Trust affects all human relationships — professionals, families, organizations, and friendships. For an HOA board member, trust can be considered one of the most challenging parts of the job. In fact, there are a number of reasons a community may lose trust: broken promises, conflicts, feelings of resentment, or even poor communication. Mistrust can also stem from personal experiences that develop over time.
For example, take a team of newly elected board members who have been asked to create a forum with their community about the decision to create a new community center. Unfortunately, the last time a new center was proposed, the project was postponed due to financial cuts in the budget. As a result of their past experience, the community is hesitant to move forward with the community center. This puts the board in a predicament — although they would like to move forward with the project, they lack the support of their community. The key question is why? To simply answer — lack of trust.
As board members, you are responsible for providing guidance and support to your community. Regardless of the situation, a board can create change through strategies and ways to rebuild trust in their community.
5 Ways to Rebuild Trust in your HOA
Communication is the key to a healthy, trustworthy relationship. Communication builds trust, and loyalty improves teamwork and productivity and helps resolve feelings of resentment. In addition, when an HOA experiences strong communication, they're more likely to encourage stronger relationships with other community members.
On the contrary, poor communication brings the complete opposite. In fact, poor communication is considered one of the most impacting factors on why most HOAs lose trust in their boards. More times than not, trust is often lost because it was never there in the first place — a large part of this stems from a lack of communication.
- Effective communication - is when the exchange of ideas, thoughts, and information is received with clarity and purpose. Both the sender and receiver feel a sense of understanding on both ends. Effective communication can be practiced by: exercising active listening, giving constructive feedback, and, most importantly, providing empathy and clarity.
- Website updates - If you’re like the many HOAs that have turned their focus to having a digital footprint, you’re probably well aware of an HOA website's benefits. Having an up-to-date website is an essential responsibility for maintaining strong communication. Many website builders offer HOAs the opportunity to customize their website with imagery, colors, text, layout, a customized domain, and user-friendly mobile compatibility. However, this can be intimidating if you do not have experience creating and maintaining a website. Many HOA software companies offer a website builder within their platforms. For example, TownSq has easy-to-use templates and themes that allow you to create your website in minutes.
Proactive behavior is considered one of the most effective forms of rebuilding trust with your HOA. To exercise positive and proactive behavior, board members must always be prepared.
- Meetings - Board members play an active role in organizing and conducting weekly and monthly meetings. Proactive behavior is a crucial way board members can quickly rebuild trust in their community. A few examples include preparing a list of answers and questions, providing a well-written agenda, being on time, and, most importantly, being honest and true to your word.
- Maintenance and repairs - The board of directors and property managers play a large role in managing the HOA’s maintenance and repairs. When homeowners witness that their requests are properly handled and addressed in a timely manner, they’re more likely to build trust and appreciation. In addition, community managers have the responsibility to build and maintain a community of trusted vendors that provide a quality of service for their HOAs. Finding vendors that are able to meet the demands and needs of their community creates a sense of trust and support for the entire community.
When members feel they’re not heard, it can be easy to create resentment and mistrust among other board members. By creating an open-door policy, trust, communication, and morale are increased. Here is where the relationship between a board and a property manager is most important.
- Financials and record-keeping - Managing an HOAs finances can require much time and dedication. Here is where a property manager must maintain a strong, trusting relationship with their board members. One way to do this is by being transparent with the community's finances. Examples may include: taking accurate inventory, maintaining updated records, reviewing legal documents, and updating all finances accordingly in a timely manner. In addition, both the board and their managers must be mentally present and available to respond to any questions that may be addressed by the community.
Community engagement is one of the most talked about topics with many HOAs. Engagement is another effective way board members can increase trust in their community. It also plays a prominent role in increasing participation and overall growth of the community. In addition, events also allow managers to show their support for their local community vendors, along with networking with other potential connections that would best benefit the community.
- Community involvement - Both the board and property manager can greatly benefit from engaging in community involvement. Engagement has been known to increase community in a number of ways such as: trust, honesty and support. Attending community events is another way that both board members and community managers can learn more about their communities' needs. For example, creating a meeting forum or in-person community Q&A allows members the opportunity to address important questions about issues that they may not get from their general community meetings or forums.
Open to change
As a board member, you may encounter challenges with other board members who are less likely to turn their eye to change. Unfortunately, this resistance to change can lead an HOA to lose trust. As times change, people will expect to see change. Change is a vital part of why HOAs are able to build trust and engage with their community.
- Clearly define roles and responsibilities - Transparency is a vital part of what helps create positive change. Board members can create openness to change by clearly defining roles and responsibilities. When this is exercised, team members are less likely to resist change or misunderstand their roles.
- Allow others to feel heard - It’s not always easy to create change without support. More times than not, HOAs often find themselves being held back from the opportunity to grow because others within the community are resistant to change. A large reason for this is due to a lack of trust. To help solve this, board members should be patient and open to hearing others' feedback. This will help those more resistant see that their opinion matters and, most importantly, feel heard. Try conducting a poll or survey to get the input of the community. This is a simple and effective way that you can hear from the community and increase participation.