Businesses develop strategic plans to help them gain a clear and uniform understanding of who they are, what they are working to do and why they are working towards their goals. HOAs can also benefit from strategic plans as they can help busy boards and managers ensure their association is moving in the right direction.
Strategic plans present an opportunity for the leadership team to detach from the day-to-day problems and tasks, establish priorities, allocate energy and resources, improve operations, and adjust the HOA’s direction in response to an evolving environment.
This practice is a time-consuming one that will require hours of planning, discussions and full participation from all board members in order for it to work well. That said, effective strategic planning is well worth the effort and lays the foundation for short- and long-term success. It helps the association identify the actions needed to make progress and how to measure its success.
A strategic plan can also help guide the allocation of an annual budget and what items should be included in that budget. It’s best if the plan is used when the budget process begins to ensure necessary funds are available to meet objectives.
Using a strategic plan to pursue goals and track results will allow the board (both current and future) to objectively demonstrate goals, explain results and establish needs to the entire association.
Questions to ask before you start drafting a plan
There’s no right or wrong way to create a strategic plan, but generally speaking, the more detailed a plan is, the better.
Below are some questions to discuss with your board and/or management team to help get your team started on the HOA’s plan:
- How would you describe the identity of your HOA?
- What types of residents belong to the HOA?
- What improvements and/or events would augment the value and brand of the community?
- What are the current and future needs that should be addressed?
- Can you improve amenities and/or infrastructure? If so, how?
- Can you improve how the board serves the community? If so, how?
After the brainstorming session, set up three or four additional meetings where the board will have the chance to draft and finalize a strategic plan.
Step 1 – Develop a mission and a vision statement
Draft both a mission and vision statement. A mission statement defines the association’s objectives and its approach to reaching those objectives. A vision statement describes the desired future position of the HOA. You can download the free strategic plan template to see an example of both.
It is recommended that the board consult its governing documents for some initial language when creating these statements. Try to focus on what makes the association unique and how it would operate if everyone had their needs met.
This step should take one to two hours to complete.
Step 2 – Assess the current state of the association
Once the board has statements explaining what it does and what it aims to offer, the next step is to assess how close the HOA is to fulfilling their mission and vision statements. Analyze the association’s strengths, weaknesses and performance, then highlight any critical issues that the strategic plan must address. Issues could include anything from insufficient funding for updated rules, to digitizing paper records. Aim to get to the most important issues impacting the community. The board can make a shortlist of 10 items to prioritize.
This step should take two or three hours to complete.
Step 3 – Develop strategies, goals and objectives
Now that the board has a shortlist of long-term projects, it’s time to pick the ones that the HOA will focus on first. Select three to five items so that the board is not overwhelmed.
Next, the leadership team must create attainable, realistic goals for each item. Add a percentage or number value to the goal if possible. For example, the board will decrease money spent on enforcing violations by 5% by the end of the next calendar year. This makes it much easier to assess whether a goal has successfully been met. Once the goals are set, plan out how the HOA will reach those goals. As an example, to spend less on enforcement, the association might invest in a software system that automates the process and sends letters electronically. Strategies should be as detailed as possible. Finally, don’t forget to include how this objective will help the community and how it aligns with the HOA’s mission and vision statements.
This part of the planning stage will be the most challenging. Not everyone will agree about what to do or how to do it. That’s okay. Thoughtful discussions are a part of this process. Set aside at least seven hours for this step. It might be easier to tackle this part of the process by hosting two or three short meetings.
Examples of goals
- Create a social committee to help promote a sense of community. Host 2 events next year
- Enhance internal communication to improve engagement, disaster preparedness, and awareness by 15%
- Develop a 10-year budget forecast to more effectively manage ongoing and future initiatives
- Identify and manage 12 essential and desired services
- Develop a disaster preparedness plan for 2022 by mid-January
- Assess the association’s safety and security needs and invest 3% of revenue into security resources
- Revise and update the architectural review process
- Centralize governing documents and have all records available online by Q4 of 2022
Step 4 – Consult an expert if necessary
As you get into financial and time allocation for each objective, you may come across some blanks that no one on the board can fill. If that’s the case, it’s time to call an expert. A maintenance plan for a swimming pool, for example, may need to be developed by a professional. The time will vary for this step.
Step 5 – Complete a written plan
It will take some time before all of the details are worked out, but once they are, the final step is to create a formal written plan. The document should be simple, easy to read and anticipate revisions. Distribute the plan to HOA members once it is complete.
To make the most of this resource, present it at an AGM or board meeting and highlight the most important parts. Owner feedback may be encouraged depending on the size of the community and the scope of the plan.
It will take a few hours to complete this step.
Step 6 – Schedule regular review meetings
Implementing an HOA strategy plan is a long-term process. Although the board should strive to stick to the plan, it will almost certainly require changes and revisions. Schedule re-evaluation meetings of the strategic plan at least twice a year so that the board and management can check on its progress and adjust resources or numbers as needed.
Not all HOAs care to make strategic plans because they do require some extra work. However, they are certainly worth the investment. Creating a plan allows busy members to step away from the day-to-day tasks and take time to think about what it really wants for the community. It helps to ensure the association operates with purpose.
A plan can only thrive if the board continues to work on the goals after the plan is created and documents the success of the plan.
Boards should keep in mind that plans don’t have to be overly complicated. Three goals are often enough to create real and impactful change within the community.