HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas

042 | Better Community and Communication in Your HOA

February 26, 2024 Hosts: Robert Nordlund, Kevin Davis, Julie Adamen Season 1 Episode 42
HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas
042 | Better Community and Communication in Your HOA
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

To better community and communication in Your HOA, you have to be your own HOA marketing team!
 
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Robert and Julie this week talk about 3 things that will set you apart from other HOA boards: be consistent, be competent, and have thorough communication with your HOA community! Believe it or not, the moment you are elected as an HOA board member, you become the primary marketing team for your community.. Learn some tips and guidance to make sure your community becomes as well informed as it can be!

Chapters from today's episode: Better Community and Communication in Your HOA

00:00 consistent, competent communication for your HOA
02:41 Listener Question - How to improve board communication and coordination?
09:13 If you serve on a HOA, you’re in marketing!
14:10 Put Yourself in the recipient Shoes
16:22 Getting consistent messages monthly to community members
19:01 Ad Break - OurFIPHO.com
19:45 Concise and brevity in your HOA communication
21:47 Homeowners that are a thorn in your association 
24:08 Who Runs Your HOA communication? 
26:26 The rewards of a good HOA 

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Julie Adamen
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Kevin Davis, CIRMS
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Robert Nordlund, PE
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-nordlund-pe-rs-5119636/

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Julie Adamen:

consistent, competent communication that answers people's questions, the ones that are real that they have like, why do we have to do this? How am I going to pay for it? Do I have options to make payments for it? All of these kinds of questions, anticipate those? How would you feel if you were blindsided by a special assessment if you were not in the know as a board member, and then address those, the people in your community know truth, and they feel truth when they see it and when they hear it? And there is no way you can go wrong, purporting the truth or putting it out there.

Announcer: HOA Insights:

Common Sense for Common Areas exists to help all 2 million volunteer board members nationwide have the right information at the right time to make the right decisions for their future. This podcast is sponsored by four companies. They care about board members, association insights and marketplace, association reserves, community financials, and Kevin Davis Insurance Services. You'll find links to their websites and social media in the show notes.

Robert Nordlund:

Hi, I'm Robert Nordlund of association

Julie Adamen:

And I'm Julie Adelman, of Adam and eek. And reserves. we're here with HOA insights to promote common sense

Robert Nordlund:

for common areas. Well, welcome to episode number 42, where we'll be talking about community and communication. When we talk about communication. I think about the quote from famous playwright George Bernard Shaw, who said the single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Let's so for something that's complicated to start with. Yes. And you add volunteers who are not necessarily communicators, volunteer board members, and add skeptical or unhappy listeners, and you've got a recipe for a problem. Well, this is a follow up to an episode number 41. fascinating conversation I had with Attorney George Novak, that was supposed to be just a five minute answer. But George's depth of experience is so deep that it was a rich conversation that turned into a full episode. So if you didn't catch that episode, or any other prior episodes, take a moment after today's program to listen from our podcast website, Hoa insights.org, or watch on our YouTube channel. And remember to subscribe to this podcast on any of the more popular podcast platforms, so you don't miss any future episodes. We do enjoy hearing from you. So if you have a hot topic, a crazy story or a question you'd like to have, as addressed, you can contact us at 805-203-3130 or email us at podcast@reserve study.com. So Julie, to start today's program. Let's start with one of those listener questions. This one from Ron from Silver Spring, Maryland. We talk about business at the monthly meetings and that business is recorded in the meeting minutes. But it seems like nobody in the association knows what's going on. Are we doing the right things?

Julie Adamen:

Well, I would have to say, Yeah, you're doing one of the right things. And especially if you're doing your minutes correctly, that means there's not a lot of discussion in the minutes. And that it's basically motions approved. But people don't get a lot of information about that. And I think sometimes boards, they're so steeped in the information of what's going on in the community and what's you know, what's coming up what's been passed, that they forget that most people are barely paying attention, if at all, to what's going on in the community, or basically any type of information that's coming out, especially if you're just posting minutes or something. And they only pay attention when it directly affects them. For example, when the dues go up by 20% or so just as an easy one to to pick, but it could be also, we're gonna slurry the streets on Tuesday, and nobody knows it because they didn't read it. They didn't see it in the minutes. So yeah, you're probably doing part of the right things. But I think the big thing to understand and Robert, you and I've talked about this previously is that when you are on a board, it unfortunately and and many people aren't comfortable with this. But when you're on a board, you are in marketing, folks, I mean, whether you like it or not you are. So couple of things you always have to remember is that it takes about seven times in front of someone before they see it. I mean, that's kind of one of the first rules of marketing. So if you if you were whatever just a business, you had an advertisement, if that advertisement went out in a flyer that hits people's house seven times could be just once a month, so that could be seven months, then they just see the ad, it doesn't mean they really absorb it. So if you take that and extrapolate that out to the HOA world, that means that a board that's just sending out minutes or posting minutes somewhere, and it comes out once a month, it's seven months before someone recognizes those are even posted. And by that time they're months and months behind about what's going on, right. So this communication process has to be several wrongs and they have to be consistent and well done.

Robert Nordlund:

You know, you got me thinking that we're trying to promote, while obviously common sense for common areas, we're trying to promote well functioning communities. And I'm just thinking, if you do have a well functioning community, then perhaps the homeowners can relax. And they say everything's under control. Why should I read the meeting minutes? So how do you balance that between not creating a stir not creating news where there is no news? But how do you make it interesting enough? Or keep it interesting enough, so that the homeowners are encouraged or interested or have a reason to look at the meeting minutes? Well,

Julie Adamen:

I'm gonna say that's kind of a chicken and egg thing. I think everybody, the communities are more relaxed, more calm, when they know things are being well handled. And usually they get that well handled into you're in good hands, feeling because they feel the board is being open and communicative. It's when owners feel that the board is being secret, whether the board is or not, it's got we're talking perception is reality. Okay, whether when they feel like there's something secret going on behind those closed doors, and we just don't know, that's when communities start to fall apart, meaning that the photo was a the chi of the community start to fall apart then. So I believe, and I know it works, because I've been involved in many that have done this and turn themselves around as far as the feeling and the community goes, and the and the owners being for the board, instead of having that adversarial relationship with the board. And it all comes down to the amount of communication. Let's take an example, if you don't mind. So let's just say that there's going to have to be, because this is such a common thing, there's going to have to be a special assessment to reroute the clubhouse right? They just don't have it. Now boards that just sends the community a single notice saying, Oh, by the way, 20% special assessment coming up, you know, in three months or in a month, get used to it. I mean, that's kind of the attitude, are the ones that are going to create the torch and pitchfork crowd coming to the next meeting with their, you know, fire sticks and all that kind of thing. But boards that know this is coming down the pike and typically boards know this is coming down the pike. It's not like something that just sprung on them. Right? Let's say you have a three month lead time, that means what would I do if that was me to give everyone informed? I would send out blast email very well written, we could talk about that a little bit. I would send a blast email out to all the owners, I would do something also by snail mail. I would hold a town hall or two Yes, I know everyone grits their teeth when they hear that. But that openness and having someone there to talk to so if you had a town hall about a roof that's going to be replaced? Who would I have there? I'd have the board of directors there. I would also have the either the roofing contractor or a roof consultant. So let's just say they'd heard a roof consultant to go up and look at the roofs and say, Oh, yes, we need to do this. I would have the roof consultant there. And then I would also have if necessary Association council there to discuss the legalities because a lot of people think oh, my God, you know, you can't, you know, specialist SS X amount, or whatever it is. And when Council is there to reassure that means the board is open to talking to the owners, they brought in the appropriate experts for this particular problem. We have a roofing expert. And we have Association council to talk about the legalities of being able to especially assess this amount and how common this is. When you take this approach this multi pronged approach to communication. People have a tendency to absorb it and they're like, Okay, the board is being open. We were there. We could ask questions. They notified us in writing via email. And then we also got the notice in the regular mail. And now they're holding a town hall and oh, yes, they're holding another town hall, and another two weeks for the people who couldn't make the first one. So I know this is a lot of work boards. I know, believe me, I know. But it will make your life easier in the long run and your community will function better.

Robert Nordlund:

Now, Julie won't bring it back to what you said at the beginning. You're in marketing. But I think as a board member, they came in thinking maybe like I did that I

Julie Adamen:

Absolutely, it depends on you know, what's was serving my community. It was a need that needs to be filled. Maybe there's board members listening here who came in because they had a passion for a pet project. But I am with you so much. You're in marketing, you're not doing you're on a board. It's a committee. You're working for the association. So it is a community wide thing and you've got to reach out to the community. But when you were talking about it, I started writing notes. You use the word multipronged, you said emails, snail mail, town hall, and then I was at a board meeting last week, walking through the lobby, and there was a box full of baked goods and doughnuts right next to it with notes, like things you need to know, next week here at our association blank. And so the food got everyone's eyes and whether people took the food or not. I went over there to see what they're talking about. They had a notice in the lobby. Yeah. And also, in this day and age, I wonder if the board could do a quick zoom meeting, record it, and then have a link so people can listen to it at their convenience, maybe summarize it down to this needs to happen at this point in time, the paving of the East parking lots, we're going to close that parking lot off, everyone for one week will need to park in the West parking lot, things like that. Just quickly explain it. And so helping people feel that this is our community, and then hopefully, crossing my fingers here. The owners say thank goodness for our board, who was handling things. And as for our board, who is telling us what's going on? whatever your community is, I think that's the thing about the donuts, it's a great, especially for a high rise situation where everyone has to go through the lobby, that works really well. And I would say to people, don't be afraid to get creative about it. But my next advice would be this, this shouldn't be just a one time thing, when some big thing is going to happen in the community. There should be regular, consistent communication going out to the members to the owners, every month, at a minimum, I mean, and sometimes twice a month. I mean, with obviously with technology, you can eblasts things out that people need to hear. But I would say, you're always going to have to have some sort of a newsletter, or you're going to send email with a link to the newsletter page on the website, or whatever it is just depends on what your community can do, or what type of community it is. I know people don't like to write necessarily for the newsletter. And also, maybe they're not the most outgoing person and certainly don't want to be on a zoom, or ATM or talk to a whole group of people. But it will fall to you to do at least some of this I like if you don't like to talk to everyone, if you're shy, and you have another board member who's a little more gregarious, and they don't mind talking to everyone, maybe you this board member doesn't like to talk, maybe you do the writing for the newsletter summarizing what has happened, the minutes are really good. And most states you have to post them or send them out or make them available somewhere along the line. But that only gives a little snapshot. But when you want to add context to what has to go on, which I really advise that you do add context to what is going on, then you're going to have to step up and give that information to the elders just the way you would like to receive it. And that was one of the thing I want to talk about is that when you are going to send something out in writing a newsletter, eblasts, whatever it is like that. Or even if you're going to speak in front of people at a town hall, what you want to do is before you sit down to type at your keyboard about it or before you go to that town hall, you need to put yourself in the recipients shoes. So if you were the owner, and you're not on the board, and you're like Okay, I'm coming to this town hall and I don't know what's going to happen, but I hear they're gonna special assess us think to yourself, how would I feel if I was in their shoes? I mean, this is something brand new. I've never heard about it before. And so what kind of information would I want? If I was, you know, if I was being confronted with, especially something that's going to cost me money, what do I want to hear? And if you put yourself in their shoes, then you'll be able to at least give yourself some what have an outline of what you're going to talk to owners about even in a live situation or in a newsletter situation. And what you always want to do is give them some context, you want to let them know what experts you've talked to whether it's legal, a Roof Contractor, whatever it is that appropriate to the situation. What how many bids the board got people always want to know, are you taking the best bid, how many bids you got and and the communication that went out. And you know, everyone will have a tendency to they may not like it, but they'll have a tendency to calm down and have an feel like they're in good hands because the board touched all those places that I had concerns about and they answered them fairly well. And they tried to communicate that more than one way townhall newsletter eblast whatever it is, so that that's an empathy thing. Put yourself in the recipient shoes, and you really can't go wrong. And that will also give you a guide for what to write about or what to speak about.

Robert Nordlund:

Yeah, I'm smiling because I was chatting with one of our other regular co hosts, Kevin Davis. They're talking about a webinar he was doing and he was just telling me about what the topic was. And he was bouncing the idea off his wife and his wife said no, that's too boring During and just very simply get that feedback and that push them a different direction that made it a whole lot better as a board member, you probably know too much. And you've got off, you've got to bounce your talking points. Yeah, off a spouse, a friend, parents, your kids, just to say, Okay, have I simplified my measures? Have I directed my message? What do you want to know what and they'll poke and find out the whys that you haven't clarified. And you can get that message a whole lot clearer that it's fascinating how well at at Association reserves we talked about to or project managers, you've got to get on the other side of the desk, because you know too much about this reserves that you're preparing. What does the client need to hear? Yeah, get on the other side of the desk, get around your desk, sit in the guest chair. And think about what you've just written. That whole idea of perspective, you're the communicator, and you've got the recipient, the recipients busy. And why why would they care? And part of it is, like you said, the repetition like, why we see the same as on TV all the time, because repetition works. And then getting that consistent message across and doing it in a way that you've basically trained your homeowners that maybe you have a what you need to know this month, maybe it affects it, maybe it doesn't, we're going to trim the trees, second week in black, or the grocery store is having a sale on something, whatever it is that can affect your neighbors, train them that something is useful, something is helpful. Is that what you're talking about with the repetition? That's

Julie Adamen:

exactly what I'm talking about. Now, as you know, and maybe some of the viewers know, I recently moved to a ginormous homeowner's association north of Tucson, Arizona. And this is there's a 5000 units here. And there's two associations. But it's interesting because there is so much communication that comes out, I live in HOA one. And you get you get email message. I mean, I must get something daily. But of course, we have golf courses and restaurants and all this stuff. So there's a lot going on tons of clubs. But I probably get something once a day from HOA one via email, they send out their own HOA one new act, it's actually a newspaper, believe it because it's the place is big, right? And then HOA too. I don't know what they do as far as the personal communication, but HOA one and two come together and put out a really big newspaper once a month. So all the overall the overall because we're all on a reciprocal, everything's reciprocal. So but they come together and put that I mean, there's so much information that comes out that you you couldn't say, Oh, I didn't know about that. Because if you didn't, you didn't read anything. I mean, or you just thought you just chose not to pay that much attention to it. And of course, if you go on nextdoor.com, like all your board members know what that is? Of course you do. If you're thinking there's a lot of uninformed people, for a place, that sends out a lot of communication, but you're always gonna have that to some degree. So don't feel like the Lone Ranger, but consistent, competent communication that answers people's questions, the ones that are real, that they have, like, why do we have to do this? How am I going to pay for this? Do I have special assessments? What I'm talking about? How am I gonna pay for it? Do I have options to make payments for it? All of these kinds of questions, anticipate those? How would you feel if you were blindsided by a special assessment if you were not in the know, as a board member, and then address those as calmly and as professionally as possible? And if you've done your work appropriately, meaning you've gotten the right expert input, you've gotten the right amount of bids, et cetera, et cetera. You know, people know truth when they see it. They really do. There's always a couple psychos who may not, but overall, the people in your community know truth, and they feel truth when they see it and when they hear it. And there is no way you can go wrong. purporting the truth or putting it out there. Fantastic.

Robert Nordlund:

Well, let's take a quick break. At this point in time for a message from our sponsor, I want to come right back and follow up on a couple of things of what you just said. But at this point in time, we'll take a quick break.

Paige Daniels:

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Robert Nordlund:

and we're back. Julie, we're speaking about the communication I wrote down consistent, competent. And in my brain. I'm also thinking concise because if you've got, as you said a newsletter or a magazine newspaper that's coming out On a daily basis for a busy person, that's what we call here. TLDR too long didn't read it talk to me about concise and brevity. Yes.

Julie Adamen:

So if you are in the age group that Robert and I are in, we call, we prefer to call ourselves classic, not old, or classic. But you're you're more used to reading things that are longer. But the truth is that, in today's world, people are so busy, or they simply do not have the attention span to read something really long. So if you are trying to get a lot of information out in a short spot, usually I would tell you to use bullet points, you know, here's what's happening on this date, you know, slurry seal, what's going to be closed X, you know, the who, what, when, where high bullet points and let it ride any questions, and then ask our manager, assuming you have one at the moment, and then just a full click through, they can click through and ask, and or look at the website and put a click through on there. People don't read stuff like that, if you can't say it, and I don't know, 500 words. 600 words, people are just gonna, their eyes are gonna glaze over, and they're gonna move on to something different. Now, you may say,

Robert Nordlund:

Yeah, I would even say a pair, one paragraph, one paragraph. Yep. Otherwise, it's like, yeah, you've got to, and if you can't see what it is, and for more information, you can go here, but you've got to tell them parking lot is going to be closed on the west side on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, weather permitting. You

Julie Adamen:

Yes. And again, believe if you have to send out a quick a blast, reminding people bullet points, six or seven that they can just absorb. And that's it. And no one can accuse the board of not telling anyone I've Well, we did email, it's on the website, we push it to the website through an E blast. I mean, that's you've done all that. And maybe they still didn't see it, but you did your best. Yep,

Robert Nordlund:

I like, okay. You also said, a couple of cycles. That's real. I was like, Yes, we did a how do we deal with that? Let's go down, hopefully, brief path. I had a board meeting yesterday online board meeting where it was being derailed by one person that was disruptive, contrarian to everything everyone else was saying. And the whole thing was people appreciated that this person was a known contrarian. And they let this person have their say, they were kind they were respectful. But in my opinion, seems like there is a fraction of people out there or percentage of people out there that maybe should not be in community associations. They don't function well. They don't play well with others. I've got to be real careful here, because we have homeowners here listening to this podcast in addition to board members, but for the board members out there, I think when you do appreciate that there is a my guess three to 5% 3%. I'd say three, yeah. Three of homeowners that are just going to be a difficult

Julie Adamen:

Thorn. They're gonna be Thorn, always. Yeah. But don't

Robert Nordlund:

run your association for the 3%. Run your association for the 97%. Is that fair?

Julie Adamen:

Absolutely. That's fair. You have to let me ask you, the person that you're talking about? Are they a board member? No. Okay, so they're a homeowner. And it's a Zoom meeting or a team's meeting, right? A lot of people, board members, managers. Now they kind of like those zoom meetings, because when you have that contrarian, and they've had their say, then you can put the mute button on, and you don't, then you can control that I live meetings, you can't do that so much. But there are some ways to handle people that are are being a big pain and very disruptive at a meeting. So at a live meeting, but yeah, and, Robert, you're absolutely right. Okay, let's

Robert Nordlund:

do that in a future meeting. Yeah, no. podcast. Yeah, no, I

Julie Adamen:

got better. Yeah, you're absolutely right. They can't they have to run it for the 97% not the three,

Robert Nordlund:

right. Yeah, this person in this case was saying that you're always spending my money. You're always raising the homeowner assessments. And I'm thinking that's exactly what the board's supposed to do. They're supposed to spend your money to take care of the property. And they've got to be raising the assessments to keep up with inflation. And have you not heard?

Julie Adamen:

Yeah. Have you been at the grocery store lately?

Unknown:

That's

Robert Nordlund:

it. That's it. So we've talked about communication. We've talked about multi pronged email, snail mail, website, town hall, lobby, recorded message, be creative, however, how are you can do it. It's got to be enough information but concise short enough that they read it. Talk about food from pros and cons of MC from the manager and the management company, or from the board who who has the message?

Julie Adamen:

Well, I think the board overall has the message, but it really would depend on the association, the community, the board and the management company, if they have a management company or I think large scale on site places typically have a manager who could handle that if you are being managed professionally by a portfolio manager that you have that manager but that manager also manages 5678 other properties I think that's a little difficult. And I think that the gist of all of that communication should be board generated, obviously, the manager has to be brought in because they need to know what you're going to say and what's going on. And maybe they have some influence.

Robert Nordlund:

Don't say

Unknown:

that. Yeah. Why did you do that?

Robert Nordlund:

You don't have the legal authority to say that.

Julie Adamen:

Yeah. But obviously, I do think a lot of that's the board responsibility, again, especially in the portfolio situation, or if you are self managed, meaning you are the board managing, you have no one else to go to manage in the community. And in a portfolio situation, typically, the management company will charge extra for the manager to, to write the newsletter. And I don't know that that's that big a deal. But I like to see the information come from the heartbeat, and you guys are the heartbeat as the eye. That's just what I like to see. Yeah,

Robert Nordlund:

I can't agree with you more. The working title for this podcast episode is community and communication. And I think we want to promote community. It's ABC homeowners association, it's our community where the board, if you push it off to the management company, you are, I believe, working against yourself, because you're making yourself sound like an apartment that's being managed by some outside entity, and you lose the heartbeat. And I love that idea of heartbeat. Julie, as always, it's great talking with you. I love. It's a fascinating conversation. Any closing thoughts to add at this time?

Julie Adamen:

Well, you know, I want to tell all your board members out there and it's some of you who've been listening to this podcast with me on it know that I recently, before I moved down here, I sat on two boards at once. So I was crazy. But you know, it's tremendously rewarding. When you see the housing prices were of the community that you are in the housing prices, either, you know, go up and you see that the community is well run, and the lawns are mowed, or in my case, the rocks are mowed, where we are out in the desert. But wherever you see it, I mean, I look at the community I live in, it's obviously very well run. And but when I was on the boards, the communities were well run. And I gotta tell you, people, they don't appreciate how hard you work to make that happen. So give yourself a pat on the back and understand that if your community is not getting too many complaints, the place looks fabulous and and prices are staying steady or up. You're doing a really, really good job. And I want to thank you for it because not many other people will and don't run off the board. Go ahead and stay on there for a while longer. Fantastic.

Robert Nordlund:

Well, Julie, thank you very much. We are here to encourage and equip our board member audience. We hope you'll learn some more HOA insights from our discussion today that helps you bring common sense to your common areas. We look forward to having you join us for another great episode next week.

Announcer:

You been listening to HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas, you can listen to the show on our podcast website, Hoainsights.org, or subscribe on any of the most popular podcast platforms. You can also watch the show on our YouTube channel. Check the show notes for helpful links. If you like the show and want to support the work we do, you can do so in a number of ways. The most important thing that you can do is engage in the conversation. leave a question in the comment section on our YouTube videos. You can also email your questions or voice memos to podcast@reservestudy.com Or leave us a voicemail at 805-203-3130. If you gained any insights from the show, please do us a HUGE favor by sharing the show with other board members that you know. You can also support us by supporting the brands that support this program. Please remember that the views and opinions expressed by the podcast do not constitute legal advice. You'll want to consult your own legal counsel before making any important decisions. Finally, this podcast was expertly mixed and mastered by Stoke Light Video & Marketing. With Stoke Light on your team. You will reach more customers with marketing expertise that inspires action. See the shownotes to connect with Stoke Light

Consistent, competent communication for your HOA
Listener Question - How to improve board communication and coordination? 

If you serve on a HOA, you’re in marketing!
Put Yourself in the recipient Shoes
Getting consistent messages monthly to community members
Ad Break - OurFIPHO.com
Concise and brevity in your HOA communication
Homeowners that are a thorn in your association
Who Runs Your HOA communication?
The rewards of a good HOA