Improving Your Lifestyle: Creating a Program for Every Budget
There are lots of reasons: location, safety and security. Perhaps the biggest is knowing that a group of like-minded people is working to help maintain the value of their largest investment. Increasingly, a community’s amenities and lifestyle are also driving purchase decisions. And a thriving lifestyle program will connect your residents and help build great relationships throughout the community.
How a neighborhood defines its lifestyle, coupled with the overall financial plan of the community, impacts the types of programs it chooses to have. For example, a family-focused community may want many of its events and activities to be geared to children. A luxury high-rise property may prefer more upscale programming. Ultimately, it comes down to like-minded people connecting and engaging through shared interests. So, when determining the type of lifestyle programming that fits your budget, make sure your board has a clear vision for your community and what you want it to be, built from resident feedback and input.
Julie Sanchez is a senior community association manager and lifestyle director for the MetroWest Master Association in Orlando, Florida. She suggests that, even if a vision has been defined, boards conduct surveys from time to time to ensure that programming stays in line with your evolving community. “Ask about demographics and age groups, days and times that people can participate, what kinds of events people are interested in, and more importantly, who is willing and available to volunteer to help plan and execute,” she says.
Now, you’re probably wondering, who is going to execute that programming? Well, depending on how intense your program is, you may be able to use active board committees and other volunteers - working with a community association manager - to manage your lifestyle program. A great property management company will have resources to help train your board members to be effective in this role.
Many have this common misconception about lifestyle and think that it’s all about hosting expensive events, but that’s not necessarily true. What a lifestyle program looks like will be different for every community. And while it’s important to consider your association’s current financial situation, it’s equally important to consider your community’s long-term goals.
“The most dynamic and comprehensive lifestyle programs typically encompass a broad and diverse base of community-wide events, clubs, classes and other activity offerings in multiple dimensions of health and wellness,” says July Julison, senior vice president of lifestyle programming at FirstService Residential. “These may include programs that not only respond to the homeowner’s social and recreational needs and interests of the homeowner base but the physical, creative and intellectual, vocational and environmental elements of lifestyle programming. Nurturing social connectivity, enriching the resident quality of life and enhancing property values are always important overriding goals.”
Whether it’s a single-family or active adult community, with a desire for community-wide involvement or personalized concierge services, there is always a way to engage your residents and showcase the standard of living in the community your residents chose to invest in.
Here are a few tips and ideas for creating a program that will fit your community’s budget while enhancing your residents’ lifestyles:
1. Develop interest groups and clubs.Special-interest groups, such as book or garden clubs, often form organically due to homeowner-driven needs or hobbies. However, if it has been a struggle to get clubs going in your community, you may want to survey your residents to see if any common threads appear. Be sure also to ask if anyone might be willing to help lead a group. A good community association management company such as FirstService Residential, can help establish and support special clubs and groups.
2. Make better use of existing amenities.Often high on the list of homeowner must-haves, amenities such as your community pool, walking trails or pond can be more than just another feature. Whether it’s a Fourth of July holiday pool party or a fishing tournament at the pond to raise money for a local charity, consider using the community features you already have to engage residents. Your amenities are a natural draw and create the perfect venue for bringing people together.
3. Think outside the box.Your community likely has a few traditional events that generate a good deal of anticipation. That annual “Easter Egg Hunt Extravaganza” or “Summer Splash Bash” are popular for a reason. To keep things fresh, you should continuously seek new ways to incorporate evolving resident interests.
Consider hosting a community clean-up event centered around Earth Day or rallying around a local cause that may have meaning to your homeowners. Some low-cost event ideas might include holding game or movie nights, bringing in speakers to talk about topics like travel, or having experts come in to teach classes such as financial investing.
Remember that the quality of the event is not necessarily tied to the money spent. It’s all about creating the best experiences and the most engagement possible.
Once you have some plans in place, communicating with your residents is the final piece of this particular puzzle. Your community could very well offer a robust lifestyle program, but if you do not see the level of engagement you really want, you may not be getting the word out well enough.
4. Communicate to drive engagement.
Communicate your activities and programming consistently using multiple channels to reach your residents. Although social media, community websites and newsletters are great ways to promote your programs, don’t discount “old-school” methods like kiosks, banners or signs at entry points to let residents know about upcoming activities. A mass communication tool like FirstService Residential Connect can help promote your events and other opportunities for residents.