Before you know it, stores will be setting up their holiday displays and we’ll have pumpkin spice everything creeping into our daily lives. Before this happens (if it hasn’t already), your HOA needs to answer one important question: Should your association sponsor or host holiday parties?
The answer is not an easy “yes” or “no.” In fact, numerous factors provide pros and cons for your community’s holiday celebrations, and it isn’t just about cost.
Associations and the communities they care for stand to benefit from engagement. A great way to increase engagement and decrease apathy is to invite residents to a soiree. The event can be as simple as an ice cream social or as elaborate as a themed evening with catering, entertainment, and more.
Benefits include building stronger relationships, improving the resident view or reputation of the association, and recruiting future committee or board members.
Solving issues face-to-face instead of through email often diffuses conflicts. Get out from behind your keyboard, tablet, or phone, and meet your neighbors! Sounds like a great idea for everyone, doesn’t it?
Well, not always.
After checking your governing documents to see what legal restraints might be in place, consider your community’s demographics, budget, and schedule before planning an event. Potential pitfalls include alienating certain groups, HOA liability, and complaints.
For example, one of your big liability decisions is whether or not to serve, sell, or even allow alcohol. Check your area’s liquor laws to ensure compliance before including alcohol in your event plans. Oftentimes, it is a simple permit process. However, certain types of alcohol could be prohibited, depending on if the server is trained, certified, or licensed, and if the alcohol is complimentary or for sale.
Also beware of appearing to sponsor certain religious holidays, political platforms, etc. You wouldn’t want to cause offense or hurt feelings (and then have to field the complaints or other actions afterward). You know your community best, so how you approach hosting events is up to you. You could even conduct a survey to gauge people’s feelings about what types of parties they might — or might not — like to see.
Aside from the legal issues and potential alienation risks, there's the risk of making a decision too late. Event planning on any scale takes time. So if you haven’t already, start planning for your holiday event now. Trying to throw something together a few weeks beforehand is almost sure to result in leaving bases uncovered — or, at the very least, not having a very good party. And if you're going to host, why not be the HOA host with the most?
Okay, so you’ve planned a great event, but no one knows about it (yet). Create an invitation or flyer and email it, mail it, and post it online or in your community calendar. If your community has a social channel, use it to spread the word. Be clear about when, where, why, how, and what the event is about. And don’t just throw an invitation together either. You’re trying to get people to give up other things they’ve got going on to mill around with their neighbors — make sure they know it’ll be worth it. Don’t skimp on the details, either. For example, can residents bring guests? What is the attire? How should residents RSVP? Is there a cost, is the event sponsored, etc.
To get the most out of your event, consider providing education about the association, or handing out reminders about the next open meeting. Is there an upcoming community project? Set-up a table with project information, schedules, and renderings. Invite the vendor to attend the event and “man the booth.” Do you need to collect more emails? Set-up a computer or tablet at the event for residents to easily “opt-in” to association communications. Are you recruiting for a committee or board position? Let that be known and be ready to collect contacts from anyone who’s interested.
Overall, community events can serve you well as a non-threatening way to open the doors to board positions, foster engagement, and improve your community’s view of the HOA. Just be careful how it’s executed to minimize bad feelings. Most of all, enjoy the event and fellowship with your neighbors.
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