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Do you have a reliable system to get information to your HOA members quickly and accurately? Do you request suggestions and feedback? These are all signs of a proactive management style. Proactive managers welcome communication because it lets them know whether they are on track or derailed. As the saying goes, "The light at the end of the tunnel may be the headlight of an oncoming train." Better to know sooner than later.

On the flip side, reactive communications keep the board on the defensive and are indicative of a crisis management style. With crisis management, nothing gets done unless the smell of tar and feathers is in the air. Under these circumstances, it's unlikely that the end result will be good. If this is the kind of style the board has been practicing, consider what kind of environment this creates.

Failure to communicate makes fertile ground for rumor and rumors trample on the board's initiative and planning. While it's best to head rumors off at the pass, they can sometimes be a way for the board to address issues. Consider a newsletter article "Rumor Has It ..." and dispel the rumor with the facts.

Here are eight great ways to "tell it like it is":

The Internet. Bar none, the internet is the fastest and cheapest way to interact with the membership. Most folks now have email addresses so why continue to waste time and money on copies, labels, stamps, envelopes and the US Snail Service if you don't need to? For about $1/day, your HOA can have its own website with key information posted and a turbo charged communication system.

Newsletters. These can be as small as one page and as large as the LA Times depending on how much time, budget, volunteer effort and information there is. Pick a format and catchy name and stick with it. Make the information interesting. Decide at budget time how many newsletters there will be and when they will be produced. And rather than print them, use PDF and email them. For more Newsletter Basics, go to

Flyer Boxes. Flyers distributed at the mailbox, clubhouse and other common points are a quick and cheap way to get the word out. Don't forget to mail to non-resident members.

Message Board. Very effective if properly located and managed. Don't let messages stay for more than a week as they blend into the landscape. Keep the board neat and sectioned according to topic.

Member Forum. Always give the members a voice at board meetings by way of a pre-meeting Member Forum designed to let them speak their mind, ask questions or offer suggestions. To facilitate this, always hold your meetings in a location that is large enough to accommodate guests.

Automated Phone Trees. There are great options available on the internet that allow you to communicate a voice message to a list of phone numbers. See , www.call-em-all.com, www.onecallnow.com and others.

Welcome Packets. These can include things like the governing documents, budgets, rules and regulations and other need-to-know information. The message should be, as the name implies, "Welcome to the neighborhood!" Include architectural guidelines, maps, clubhouse and pool schedules, management and emergency contact information. To save paper, put all this information on a CD or, even better, direct them to the HOA website for the latest and greatest.

HOA Phone Number. This essential tool is often overlooked. Since board members and managers change, why not have a permanent phone number with voice mail that will alert the right party? Clear and frequent communications build trust and allay fears that grow when folks don't know what's going on. Rather than get ground up in a rumor mill, share the Good News and watch harmony grow.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, .

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