Communication is vital to a community’s success. It enables boards and managers to operate the community more efficiently and increase transparency with residents. However, boards and managers often struggle with keeping residents informed in an ever-changing world. Which HOA communication tools can you use to meet your resident’s expectations? How do you choose the right tools for your community’s unique needs?
The importance of having multiple HOA communication tools
It’s important to have multiple communication channels in your community outreach. Let’s first dive into the reasons why this is important.
Your message will get across more effectively when you utilize tools that resonate with your residents. It’s a good idea to let your residents choose how they prefer to hear from you.
Residents will feel included when they are informed in a way that works best for them. They are more likely to tune in to what is going on in the community and become engaged. Using multiple communication methods to keep your residents engaged makes you more likely to reach a quorum in your annual board meetings.
Meet Different Needs
Different needs call for different communication methods. For example, some of your residents might like to receive text message reminders for upcoming board meetings. You may also have different groups of residents who would like to receive newsletters in an email format vs print.
The lack of communication or not using the right channels can increase your community’s risk of getting sued by homeowners. Your community can save thousands of dollars in litigation costs when communicating frequently and clearly.
Every community’s governing documents or state laws differ, so it’s important to understand what they require to comply. For example, a Florida law that went into effect in 2019 requires condo associations with over 150 units to post documents on a password-protected site or portal. By contrast, Nevada now requires all community associations to send postal mail for all communications and other electronic means they already use.
10 HOA Communication Tools
Now that you understand the role of good communication in your community, we’ll dive into various forms of communication you can use. You can click on any communication method in the table of contents to learn more about it.
Email is a quick, convenient, and inexpensive way to communicate with your residents. It’s also one of the best ways to send out mass communications. Its non-intrusive nature and the fact that almost everyone has an email address means you can communicate respectfully with the largest percentage of your community.
Use cases for HOA email communications:
- Notices – Send notices about important things happening in the community.
- Reminders – upcoming events, maintenance alerts, or payments due.
- Events – Invitations to board meetings or other social in-person or virtual events.
- Customer service – Updates on resident support requests, maintenance, violations, or architectural change requests.
- Newsletters – Digital newsletter showcasing the community’s culture, achievements, upcoming events, and more.
When to avoid email communications in your HOA:
- Urgent communications – Emails often get buried, which means it’s not a viable option for emergencies when time is of the essence.
How Pilera’s email platform can improve your communications:
- Rich text editor – You can create professional-looking newsletters with images to send to their community.
- Documents – Attach files that you need to include in an announcement.
- Unlimited emails – Many email providers limit how many emails you can send in 24 hours. Since Pilera doesn’t limit the number of emails, you can email a single community or your entire portfolio in just minutes.
2) Automated phone calls
An automated phone calling system translates your text into an audio message to place hundreds of calls in minutes. It’s a great method to incorporate into your communications mix because almost everyone in the United States can access phone lines. It’s also a great option for elder demographics who may not have text or email. For your community, automating phone calls reduces costs and increases staff efficiency over traditional methods like placing individual phone calls.
Use cases for automating phone calls in your HOA:
- Emergencies where timing is very important.
- Maintenance alerts.
When to avoid automated email phone calls:
- Non-urgent communications – Since phone calls are the most intrusive form of communication, it’s important to use them sparingly and respectfully. For example, email is a better form of communication for letting residents know their work order is completed.
Automated phone calls through Pilera:
Managers can easily send out automated phone calls through Pilera. Since Pilera is a web-based application, there’s no hardware or software to install. Simply type in your content, and Pilera will automatically translate it into a phone call in English or Spanish for your residents. Real-time analytics in the app shows if a person picked up a call or a voicemail was left, so you know the phone call was made.
3) Text Message/SMS
Text messages have one of the highest open rates of all communication tools. According to studies, 99% of all text messages are read within just 3 minutes of receiving them. Text messaging is becoming a preferred communication method because it’s fast, convenient, and cost-effective.
Use cases for HOA text messaging:
- Short and concise messages.
- Regular reminders.
- Maintenance alerts.
When to avoid using text messaging in your HOA:
- When you need to send out detailed messages. Longer messages can often be seen as intrusive to individuals.
- As we mentioned, residents may become frustrated when a company sends them too many text messages. Thus, it’s important to use this form of communication when needed and clearly inform residents of what type of messages they will be receiving text messages for.
Text messaging through Pilera:
Pilera’s communication platform lets you send text messages in the resident’s preferred language. You can then view analytics in real-time to see who received the text message.
4) Postal Mail
Even with many online communication tools available, traditional methods like postal mail can still be effective. In a study by DMA, 56% of Americans say they like receiving direct mail. Residents can also save letters they receive in the mail for reference whereas texts and emails can get buried rather quickly.
Use cases for postal mailing in your HOA:
- Cater to resident preferences – Send letters to individuals who do not have an electronic communication preference in your system.
- Increase engagement with printed newsletters – Create a newsletter to share what is happening in the community, highlight achievements, and promote upcoming events. You can also use newsletters to direct residents to other online channels you use such as social media or a resident portal.
- Non-urgent communications – Send any correspondence that is not time-sensitive.
When to avoid using postal mailing in your HOA:
- Urgent communications – Postal mail can take days to reach a resident. Even when they receive it, it can take many more days for a resident to read your letter. Thus, it’s not a viable option for urgent communications.
- Concerned about high costs – Since postal mail is a more costly form of communication, it’s important to set aside a budget. If your community is more concerned about reducing costs, use more digital communication options. The cost of a single outgoing postal mailing could equal many months of other digital options.
Pilera’s PDF letter generation feature:
Automated solutions can reduce a lot of manual work to mail out letters. Recently, Pilera introduced a new PDF letter generation feature that makes it easy for managers to prepare their letters for postal mail. You can add a header and footer, customize recipients, and generate letters in bulk. These letters can then be uploaded to a third-party solution such as SouthData to mail to residents.
5) Resident Portal
You may not think of a resident portal as a form of communication, yet it can be one of the best ways to bring important community information in one place. It’s also a great way to connect with your most engaged residents. As a self-service tool, residents can update information and request support from managers or board members without calling the office. The resident portal also gives them a way to receive information from you with very minimal effort and upkeep on your part.
Use cases for a resident portal as an HOA communication tool:
- Online payments – Residents can look up their financial information without contacting the office.
- Customer service – Enable residents to request services like work orders, support, or approval for architectural requests.
- Event notifications – Inform residents about upcoming events, such as board meetings, to improve attendance.
- Document sharing – Post documents to keep residents informed about community policies.
When a resident portal may not be an ideal means of communication:
- Demographics – If most residents in your community aren’t tech-savvy, getting them to use a resident portal could be a challenge. In this scenario, traditional methods such as postal mail or other electronic options like a phone call may serve their needs better.
Pilera’s resident portal
Many HOA software platforms include a resident portal in their product offerings. Pilera’s resident portal enables residents to manage their communications preferences and view a history of communications and updates to their work orders, support, ACR requests, and more in one place. Residents can also get instant answers to questions like guest or pet policies through a knowledge base.
6) Collaborative HOA Software
Communication between board members and their management team is vital so that they can make decisions that are in the community’s best interests. HOA Software helps to improve communication and collaboration between the board and managers.
Use cases for HOA software as a communication tool:
- Keep track of important community action items – Board members can create and assign tasks to managers (and vice versa) during a board meeting for further research and completion.
- Better understand community operations – Boards want to know if tasks are being completed promptly. Managers can share reports with board members detailing how many maintenance, ACRs, violations, and support tickets are open or have been completed.
- Process architectural change requests – Board members can comment and approve/reject architectural requests.
- Share important documents – Managers can share documents with board members only.
Pilera’s Collaborative HOA Software
Managers and board members can collaborate on various projects through Pilera’s HOA Software and specifically, the Board+. Board+ helps managers and board members to improve accountability and compliance through task management, architectural request management, and rule violations tracking. Email notifications are automatically sent out to boards and managers when work is assigned to them. They can also post comments and updates as each item on their task list progresses, so everyone is on the same page.
7) Social Media
Social media is a great tool for informing residents and cultivating a sense of community. It’s a fast way to communicate with residents. Social media also reduces communication costs over other traditional methods because platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are free to use.
Use cases for social media in your HOA:
- Event invitations – Invite residents to in-person or virtual social events. The Facebook Events feature lets you post event details, notify your followers, and view live RSVPs.
- Share Event Photos – Bring back the good memories and fun of any events you’ve hosted by posting photos on platforms like Facebook or Instagram.
- Support the community – Keep your community informed of any local causes and businesses they can learn about and support.
- Educate your community – Share expert tips on different topics such as how residents can maintain their properties during each season or ways they can get involved with the community.
As you’ve seen in these examples, there are many ways to connect with residents through social media. However, check with your governing documents and local laws on what information can be shared.
Disadvantages of social media in your HOA:
- It’s public – Because of its public nature, many boards and managers are skeptical of using social media. All conversations are open for anyone to see unless using a private group such as Facebook Groups.
- Out-of-control conversations – Residents may use social media platforms to share their frustrations about the community and its operations. Conversations among residents and board members may, at times, spiral out of control. This could lead to friction in the community among boards and residents and even liability.
- Loss of privacy – When you’re on a public platform, the community’s information and issues become public, leading to a loss in data privacy.
When done right, social media can be a great way to keep residents connected. If your community wants to utilize social media, monitor the conversations and reduce friction. To do this, be sure to assign someone the responsibility of monitoring conversations and taking discussions offline before things get heated.
8) Resident Discussion Board/Forum
As we mentioned earlier, many communities use Facebook Groups or Nextdoor to communicate without the oversight of management or board members. If the board and management aren’t seeing complaints, they can’t address them before it gets out of control. If your community is looking for a better way to facilitate resident discussions but also manage community issues internally more effectively, a Discussion Board is a good choice. Discussion Boards are available within a password-protected resident portal where residents can communicate with each other and managers/board members gain better oversight into community issues.
Use cases for discussion board in your HOA:
- Exchange ideas on home improvements
- Provide feedback on community amenities
- Get recommendations for products and services
- Find ways to stay connected with other community members, such as through a book or gardening club.
- Gain insights on issues or topics that matter most to your residents, how they feel about it, and ways to improve the resident experience.
With Discussion Boards such as Pilera’s, you can assign moderators to oversee conversations, remove inappropriate topics or comments, submit private comments for other managers/board members to view, and publish rules to create a more enjoyable experience for your community.
9) Virtual Meeting Solutions
Many communities have transitioned to virtual meetings and social events in the past two years. The convenience of being able to join a meeting or event from any location has led to communities seeing an increase in attendance at their monthly or annual board meetings.
Use cases for a virtual meeting solution in your HOA:
- Host Monthly Board Meetings – Discuss current agenda items, resolutions, and next steps in your monthly board meetings. Invite residents to join the virtual meeting and dedicate some time for residents to voice their opinions or ask questions.
- Social events – Host fun virtual events such as trivia or other events.
- Emergency meetings – Setting up and inviting attendees is simple if a board needs to call an emergency meeting. Board members can attend the meeting from any location.
Virtual meetings will likely continue in the future because they offer a convenient and safe way to build a sense of community. The availability of many meeting software solutions, such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, and others, make it easy to conduct organized meetings. Check out our recent blog post on how to improve improving your board meeting, including tips on running successful virtual meetings.
A community website is one of the most effective HOA communication tools to keep your current and prospective residents informed. A well-organized website that answers residents’ questions can reduce calls to the office and improve operations. It also improves resident satisfaction because they can now access important information related to the community on their own time.
Use cases for a community website in your HOA:
- Community culture – Talk about the community lifestyle, such as what it is like to live there. This information will help prospective residents to learn more and make informed decision.
- Amenities & policies – What type of amenities the community has, hours of operation, and rules.
- Community Activities – List any activities your residents can participate in, such as a book club, and when they occur.
- Events – Share a calendar of upcoming events your residents can participate in.
- Rental properties listing – List properties for rental with descriptions and photos so you can help prospective buyers make a decision.
- Dues/Rent Payment – Allow your residents to make payments conveniently online.
- Private web pages for board members and residents where you can post documents and other information specific to each user role.
Situations when a website is not the most ideal form of communication:
- Requires an internet connection – Websites are not viable in an emergency if an internet connection is unavailable.
- Requires upkeep of information – Residents will not find it useful if you don’t keep a website fresh with new, relevant information.
Pilera’s HOA website feature
From popular content management systems to HOA-specific platforms, there are many website options available. Through Pilera’s HOA-specific website, you can build a professional-looking website without needing technical experience. Here are some ways in which Pilera’s websites can take your online presence to the next level:
- Mobile-friendly site – Your residents can view community information on their own time on any device or location.
- Optimized for SEO – This makes it easy for current and prospective residents to find the community on search engines.
- Custom content – Websites are easy to build and manage without technical experience.
- Secured content – Create private pages for your residents and board members only.
- Integrated with other Pilera features such as calendars, documents, marketplace, and payments.
HOA Website Examples
Our clients have created beautiful, professional, and informative websites for their communities. Here are a few examples to inspire a community website of your own:
Conclusion: HOA Communication Tools to Inform & Engage Your Residents
When boards and managers can effectively communicate with residents and one another, they can improve operations and increase resident satisfaction. Using various HOA communication tools enables you to reach every resident in the best way for them. It’s important to clearly inform your residents what you will use each communication method for.
All of the HOA communication tools we highlighted have their own unique uses:
- Email is a diverse tool for sending updates, reminders, and even more detailed information in an e-newsletter.
- Phone calls are essential during emergencies and for resident demographics who do not have text or email.
- Text messages can be instrumental during emergencies and can be used for non-intrusive reminders and updates.
- Postal mail is useful when a resident doesn’t have electronic means of communication and for non-urgent, transactional communications.
- Community websites and resident portals provide a one-stop shop for residents to access all community information.
- Social media, discussion boards, and virtual meeting solutions take resident engagement a step further when everyone can have productive conversations about the community in real-time.
When there are so many HOA communication tools available, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. However, you don’t need to use every tool out there. It’s more essential to use tools that cater to your residents’ needs and comply with your governing documents and local laws. Try a combination of these tools today and you will surely see increased resident satisfaction.
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Pilera Software is the premier property management software that has helped thousands of community managers and back-office personnel improve communication and customer service. Request a personalized demo so you can learn how Pilera’s community management suite can increase work efficiency for your company.