For community associations facing a world of economic uncertainty, the old notion of “strength in numbers” has perhaps never felt more relevant. Because when it comes to tough problems, the associations that are able to work together and sacrifice together are the ones that usually end up stronger in the end.
In many cases though, neighbors start blaming neighbors when trouble strikes, residents start blaming board members, and board members may find themselves resenting residents. Strife and discord can spread like a disease through a condo community beset by trouble, financial or otherwise. Even when money isn't tight and things aren't especially bleak, apathy and disinterest in the association beyond one's own front yard is a problem that all administrators and boards struggle against.
There are ways, however, to encourage communities to stick together when the chips are down. With some planning and some commitment, residents, board members and managers can build a cohesive team that can cope with and resolve problems, making a better life not only for themselves but for the community as a whole.
There are a couple of key differences between communities that hang together during trying times and those whose sense of community spirit is non-existent even when things are good, says Alan Crawford, owner and president of Crawford Community Management Services in Rumson. "In the larger communities we find that a lot of people in their busy schedules don't really get to the source of a problem. But in the smaller, more tight-knit communities over the last three years, we find that members will step up and say 'Hey, I have expertise in engineering,' or 'My expertise is landscaping. I can give my time to this and we don't have to pay somebody outside to do it.'”
"There are certain communities that are apathetic," says Philip Alampi of TAP Property Management in Glen Ridge, "and then there are other communities that have a sense of camaraderie, a sense of belonging to the community such that participation is almost necessary to be a part of the community and to really be active. We have two 55-and-older communities, and they tend to be more involved, more active, more caring. On the other hand, we have one community that is probably about 70 percent vacation homes and say 25 to 30 percent year-round residences. Their communication is almost 100 percent electronic."