More and more bits and pieces of everyday living are moving onto the internet, so it was only a matter of time before life in homeowner associations and community associations moved online, too. While some associations have voiced concerns over the legal implications of moving their financial operations to the web, experts in community living have agreed that a website that limits its users’ ability to post and provides different levels of access to different community members can provide a wealth of other benefits. Creating a digital space for the members of your Association — whether to catch up on what they missed at the last community meeting or download some vital information on a major construction project in the community — is a simple way to connect community members with the board, other community members, and the outside world at large.
Creating and maintaining an active website for your community is one of the easiest ways to distribute information to every community member, current and prospective. In order to optimize this communication, a community website should have three tiers of communication aimed at three distinctly different groups. The first level is for non-residents, and this section should provide an appealing — yet accurate — snapshot of life in your community, giving prospective residents a good idea of whether or not they would be a good fit in your community. The second level should provide current community members with general news and announcements that will affect everyone, such as the date and time of the next community meeting. Finally, a third level can provide residents with access to more personal information, such as financial information.
But it is also important to note that for a community website to truly act as a communication tool, it needs to be regularly updated with valuable and relevant content. A stale and outdated website has been identified as the number one reason why an Association website will fail.
The past few years alone have brought about a wealth of technology and tools that boards use to streamline their communities’ operations, from Association-specific software to smartphone apps. But building and maintaining a website remains one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to simplify the everyday operations of an Association. Not only will board members see benefits in the added convenience of being able to post a notice about the new pool hours, for example, to the entirety of the community with the click of a button, but residents can also enjoy the ability to, say, pay their dues entirely through the Association website. Having a centralized online platform for these kinds of day-to-day Association operations makes it that much easier to for everyone in the community to stay connected.
Boosting productivity and cutting back on waste will always be a priority for any successful Association, and a website can make it easier to get more done at a fraction of the cost. Having a community website, for example, can connect both members and non-members with an FAQ section that will answer their questions and cut back on the amount of time that board members will have to spend answering phone calls and emails. A website can also provide a centralized space for visitors to submit questions and comments, consolidating the board’s communications and making it easier to ensure that any issue or problem doesn’t slip through the cracks.
Additionally, a website can also cut back on postage, distribution, and other related fees on community communications. Notices, newsletters, and other communications that might have been mailed to community members before can now simply be posted on the community website, with a notification about that update pushed out via email — provided that state laws permit your Association to handle its business via email. The same goes for community directories as well as any fliers, bulletins, or announcements. Posting these kinds of resources and messages on a community website not only eliminates the costs associated with making, printing, and distributing these documents; it also makes this information immediately and constantly available to anyone who might need it.
Maintaining a frequently updated, informative, and clearly labeled community website can greatly increase the efficiency, communication, and the convenience of life in your Association. Though it might seem daunting or difficult to construct a whole website from scratch, there are plenty of general website tools available — as well as those that are specifically built for community website design — that can help even a novice web user to design something beautiful and intuitive that can help your Association thrive.