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From Apathetic To Engaged

12/01/2023 4:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By Caitlin Traub, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, RealManage Colorado

In a world where it seems like the average attention span only lasts for the 120 characters that can be tweeted out on X, the social media platform formally known as Twitter, how can we expect already disengaged or apathetic owners to participate any more than that?

In the reality of today’s communities, generally, those owners who regularly attend meetings come in two varieties: owners with ample time on their hands or those who are seemingly trying to orchestrate a coup over their perceived enemies, the Board, which leaves a large contingent of apathetic owners who are happily, or at least not angrily, “going with the flow.”  But what if you need those same owners to engage to pass an amendment or special assessment, what then?

The truth is, in order to engage owners who have long been disconnected, you’re often fighting the same challenges that you face in getting volunteer Board members. Much like your Board, owners within your community often lead busy lives so engaging them in easy and different ways is the key to your success.

Embracing The “Enemy”

Yes, social media is often the bane of a community manager’s existence, or at least it seems that way at times. However, the truth is that social media is successful in communicating a message.  After all, how many times has a Board member brought up a concern that their community members have only noted on sites like Facebook or NextDoor? These same owners often don’t communicate that same issue with a phone call or email but are clearly engaged neighbors elsewhere. Today, roughly 69% of Americans are Facebook users and 75% of those users are on the site daily.  The same can be said of NextDoor where active users are engaging their neighbors nearly 4 times a week.

History has shown it is not realistic to expect single methods of communication, like a mailing, to encourage participation, even on contentious issues.  Utilizing multiple mediums for communication that owners have clearly embraced will yield more participation (perhaps even more than you’re really wanting).

Making It Easy

Just as you’ll need to embrace communication alternatives, increasing participation for busy owners will be most successful if you make the process of actively participating in the decision as painless as possible.  

On contentious or multi-layered issues like an insurance amendment or special assessment where the breadth of information can be overwhelming, consider breaking down the information into a few infographics on the process that owners can understand and quickly review, where the infographics are visually appealing and can easily fit in a social media post.

Another consideration for communication is utilizing multiple platforms like those mentioned above, or other user-friendly options, for short 10-15 minute informational sessions to gain the most participation. The information sessions may be scheduled at various times, such as during the school day for parents who stay at home, late afternoon or early evening for commuters who could join in during their drive instead of listening to their favorite podcast that day, or before breakfast for the early risers.

Finally, in a world where everyone is always connected, you should strongly consider utilizing online voting on issues if your governing documents allow for it.  With the simple click of a few buttons, you have a whole community participating in a way that is quick and easy for its members.  In the alternative, if an online vote is not allowed, you may consider making the process a bit easier by providing pre-stamped envelopes or an on-site drop box where the form can be dropped off to at a time that works for the individual owner.

Keeping The Momentum

For a large portion of owners, part of the problem is forgetting why they should be involved in the first place.  Now that you’ve reminded them, it is important to actively keep them involved so the next time an issue comes up you aren’t at the starting line again. Was utilizing Facebook the most successful in driving participation this time around?  Keep utilizing it!  Did people comment on how much they loved the easy infographics?  Start utilizing them for landscape tips, meeting reminders, or social events to continue providing information in a way that your community embraces and appreciates.  Was online voting a smashing success?  Then remember to get a contract for Board elections or other recurring items in order to continue providing online voting.

In the end, behind each door in your community is another human who often wants to engage with their community but in a way that works for their life.  By giving them the information they need on a site or in a way that they’re already utilizing for the other facets of their life or making it as easy as possible to fit in their already busy schedule and then continuing to hold their interest, you’ve easily turned these apathetic members into actively engaged neighbors.

Caitlin Traub, CMCA, AMS, PCAM currently serves as the Senior Vice President for RealManage Colorado.  Over her career that spans from Texas to Washington State and now Colorado, she has managed associations both large and small and understands the different and unique challenges that each face. 

(303) 585-0367

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