The number one complaint at a condominium corporation’s annual general meeting (AGM) is quite often poor communication. On the one hand, owners feel left out of the decision-making loop and on the other, board directors lament that residents don’t know the rules, regularly resulting in numerous extra expenses that can eventually lead to increases in condo fees.
Good communication in a condominium just makes common and economic sense. Sharing information and educating residents about all aspects of life in their community keeps residents happy and condo fees stable.
In most condominium corporations, there are lawyers for legal, engineers for planning, and landscapers for lawns but no position for communication or marketing. Yet good communication planning can drastically cut costs across various budget line items.
So, what to do in this situation? Focus on improving communication in the areas that will generate the biggest bang for the corporation’s communication buck. Here are five money-saving campaigns worth considering:
1. Water/energy conservation
What residents don’t know about water or energy conservation can mean money down the drain. With the average 10-minute shower using 100 litres of water, it’s no wonder that many condominium corporations cite water as their top expense. To cut costs and stabilize fees, corporations can run campaigns that include information about current usage, fun facts, the benefits of conservation and of course, tips on how to save.
2. Waste management
If condominium staff is spending inordinate amounts of time trouble-shooting the chute, a campaign that reminds residents to walk common culprits such as pizza boxes, hangers or oversized bags down to the garbage room for disposal can help reduce extra cleaning supply and repair costs. And simply educating residents that the disposal of regular garbage can cost up to three times more than recyclables can have a huge impact on the condominium corporation’s bottom line.
3. Balcony safety
The physical removal of items tossed from balconies can not only eat into the cleaning budget, but it can pose a time cost for the board/management teams, who must address the associated complaints. Add to that the safety risk posed by discarded cigarette butts and it is clear to see why this issue is an important talking point for many condominium corporations. Safety first!
4. AGM attendance
Rescheduling an AGM due to lack of quorum comes with costs, so a simple campaign to get people in the seats can make a difference. What about the time wasted explaining and collecting proxies? Perhaps the overall strategy could include electronic proxies and/or mailing services.
The effectiveness of a campaign focused on getting residents to attend the AGM can be measured in the short term by a simple head count, but the long-term payoff can be huge. AGMs are a great way to build community, set the condo culture and improve relations between owners and the board/management team. And crafting notices (such as a save-the-date for the AGM) specifically designed to enhance communication between boards and owners can go a long way towards promoting a fiscally healthy condominium corporation and responsible resident lifestyle.
5. Short-term rental rules
With the shared economy on the rise, the phenomenon of short-term rentals has many board directors rushing to determine what is and isn’t allowed in their condominium corporation. On properties that do not permit short-term rentals, clear communication of the rules can prevent wear and tear on amenities and reduce security risks. On properties that do allow short-term rentals, posting the rules is critical to setting parameters that will give the board a sense of control and most importantly, provide legal counsel with valuable information in the event of an incident.
Implementing a campaign to get the word out will take some careful thought about the target audience. A three-pronged approach could reach on-site owners considering renting out their units, off-site owners already doing so, and the guests themselves when they arrive at the property. This type of campaign is a long-term commitment to continuously educate not only owners, but the marketplace as well, so it’s important to have a cost-effective plan to achieve the corporation’s goals.
No matter the subject of a communication campaign, it’s important to focus on goals, get a strategy in place, implement the plan and then monitor the results. It is through the careful evaluation of the results that further campaigns can be rolled out and tweaked as needed to provide the maximum return on the condominium corporation’s investment in communication.
Sue Langlois is the founder/CEO of Diginotice. Sue was recently elected to the CCI-Toronto board of directors and serves on the communication committees for both CCI-Toronto and CCI-National. She contributed the Communications chapter of CCI-T’s Board of Directors’ Tips, Tools and Techniques. Sue can be reached at [email protected]