A strategic plan is a valuable resource, especially for large or aging communities. In this article, we will outline exactly what defines a strategic plan and how it can help guide your homeowners association property management decisions.
What is a “strategic plan”?
A strategic plan is used to coalesce the vision and mission of your community. It addresses the bigger, long-term strategic issues that often get overlooked in the hustle of day-to-day operations. The document answers key overarching questions such as:
- What is your community’s brand?
- What is the culture of your community?
- What type of homebuyers would you like to attract to your community?
- What type of events would you like to hold?
- What is the culture of your community?
- What are the cultures living in your community and how can you address their needs?
- How should community amenities and infrastructure change to support the changing needs of the membership?
The people you’re serving will drive the service you provide. Your strategic plan will help your association make this service a reality.
3 important functions
Most HOAs already have an operating budget and a reserve study in place. An operating budget is a yearly plan that outlines funding amounts for key HOA management functions such as maintenance, landscape, security patrol, homeowners association management company fees, insurance, etc. The reserve study is essentially a “piggy bank on paper” that provides the HOA’s savings plan guidelines for repairs and replacements of key building components and infrastructure in the association.
The above documents create a structure for the community’s day-to-day responsibilities. Meanwhile, a strategic plan adopts a much longer-term perspective. A community’s strategic plan provides three key functions:
- It focuses the vision and mission of the community.
- It sets broad goals for future changes and improvements.
- It provides a structure and timeframe for funding these long-term goals.
Anticipating future needs
Communities change over time and the amenities and services in your community should reflect this.
While repairs to existing amenities are included in your reserve study, that document provides no guidelines for capital improvements—i.e. entirely new features of the community. When you create a strategic plan that outlines your community’s future goals, you can use this information to make much more informed decisions today.
For example, let’s say your community originally targeted adult residents and therefore has a sauna–a popular amenity when the community was new. Over time, more and more families have moved in and now the sauna is rarely used. As you craft your strategic plan for a more family-focused community, you might choose to forego updates to the sauna because the association plans to replace it with a splash pad that will provide more enjoyment for a family-focused community. Your strategic plan can avoid wasting time and resources that don’t serve the overall direction of your community.
A working document
Your strategic plan is not set in stone. It’s not a legal document and it can follow any structure you outline. Most strategic plans are about 2-4 pages, written in clearly defined sections with bullet points that define the community’s objectives, vision, and plan to achieve them. While your board should definitely solicit input from community members, since this is not a legally binding document, the final contents need only be approved by your HOA board.
This is not a document that should be rushed or quickly slapped together. Instead, take the time to carefully consider the changes that will affect your community, today and in the future. Most strategic plans take about 6 months to craft, as board members continue to refine their vision and make amendments to the document that support those objectives.
You don’t have to tackle the creation of your strategic plan alone. Your homeowners association management company will help you take your strategic plan from concept to action. Solicit your management company’s assistance in asking important questions, setting an agenda for completion, soliciting and organizing homeowner feedback and focusing your discussions. Use your management company’s experience serving other communities like yours to understand current lifestyle trends that can inform the decisions that will foster your community’s desirability and increase home values.
If you or anyone on your HOA board has additional questions about whether or not to work with a management company, call us at (949) 833-2600 and we will be happy to discuss which management solution will work best for you.