve the required score on their examination test. Certification from NBC-CAM is no easy task. It requires coursework and dedication to learning best practices with regards to community association management. I commend our state legislature for taking this giant step forward in elevating the profession and the management standards for our state’s many community associations.

At the local level, this means that, in short order, licensed property managers who have not already done so will need to earn their certification from NBC-CAM. If you are not certain if your property manager is NBC-CAM certified, you should ask at once. If they are not certified, ask them if and when they will be. If they have no intention of becoming certified, you may need a new property manager. While experience counts, certification matters. The investment of time and money required to become certified by NBC-CAM isn’t just the law; it’s a commitment to a property manager’s clients that their manager is fully trained and maintains that training with ongoing continuing education as outlined by NBC-CAM.

NBC-CAM has provided an online search tool to help communities find property managers with certification. Point your web browser to http://www.nbccam.org/hiring/search.cfm and begin your search. Hiring a credentialed property manager has always been a best practice supported by CAI. In Connecticut, it’s now the law. When you hire a NBC-CAM certified property manager, you have employed a best practice for your community. That’s a story worth telling to all of your residents so they know that they are in capable and certified hands when it comes to their community’s management.

(Editor’s Note: NBC-CAM is now known as CAMICB. More information is available at http://www.camicb.org/)

 

 

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Community Communications in the Age of CIOA Revisions

Posted by Bob Gourley on April 11, 2014 in CIOA, Communication, Newsletter |

By Bob Gourley

Community Communications in the Age of CIOA Revisions

I have had the opportunity to moderate numerous discussions between community association attorneys and concerned members of Boards of Directors from condominium associations about the impact of the revised Common Interest Ownership Act, commonly known as CIOA (pronounced like the state of “Iowa” with a hard “K” in front of it). In the state of Connecticut, it will impact nearly every common interest community in one way or another.

My primary business is producing newsletters and communication products for community associations. While CIOA does not specifically address newsletters and websites, it is clear to me that the spirit and intention of the law is to shed light on the business proceedings of the governance of condominium and community associations. Many of the provisions of the bill are designed to give homeowners access to records that are kept by the association, and, in particular those records kept by the Board of Directors, their appointed committees, and the firms that manage their properties or act on behalf of the association’s members.

I have long held to the position that a well-informed association is a content association. I have also openly declared the need for communities to have regularly scheduled newsletters, notices, website updates, and other methods of communication. It is clear to me that this new legislation also supports these ideals. It is not enough to serve in earnest on the Board of Directors. Top-notch recordkeeping and timely dissemination of important information to all association members is no longer a favor to offer. It is a legal requirement that could bring dire consequences if ignored.

To that extent, I encourage my fellow condominium Board Presidents and Members to strongly embrace the idea of openness. Not just as a requirement of law but as a best practice in governing. You volunteered to govern your community. You were elected to serve in the best interest of all residents. You should have no problem with having the “light of day” shine brightly on your governance. In fact, I would encourage you to embrace it and understand that communicating with your fellow condominium association members is an excellent way to gain consensus on projects, open yourself to new possibilities, and even foster an environment where new volunteers come forth to serve.

I acknowledge that new laws can be challenging. At 58 pages and counting, fully comprehending the new CIOA legislation is a daunting task and may best be left to your community association attorney. However, you can embrace the spirit of the law and give yourself an advantage in governing at the same time. If you don’t already have a community newsletter, there has never been a better reason to start one. If you do already have a community newsletter, there has never been a better time to give a good looking over and make sure that it is as CIOA-friendly as it should be.

You should evaluate your distribution channels as well. Newsletters and notices that are mailed to members are CIOA compliant. Website postings and emails can be CIOA compliant but open you up to the possibility of lawsuit if not received by your intended recipient. For me, that means I will continue to use email and website postings for general information disclosure but my newsletter and meeting minutes will be mailed as well. I would rather communicate too much than risk having a member sue my association for not properly disclosing information.

I am interested in your thoughts on the matter. I have posted this article on the MyEZCondo blog at www.myezcondo.com. Visit the site and search for “CIOA” to find this post. Tell me about your community’s communication challenges in the age of CIOA and how you intend to cope. Great communication efforts begin with a single conversation.

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