Every Association is a little different, but all have one thing in common: In order to be truly successful, every Association must foster robust communication between residents and the Board of Trustees. Although busy schedules and other responsibilities make it difficult for the entire Association to come together for board meetings — no matter how effective they might be — Associations have other means for keeping the community connected, such as through an electronic newsletter. Whether your goal is to bust the myth that board members operate in secret or simply to bring your community closer together, an e-newsletter is a relatively easy yet effective way to keep the lines of communication open.
Snail Mail vs. Email
Many Associations are no stranger to the community newsletter and recognize it as a physical document that appears on every doorstep, usually on a monthly basis. While some communication is certainly better than no communication, switching to an email newsletter has many distinct benefits and advantages over a more traditional printed newsletter.
The most obvious advantage is that an email newsletter requires a lot fewer resources, eliminating the need to hire a printing service or, in other cases, purchase ink for an office printer. Creating an email newsletter has a shorter production time than putting together a printed newsletter, ensuring that the content in the newsletter is more timely and useful to recipients. Using an email newsletter also makes it easier to add, delete, or otherwise alter content — even at the last minute.
An email newsletter is also a far richer resource for residents than one that is confined to paper. Linking to upcoming Association events on Facebook, important documents like meeting minutes or financial statements, and even Association social feeds encourage residents’ participation in the operation of the Association.
Most importantly, sending out an email newsletter also gives the board access to resident email addresses, which can further facilitate better communication community-wide. However, it’s important to review both state regulations and any Association bylaws governing electronic communication before demanding that residents share their personal email. Creating an email communication policy regarding how board members and the Association at large will handle emails is also wise.
Choosing a Communication Platform
There are more tools, apps, and other software than ever before to facilitate better virtual communication between residents and the Board of Trustees. To help choose the right newsletter platform for your Association, consider the size of your Association, the number of emails you plan to send, and the skill level of the person who will be creating and sending the emails.
Some of these email newsletter platforms, like Constant Contact for example, charge a monthly fee or a fee for sending content to different numbers of contacts. Platforms like MailChimp, on the other hand, are free to use up to a certain number of contacts and limit the number of emails that can be sent every month. Most of these platforms have simple, drag-and-drop creation, making it easy for even the most computer-illiterate to create a professional-looking newsletter.
What to Include (and What to Leave Out)
Those who have been sending out physical newsletters might think they know what readers want to see, but it never hurts to brush up on the basics of a great newsletter. Keep content short, focused, and informative, including only the details that matter to your Association and its residents — nothing extraneous.
Additionally, any content curated from outside sites or otherwise unrelated to important Association announcements and news items should only be included if that content is deemed meaningful to the audience. A piece on the nuances of working with a management company, for example, would be useless to the audience of an Association that doesn’t have a property management company and doesn’t want to have one.
More than anything else, the newsletter should be designed in a way that allows for easy readability and clarity. Choose a layout, color scheme, and fonts that make it simple for residents to find (and actually read) what they’re looking for within the newsletter. In other words, save the 45-point, lime-green Comic Sans headlines for a personal project. Also, including photos, charts, and other graphics can break up blocks of text, illustrate a point, and, in the case of photos of residents or board members, encourage readers to feel more attached to the community.
Ultimately, the newsletter should be a positive force in your Association. Rather than haranguing residents on rules or calling out residents who are delinquent in paying their dues, newsletter content should aim to keep the community better connected and informed. With the proper tools and strategies in place, an Association newsletter can become a valuable and treasured resource in your community.