The end of the year provides an opportunity to reflect on past achievements, reassess priorities, and plan for the future. If your association has obstacles or challenges, now is an excellent time to develop a strategy for overcoming them. Asking questions such as, "How can we improve budget planning to handle unexpected expenses?" or "Do we have a clear direction for our community's future?" will assist your board in recognizing challenges and establishing goals and resolutions for the upcoming year.

What additional steps can your association take to ensure a successful year? Here are 8 New Year's resolutions worth considering.

1. Review your governing documents

Your association's governing documents contain bylaws and operating rules that provide a framework for managing your community.  As laws and regulations change, reviewing and updating these documents is essential. Document updates may be necessary when transitioning from developer control to homeowner board control. Changes may also be necessary to improve the community. As part of your association's New Year resolution, consider forming a committee for document review. A revision committee appointed by the board is one of the most effective ways for associations to review and update their governing documents. The committee should establish a timeline, meet regularly, and discuss proposed revisions. It should then submit any recommended changes to the board. This will simplify and streamline the entire process.

Seeking information about updating governing documents? Read: Amend Your Association’s Governing Documents in 6 Steps.

2. Review your insurance policies

Associations need comprehensive insurance coverage to protect itself from financial losses and legal liability. However, determining the appropriate level of coverage for your association can take time and effort. Insurance policies can be complex and challenging to understand, and choosing the wrong insurance coverage or underinsuring your property can lead to devastating financial losses for your association. Consider reviewing your insurance policies as your association sets goals for the new year – the ones you already have and those you need. A careful examination allows you to make essential changes to safeguard your community. As a value-added service, FirstService Insurance Brokers (FSIB) assists the communities we serve with insurance guidance and procurement to ensure the right level of protection.

3. Review your financial records

Maintaining your community's financial health is your responsibility as a board member. Keeping your association financially sound means having enough funds for day-to-day expenses and future projects and repairs. One effective method of evaluating your association's financial well-being is through a thorough review of its financial records. During the review, work with your association's certified public accountant (CPA) and your management company to scrutinize your documents and ensure they are accurate. A financial review should examine board meeting minutes, bank statements, reserve studies, insurance policies, and other related documents. This comprehensive assessment will help the board identify financial strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, it will enable them to identify growth opportunities and improvements for the coming year.

4. Review your repairs and maintenance budget

Board members know that keeping building assets in good condition requires routine maintenance and repairs. Maintenance activities can include landscaping, simple lightbulb replacements, elevator maintenance, pool cleaning, and other related tasks that are performed regularly. As a new year's resolution, plan and review your maintenance and repair expenses to examine any recurring repair and replacement patterns. A comprehensive assessment of all the repairs undertaken in the past year and the estimated repairs for the upcoming year will help your board avoid any last-minute surprises, allowing you to forecast and plan for new ones.

5. Enhance board member education

As part of your New Year's resolutions, consider prioritizing ongoing education. Learning and developing new skills can enhance your ability to lead your community more effectively. With many online and in-person resources available, board members have plenty of opportunities to stay informed about industry trends. Training sessions, seminars, and conferences present valuable opportunities for board members to expand their knowledge.

“With the ever-changing landscape of the industry, staying informed about the latest trends and best practices is crucial for success,” said Danny Ellis, president at FirstService Residential. “Investing in ongoing education is not only a wise choice but key to effective governance.”

A good management partner will provide ongoing educational opportunities to help you succeed in your role.

6. Boost resident engagement

Residents are happier and associations are more successful when community members are actively involved. If your board struggles to engage residents, identifying their shared values is an excellent place to start. Asking residents what matters to them most will help you define your community vision, inspiring community members to work together to achieve it. Some residents feel they have no say in how their associations are managed. Encouraging residents to volunteer for a community project or a committee is a great way to empower them.

"Taking part in community events and lifestyle programs provides residents with great opportunities to meet others and enjoy common interests,” said Jeff Musselman, vice president at FirstService Residential. “Active participation also gives residents collective ownership in shaping their community's future.”

7. Examine your vendor agreements

Association boards should regularly review their vendor agreements to ensure they provide the agreed-upon service. A yearly review also provides the opportunity to identify discrepancies or areas for improvement in the new year.

8. Improve communication with residents

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any thriving community association. Keeping residents informed of the community's activities and progress fosters an open and collaborative environment, giving residents a shared sense of responsibility for their community. Sometimes, though, communicating effectively can be challenging for board members, no matter how simple it may seem. Effective communication encompasses many components, including establishing a process and procedures and using the proper communication channels to reach your audience. An experienced property management company can assist board members with developing a plan that ensures relevant, current, and accurate information is communicated to residents via multiple channels.  

For additional communication improvement tips, download our guide, How to Improve Communication in Your Community: A Recipe for Success.

Setting goals for the year ahead that are achievable and measurable is an important part of any association's success. Establishing realistic goals provides clear direction and focus for your board members and residents. Additionally, evaluating your progress and making adjustments and changes as necessary will help you stay on track.

FirstService Residential can assist you in setting goals for your association – and meeting them. Contact us today.

Wednesday December 27, 2023