Planned Development Service HOA Holiday Event Guide

HOA Holiday Event Planning Guide

The holidays are here! How will you involve your HOA community in holiday festivities? 

 

We know, we know – we JUST had Thanksgiving. The holidays are upon us, and in fact, our favorite stores are spilling with garland and tree trimmings already.

 

Like last year, and every year prior, the fervor for holiday planning is already sinking in for most families. And if you are involved in your HOA Board, you are probably starting to think, “What are we going to do with our HOA community this year during the holidays?”

 

The thought of planning yet another event, on top of your work potlucks and parties, multiple family events during the holiday season “tour,” – this can be a stressful task during what should be a joyous time of year.

2 Helpful Tips for Planning HOA Holiday Events

First – Ask for Help!
Asking for help is not a bad thing. You can’t do it all. You shouldn’t do it all. But look at the bigger picture here – asking members to help, rather than just attend, is a great exercise in building community relationships. Putting together a committee of volunteers promotes interaction between neighbors. This is the PERFECT opportunity to meet people, and build bridges between families that may otherwise have never interacted. Also, involving the community helps ensure that all diverse cultures and traditions are recognized during any events.

 

Communicate – Get a plan together!
Newsletters, E-newsletters, Facebook pages, personal E-mail – use all the outlets you can to ask for help. Use one point of contact for building the committee, and put a deadline for sign up in your postings. You have to draw the line on when planning starts and ends.

 

Ok, now you have your committee, you set a meeting time, and you delegate responsibilities. For those organized types, this is a piece of cake. Now, comes the creative part…..what kind of event will your HOA host?

HOA Holiday Event Ideas

“Round Robin” – Have a sign up for families that want to be involved in an open house style event. Each family signs up for a time slot and opens their home to the group. First family has cocktails, second family has an appetizer, third family has first course, and so on. A few families can double up to lessen the burden of preparing the dish.

Holiday Decorating Competition – How about a competition that benefits a charity? Community members can vote on best decorated entryway or doorway (for example) and the “winner” picks from a list of charities to send all the collected donations to! It’s a win – win! You could pair this friendly competition with any of our other event ideas.

Holiday Cook-Off – Pick a meeting place, maybe your community common area (check your CC&R’s), and have a holiday cooking contest! Everyone brings their favorite and traditional recipes and the HOA members vote! Couple this with the white elephant game, and you are guaranteed a good time had by all!

Catered Event – Charge a small fee to make up the budget, and hold a catered event in your common areas, or reserve a space at a local restaurant and each family pays on their own.  If you choose this theme, be sure to check your governing docs first, to see if there are any laws/rules for HOA’s contributing to community events.

Carnival A great idea for communities with a lot of families with children. You can rent bouncy houses, casino style games for the adults, and supplement kids’ events with yard games and craft projects. Oriental Trading is a great site for purchasing craft projects and prizes on a tight budget.

We want to hear what you have done in the past! Please share your HOA Holiday event ideas with us!

Arizona HOA Blog and Advice

How Well Did You Communicate The HOA Rule?

Every HOA has rules. Every HOA Board has to create rules, and get compliance from community members.

Seems easy, right? Usually never.

Why? Because communication falls through or falls flat.

Hopefully, when HOA rules are written they are not overly intrusive to begin with. But, more importantly they are clearly communicated. When the rule is made, explaining the NEED for it and the GOAL for having it, can go a long way towards encouraging support and compliance from residents in the HOA.

Here’s some other vital steps your Arizona HOA Board should take when creating, then communicating, rules:

1) Before a new rules is introduced, the HOA board should always solicit member input. This tactic reduces the likelihood of challenge, but also encourages those HOA connections between residents and board members.

2) Consider the best medium for communicating the rule, and cover many bases! Don’t just send it in a letter. Post it on your website, newsletter, social media pages, include discussion in meetings (if applicable). You could even post signs in common areas before the new rules are in affect!

3) When it comes to effective communication, less is more. Avoid long winded communications that involve emotion or illicit some type of reaction. Without a careful selection of words, communications can be misinterpreted or ignored. Remember, that in some cases, the audience reading the new rule you’ve so carefully articulated, may have prejudice towards the writer, so keep this in mind! #knowyouraudience

As many Arizona HOA Boards are running board elections during the last quarter of the year, this is a great refresher for veterans, and great advice for the new board members who may be challenged with communicating their first “new” rule or “rule change” this year.

15 Ways to Thank a Volunteer HOA Board Member

15 Ways To Thank a Volunteer Board Member, With Little (No) Budget

Volunteers who serve your board – or provide any other free service for the homeowners association – deserve thanks and gratitude for the invaluable role they play in the HOA. Trouble is, there’s often not an unlimited budget available to throw huge parties or special events.

Fortunately, there are ways to thank volunteers that don’t require a large bankroll. Start by making sure you provide an atmosphere of genuine respect, courtesy, support, and gratitude, and consider these additional low-cost ideas to say thank you:

  1. If your HOA has a profile on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, thank (and tag!) your volunteers there.
  2. Consider naming a “volunteer of the month (or quarter).”
  3. Present volunteers with a certificate of appreciation.
  4. Compose simple, handwritten notes saying “thank you” for their contributions.
  5. Dedicate a portion of each HOA newsletter to thanking a different volunteer.
  6. Write a recommendation for volunteers on a service like LinkedIn (or offer to serve as a professional reference).
  7. Take volunteers out for coffee and one-on-one conversation.
  8. Give volunteers framed photos of themselves during a community or service event.
  9. Interview the volunteer and write a bio for the HOA’s website or social media accounts.
  10. Remember and acknowledge volunteers with a card on their birthdays.
  11. Let volunteers know when you hear compliments from others on their work.
  12. Make a list of their accomplishments during their time of volunteer service, and share them at an HOA meeting.
  13. Recognize all volunteers during National Volunteer Week.
  14. Ask volunteers for their ideas, inputs, and suggestions
  15. Support volunteers’ efforts toward continuing education in HOA management, and consider (if possible) helping pay registration fees or reimbursing some portion of travel expenses.
PDS Blog | HOA Budgets

HOA Budgets – The Right Way (An Insiders Guide)

It’s that time again. BUDGETS. Arizona HOA Management Company, Planned Development Services, starts the upcoming year budgets, in August (of the preceding year).

Planned Development Services works in tandem with our Arizona HOA boards on their upcoming budgets. Here’s an inside look at the steps we follow, so you can prepare your HOA and understand the concepts and process thoroughly.

Step 1: Review this year’s January through June income and expense, plus the last 2 years income and expense items to track trends. Be careful to note line items that are higher or lower than previous and or current year.

Step 2: Contact vendors and contractors to inquire about contract or materials increases forecasted for the upcoming year. Here are some typical contractors/vendors: Landscape Maintenance, Tot Lot Maintenance, Insurance, Swimming Pool and Spa Maintenance, Parking Lot/Asphalt Sweeping Service, and Entrance Gate Maintenance Service.

Step 3: Contact utility providers to inquire: APS, SRP, City Water provider, trash pickup services if this is included on the HOA budget. (PDS handles this for our communities. If you are self-managed you may have to contact providers).

Step 4: What are the community’s needs and wants. i.e. Do the common areas need renovating and refurbishing? Do the community members want more social events? Factor in the cost for upcoming projects and community extras, such as a “Movie In The Park” and other social events.

Next, start the annual budget with the income anticipated for the year. It is not recommended that income from fines or fees is included in the budget as these items are volatile and are difficult to quantify, or predict.

Lastly, allocate for Reserves Contributions. The Reserves Contribution allocation will be identified in the Reserves Study (PDS provides our communities with their Reserve Studies, so that the HOA board is able to make informed decisions for construction projects, upgrades and renovations to common areas).

HOA Income, minus HOA expenses, should equal zero. If not, the HOA budget will need to be revised. If there is a budget shortfall, an increase in assessments may be necessary. If there is a budget overage, Reserves Contributions may be increased with the anticipation of future common area renovations.

And that’s all! Ready to get started? Your PDS team will be working with your Arizona HOA board soon!

*If you are a self-managed community and would like assistance with budgets, visit our Accounting page to learn more about our services*

HOA Board "Burn Out"

Help! How Do I Fix our HOA Volunteer Burn-Out?

“Looks like you’ve been missing a lot of work lately.”

“I wouldn’t say I’ve been MISSING it, Bob.”

The exchange between a by-the-book HR consultant and burned-out employee in 1999’s cult classic “Office Space” may be one of the best illustrations of burnout in recent cinematic history.

And though the movie brings laughs, it’s only funny because it’s so relatable: Who hasn’t experienced that all-too familiar feeling defined by Merriam-Webster as the “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration?”

It’s funny to see on the big screen, but the issue can be serious – particularly for any organization that relies on volunteer effort, like your HOA board.

Once you start seeing red flags of burnout in a volunteer – like a lack of engagement or communication, increased absenteeism at meetings and special events, an apathetic attitude towards board work, and/or incomplete tasks and responsibilities – in a single board member or the entire group, it’s time to take action.

The first step to fixing the problem is starting a positive, constructive dialogue with the board member/s in question. Keep some of these tips in mind during your discussion:

  • Find out if they’re looking for a new challenge. The board member in question may be interested in serving but have grown bored with his or her current roles and responsibilities, especially if the volunteer has been in the same position for some time. Find out if they are looking for new, different challenges and responsibilities.
  • Be open and adaptable. It’s possible that a burned-out board member may have some frustrations to air, or even construction criticism on how the HOA board operates. Be willing to hear his or her concerns, and open to change or evolution when appropriate. Perhaps your board could work on better defining its goals, vision, and expectations – both now and for future volunteers.
  • Ensure that you are respecting boundaries and schedules. Volunteers have full, busy, and active lives outside of their responsibilities on the HOA board. Make sure that the board is not asking an unreasonable amount from current volunteer board members.
  • Consider recruiting. If there is simply too much work shared by too few people, it may be time to launch a recruitment effort among your homeowners’ association.

Burnout in your HOA leadership can be avoided – start the conversation! In case you missed our previous blog, please review “How To Recognize Volunteer HOA Board Burn-Out” to start proactive measures.

How To Recognize Volunteer HOA Board Burn-Out

It would be hard to overstate the importance of volunteerism: it’s quite simply how a lot of work gets done, from large, national programs to smaller and more localized organizations. According to the National Corporation for National and Community Service in a 2015 report, “over the past 13 years, Americans volunteered 105.9 billion hours, estimated to be worth $2.1 trillion.”

That’s a significant amount of value, but it’s probably no surprise to HOA board members. You know what’s required to run an efficient, ethical, and effective homeowners association with a board made up entirely of people who donate their time to the cause.

Because of that, it’s disheartening – maybe a little scary – when you suspect a fellow board member may be burning out.

Do you know how to recognize some of the red flags of HOA board member volunteer burnout?

 

  • Absence: Is the board member – typically one with a history of solid attendance – beginning to consistently miss meetings and other board events? (This does, to clarify, not apply if the board member is going through work, family, or other temporary life circumstances that they have mentioned to the board.)
  • Lack of engagement: Does the board member suddenly seem uninterested or mentally and emotionally distant during meetings, particularly if he/she has been involved and engaged previously?
  • Avoiding communication with board members: Is the individual unresponsive to phone calls, emails, or other requests to communicate?
  • Incomplete tasks: Does the board member have a reputation of seeing tasks through, and executing them well, but recently become unreliable or unable to finish responsibilities?
  • Apathy: This might be described as a general attitude of “meh”- does the board member seem to approach his or her board responsibilities with the equivalent of a shoulder shrug?

 

If you notice these or other signs of concern, it’s possible you’re dealing with a case of volunteer burnout with the board member in question. The good news is that there are things you can do to combat burnout, and retain the volunteers that are valued and vital to your board. Follow our Arizona HOA PDS blog in the coming weeks for ideas on how to deal with burnout!

 

 

How To Handle the HOA Board Member That Doesn’t Show Up

“I never got a trophy just for showing up!” proclaims a character in 2014’s “Lego Movie.”

Many people roll their eyes at the idea of children receiving awards for mere attendance, but an HOA board dealing with a fellow member who doesn’t show up for meetings might gladly consider handing out attendance trophies if it would get the no-show member In. The. Door.

No-shows are frustrating, time-wasting, and can prevent important work from getting done – say, for example, a quorum is required for a particular board vote.

Lack of attendance is a common complaint of HOA boards, but the issue is actually larger than the homeowners association industry. Board members are volunteers, and those who manage volunteers across sectors know that there are challenges in enforcing the attendance of a person who is not getting paid. Consider handling the situation with an approach that’s win-win for the board, the member in question, and the HOA as a whole.

Check the Bylaws

First things first: do your association’s bylaws address the issue of board member meeting attendance? If so, that can simplify the situation: a board member may be required to miss no more than a stated number of meetings or risk losing the position. If it’s not included, make a note to address and include the issue of attendance in the future.

Have a Conversation

Before you reprimand or threatened the member with expulsion, ask questions. Is there something going on in his or her personal or professional life that is making attendance a challenge? If so, is that a temporary or long-term situation? (If it’s long-term, the board member might need to consider stepping down for the good of the collective homeowners, but if it’s temporary, the board may want to make some short-term considerations or allowances.) It’s also important to ask whether the issue may be with the board itself. Are meetings too frequent, ineffective, or long and drawn out beyond reason? Is there another board member with whom he or she has conflict, or are there other interpersonal issues? Consider the circumstances, but remind the person about the board’s responsibility to the homeowners.

Decide on Next Steps

After considering existing HOA bylaws and discussing the issue with the board member, decide how to fairly proceed. Consider the board member’s feedback and address any overarching issues, making changes to the meetings and/or bylaws if needed. The board member may need to step down, but ideally the board can help to re-engage this member and keep a valuable volunteer.

School’s Out Food Drive!

When you give to St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, you let thousands of people in need know that there is hope, because someone cares enough to take action. Planned Developments Services proudly supports this charity throughout the year, and this year we are jumping on to the “School’s Out Food Drive” to help make sure kids do not go hungry or thirsty in the summer.

You can also contribute to this effort! We have a collection area set up in our lobby starting May 11th through the end of the month. When you bring your donation to the May 26th Board Training Workshop, we will be giving out raffle tickets for great prizes from our partner vendors.

Four non perishable items are encouraged for a donation. “Schools Out! Food Drive” is looking for the following items specifically:

Cereal [boxes & cereal bars, whole grain, low sugar]
Canned Fruits and Vegetables
Rice, Beans, Pasta
Canned soups, Stews, Chili
Tuna
Juice [canned, boxed or plastic]
Peanut Butter
Diapers

Supplemental Food Drive Items that are always needed include:

Baking Mixes [pancake, corn bread, cake mixes, icing, quick breads]
Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate Mix
Cooking Oil
Crackers, Jam, Jelly
Ham, Chicken, Salmon [canned or vacuum packed]
Tomato Products
Household paper supplies
Soap and Shampoo
Toothpaste

Let’s join the fight against hunger in the Phoenix Valley!

3 Myths (and Truths!) About Parking Rules in the HOA

The Discovery Channel’s popular “MythBusters” television show became a hit for a reason, and it’s not just for the hosts’ fun-loving personalities and wacky antics. After watching the show, viewers can finally understand – and explain to their friends – why commonly believed pop culture lore is (or isn’t) true.

Homeowner’s associations are no different from other communities or industries, in that there are some persistent myths that just don’t seem to go away. Those myths can breed serious misunderstanding and even resentment, and it’s always best to have open, honest, clear communication in an HOA environment.

Here, we lay out some commonly held ideas about parking rules in Arizona HOAs – and explain the truth behind them:

Myth 1: The HOA is targeting or discriminating against me.
Truth: The HOA compliance and/or parking inspector does not know the identity, race, religion, or gender of the vehicle owner when citing parking violations.

Myth 2: I spoke with the police department and the officer said the homeowners association cannot enforce parking on the City street.
Truth: If the HOA declaration/CC&R (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) cite on-street parking restrictions, an HOA can enforce a parking policy – even if the City owns the street.

Myth 3: The COX, SRP, and APS trucks park on the street (Arizona Utility Vehicles), so I can park my landscape truck on the street.

Truth: Specific on-call/emergency vehicles, detailed in ARS. 33-1809, may be parked on the street. Emergency responder vehicles such as an ambulance or EMT truck, and public utilities such as COX, SRP and APS, may park on property and on public/City-owned streets; they are absolved from a homeowners’ association parking restrictions.

Next time you hear one of these stubborn parking rule myths, you’ll be able to bring the truth into the conversation!

HOA 101: The In's and Out's of HOA Financials and Audits

HOA 101: The In’s and Out’s of HOA Financials

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”

That statement, attributed to Albert Einstein, is widely thought to be true. But we find that the financials of a community (or homeowners) association – most of which are nonprofits – can be just as confounding as those pages upon pages of personal tax forms! That’s especially true if boards are made up of leaders who, though qualified in many other important ways, do not have professional accounting or financial backgrounds.

Dawn Engel, CMCA, AMS, CAAM, is Planned Development Services’ (an Arizona based HOA Management and Accounting company) community manager, and adds that there are further complications to these financial issues in recent years. “In the past 20-plus years, community associations have provided the services that formerly were provided by municipal entities, such as maintaining common area landscape, streets, playgrounds, pools community clubhouses and golf courses within the community,” Engel says. “It is now up to an HOA to maintain, repair, and replace these common area amenities and components within a community association.”

With these things in mind, Planned Development Services (PDS) will hold one of our popular board-training workshops, designed to guide Arizona HOA boards through the essentials of community association financials. “The Ins and Outs and Ups and Downs of HOA Financials and Audits” will be held on Thursday, March 24th, in our Peoria office and conference center, and will cover everything from assessments to audits to balance sheets.

Just a few of the aspects of HOA financials that we’ll delve into:

• Assessments: Assessments are allocated to cover the cost of maintenance and repair of common area amenities and components such as (but not limited to!) landscape, pest control, utilities, lighting, playgrounds, basketball courts, and walls. Though intended for the good of the community, assessments often are not paid by homeowners in a timely manner.

• Budgets: The HOA budget is simply a plan that specifies how financial resources will be allocated during a particular period. Budgets, however, can be thrown off by a number of complications, like the aforementioned late assessment payments.

• Audits: Though audits, which are extremely thorough analyses of an HOA’s financials, can be costly and time-consuming, there are times – such as when a new board arrives or a new bank is taken on – that they may be necessary.

• Important Documents: From balance sheets to income statements, there are more financial documents than you can image – we’ll help you get to the bottom of understanding them. For more information, please visit www.pdsaz.com. Most importantly, mark your calendar for March 24th! Budgets, audits, and assessments don’t have to be a bad experience – we look forward to helping you navigate the sometimes-murky waters of HOA finances.