Boards need to be in touch with residents. They need a sense of association members’ opinions and priorities when making decisions for the entire community. Surveys are an excellent way to obtain feedback on specific subjects and sample general attitudes of community residents. Boards that seek out and seriously consider resident’s opinions will likely foster a stronger sense of community, reduce violations and resident complaints, and generally find that residents support their efforts.

 

Conducting a community survey might reveal unknown problems or negative attitudes, but boards should never be reluctant to undertake surveys for these reasons. On the contrary, boards have a responsibility to recognize and rectify problems and address the sources of negative attitudes. Of course, the opposite is also true: surveys can confirm that the board is on the right track, provide support for difficult decisions, and demonstrate a board’s due diligence and sound business judgment.

 

Boards might also be reluctant to conduct surveys because they feel that the results constitute a mandate. However, surveys are not votes! Board members should remember that the information they collect is intended to help them make decisions, set priorities, and identify issues. Boards won’t always be able to respond to every issue raised in a survey; but, they will at least be aware of it, and they can factor it into their decision making. Residents will understand the information-gathering nature of a survey if it includes a cover letter from the board explaining the surveying process and purpose.

 

Survey results are an expression of attitudes on specific subjects at one point in time. Therefore, conducting surveys should be a regular–but not excessive-activity in any association. The value of a survey’s results is related to the level and breadth of participation by residents. Conducting surveys periodically demonstrates to residents and members the value of their views and accustoms residents to sharing those views.

 

There is no perfect research design, and associations need not worry about getting it perfect. Begin modestly with simple surveys on non-critical issues until the volunteer leaders and members become more familiar with the process. Boards and managers alike will become more comfortable with the process as they get underway.