A community survey can provide boards and managers lots of valuable information if designed and distributed well. Decide what information you’re looking for, who you want it from – owners or residents- and how you’ll use it.
Design: Survey questions shouldn’t be too long or complex, and answering should be easy. Questions should emphasize long-range objectives.
True/false, multiple choice, and rankings are the most common types of survey questions and each should include a space for comments.
To keep a survey focused, one person, not a committee should draft the questions. Usually the Association Manager would draft the survey and ask the board for constructive comments.
Distribution: Many methods exist for conducting surveys-postal mail, e-mail, online, in a newsletter or just door-to-door. Methods will vary depending on the capabilities of the association. People get so much junk main (in both postal boxes and email) that a survey can be missed. Include surveys with billing statements, or in other ways that recipients will be sure to see it.
The ease of returning a survey has a lot to do with response rate. The easier it is to respond to the questions and return the survey to the association, the higher the response rate will be. While response rates greater than 15 percent are acceptable, some associations have been fortunate to get 30-45 percent.
Frequency: Conducting resident surveys annually gives the board a way to compare changing attitudes, interests, needs and levels of satisfaction over time.
Using the data: Survey results can be used for long-range planning, solving problems and making decisions. Encourage boards to consider the data during their deliberations and to address residents’ concerns or interests that raise subjects they’ve never considered or about which residents need more background information.
Boards that fear negative results should be reminded that they are neither a vote nor a mandate, but are the most useful because they identify problem areas. There are always a few negative responses mixed in, but the overwhelming number are usually constructive or positive.
Suggested Questions for a Survey:
What was the major factor in your decision to live here?
What do you like most about living here?
What one thing would you change about the community?
How do you feel about the enforcement of the governing documents?
What would you add/change about the newsletter?
Do you have access to and use the Internet?
How would you rate common area maintenance?
What community amenities do you use?
How can the Association better serve you?
Published by Community Association Institute – CAI May/June 2008