Tap into the power of community leaders
How to build community leader programs to boost resident satisfaction and retention
Boost resident satisfaction—and retention—the human way
Let’s face it: what’s good for residents sometimes feels at odds with what’s good for your business. But what’s so powerful about Venn’s community leader program (and what I love about it) is that it turns that assumption on its head and proves that what’s good for residents can be good for your business too. What’s the program all about? Great question. Simply put: it’s a model for partnering with active residents in your community to support your team with event programming, resident comms, and overall resident engagement.
One of our customers in Philadelphia recently asked us to recruit more community leaders to help increase resident engagement and satisfaction. They’re clearly seeing the value of the program—and want more. It’s no surprise to us. According to our benchmark report, roughly three-quarters of residents said that it’s important to be able to grow their community and socialize with neighbors. But that’s easier said than done and that’s where community leaders come in.
Community leaders are volunteers who are motivated by creating meaningful relationships and experiences that positively impact their communities. In many ways, the program is also an opportunity for them to grow personally and professionally because they take on significant responsibilities and often have a direct line of communication with property team. We see it as a win for everyone because they're building leadership skills, you’re gaining valuable insights, and your residents are benefitting from a more vibrant community.
How to onboard community leaders
I spend a lot of my day working with property managers to build impactful community leaders programs that drive the kind of results our customers want. Here are my high-level tips. If you want to talk in more detail, let’s set up a time to talk 1:1.
- Define your needs. First and foremost, you’ve got to figure out what your goals are and then identify what kind of program will work best for you and your management team. Ask yourself: What do I need help with? Whether it’s boosting event attendance, improving perception among residents or whatever else, you can build a program that supports your goals.
At Venn, one of the most impactful models is the Neighborhood Ambassador program. Residents in this program partner with property managers to improve the overall community experience by hosting events for the whole neighborhood and by welcoming new residents into the community. Residents can also join the Group Leaders program and focus on creating special interest groups and host meetups. Venn also has the Content Creators program, which encourages residents to activate our app by highlighting local businesses, sharing neighborhood news, and starting group chats.
- Create incentives. Offering incentives is a way to both thank your building leaders and keep them motivated. Here are some examples of what you can offer:
• Local discounts and promotions
• Special access to building and community spaces
• Access to a network of like-minded community leaders
• Exclusive perks, including professional development opportunities, gifts, and private events.
- Identify good candidates. Residents who self-initiate are great candidates. For example, if a resident approaches you wanting to do an event, capitalize on that. Reach out to them directly via text—it’s more personal than email—to see if they’re interested in learning more about the program. Once you’ve got a line of communication going, streamline the process as much as you can with automated emails, forms, and questionnaires to truly gauge their interest and commitment. We’ve found that great leaders create connections on their own, have a specific area of expertise or passion, love the program, their neighborhood, and their PMs and can refer others to the program so you want to be sure that your preliminary surveys capture that type of qualitative information.
- Invite them to the program. Invite all your qualified candidates to a special welcome dinner where you can tell them more about the program, its perks and what to expect in terms of responsibilities and time commitment. After the dinner, follow up and confirm their interest.
- Set up check-ins. You’ll want to have regular check-ins with your community leaders to see how it’s going and where they need support. And this is where things can get really interesting and valuable for you: it’s an opportunity for them to share what’s happening in the community and for you to gain critical insights into what your residents care about and what makes them tick. You can then use these to inform your overall resident experience strategy and programming.
- Follow their lead. Over time, leaders will discover the value of their role and think creatively about how to engage their communities outside of traditional channels like events. It’s so important to empower the leaders at this point and follow their lead because they have direct access to your residents and will give you eyes and ears into what’s really going on at a building level. In my experience, community leaders who have been able to build strong micro-communities at the building or even floor level are the ones that have the biggest impact — keeping residents connected, engaged, and inspired — and ultimately more likely to stay.
The bottom lineThink of your community leaders as your secret weapon. If you partner with them and empower them to build thriving and engaged communities from the ground up, they’ll have a major impact on the success of your portfolio — boosting resident satisfaction and retention. With them, you have ears and eyes on what’s going on in your community firsthand and can get to know and understand your residents in deeper and more meaningful ways. These insights will help you provide the kinds of services and experiences your residents value and make them want to stay.