R E P O R T # 3
the Foundation for Community Association Research
Judy Farrah, CMCA, PCAM
Rob Felix, CMCA, PCAM
Jo-Ann Greenstein, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Ellen Hirsch de Haan, Esq.
Mike Levin, PCAM
Judy Burd Rosen, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Carole Sappington, PCAM
Robert H. Schwarting
Debra Warren, CMCA, PCAM
Copyright and Use Permission
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S T R A T E G I C P L A N N I N G
Community Associations Institute (CAI) and the Foundation for Community Association Research are
dedicated to conducting research and acting as a clearinghouse for information on innovations and best
practices in community association creation and management. As part of the Best Practices project, opera-
tions related to various function areas of community associations—including governance, reserve
studies/management, financial operations, strategic planning, community harmony and spirit, energy effi-
ciency, and transition—have been produced and are available at www.cairf.org as a free download or for
sale in CAI’s bookstore.
What Are Best Practices?
The development of function-specific best practices in the community association indus-
try has been a goal of CAI and the Foundation for Community Association Research for
several years. The Foundation is currently developing best practices in select topic areas
using a variety of sources—including, but not limited to, past winners of the National
Community Association of the Year Award, recommendations from industry experts, var-
ious industry-related publications and, once developed, recommendations from those
communities scoring highly on the Community Performance Index. The subject areas for
the initial best practices were selected through a survey of the CAI and the Foundation
for Community Association Research national leaders.
The anticipated outcomes of the Best Practices project include:
• documented criteria for function-specific best practices,
• case studies of community associations that have demonstrated successes in specific
• the development of a showcase on community excellence.
The benefits of benchmarking and best practices include: improved quality; setting
high performance targets; helping to overcome the disbelief that stretched goals are
possible; strengthened cost positions; more innovative approaches to operating and
managing practices; accelerating culture change by making an organization look out-
ward rather than focusing inwardly; and, bringing accountability to the organization
because it is an ongoing process for measuring performance and ensuring improvement
relative to the leaders in the field.
Accordingly, this project represents an ongoing exploration of best practices used in
community associations. The first series of best practices will set the bar, which applied
research will then continue to raise.
S E C T I O N O N E
The Basics of Strategic
Strategic Planning Definition and Philosophy
Strategic planning is more than ensuring your association will remain financially sound and
be able to maintain its reserves—it’s projecting where your association expects to be in five,
ten, or fifteen years—and how your association will get there. It is a systematic planning
process involving a number of steps that identify the current status of the association,
including its mission, vision for the future, operating values, needs (strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities, and threats), goals, prioritized actions and strategies, action plans, and mon-
Strategic planning is the cornerstone of every common-interest community.
Without strategic planning, the community will never know where it is going—much
less know if it ever got there. An important concept of strategic planning is an under-
standing that in order for the community to flourish, everyone needs to work to ensure
the team’s goals are met. Team members include all association homeowners, the board
of directors, professional management—whether onsite or through a management com-
pany—and various service professionals such as accountants and reserve professionals.
This team needs to work as a collective body to be successful. Part of the team concept
is the establishment of roles for the team players. Teams usually perform poorly if every-
one or no one is trying to be the quarterback.
S E C T I O N T W O
Strategic Planning Models
Strategic planning is a relatively new genre of planning, adapted from primarily two
sources. Business schools have equipped leaders with institutional planning processes,
which were developed from decision making and production control. Community plan-
ning schools have prepared planning staffs with models of social planning and physical
land-use planning. The business model is more often tailored for a hierarchical organi-
zation with top-down control, although this has softened in the dot-com era. The com-
munity-planning model is more grass roots, bottom-up, consensus building and is bet-
ter suited for non-profit organizations and local governments. The former is market
share and profit oriented, and the latter is empowerment and constituent needs orient-
ed. In between, there is a range of blended approaches.
Model 1: Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs)
Brian W. Barry details strategic planning for NPOs in the pamphlet and workbook
Strategic Planning Workbook for Nonprofit Organizations. The workbook is oriented to organ-
izations such as soup kitchens, nascent neighborhood groups, and other human servic-
es groups. It outlines the strategic planning process, but is tailored to a small organiza-
S T R A T E G I C P L A N N I N G
tion with a narrow focus. It also assumes that all of the stakeholders are represented, that
they speak with authority, and that the constituencies they represent are fairly homo-
geneous. In order to be applied to community associations, this model must be modi-
fied to accommodate multiple missions in more complex organizations, which offer
many services to very heterogeneous constituencies. However, it lacks attention on
soliciting feedback and developing consensus.
NPO Strategic Planning includes:
• Recruiting stakeholders, power brokers, and leadership.
• Reviewing the organization’s history and current situation.
• Reviewing and revising (or developing) the organization’s mission statement.
• Identifying the organization’s opportunities and threats.
• Identifying organizational strengths and weaknesses.
• Identifying the most critical issues arising from any of the organization’s opportuni-
ties, threats, strengths, and weaknesses.
• Setting goals to remove weaknesses, blunt threats, and seizing opportunities.
• Brainstorming, evaluating, and selecting strategies to empower leaders.
• Critiquing and reviewing the plan.
• Revising goals, and re-implementing goals, as appropriate.
Model 2: Applied Strategic Planning
The Applied Strategic Planning approach is described in the pamphlet Applied Strategic
Planning, An Introduction by Leonard D. Goodstein, Timothy M. Nolan, and William J.
Pfeiffer. Business and military executives tend to favor this model. It assumes a top-down
hierarchy with a plans and operations department, that is responsible for running the
models and recruiting and involving appropriate and key personnel. It also presumes the
existence of a fair degree of quantifiable data and business modeling decision making
where one finds targets and executes programs. This method might be well suited for
solving problems where constituents have an identifiable problem and are unified in the
opinion that better service is needed. The process also incorporates scanning the envi-
ronment, brainstorming solutions, establishing a future orientation, and looking at the
behavior of competitors and new products on the horizon.
Applied Strategic Planning includes:
• Identifying consultants and key internal players.
• Garnering CEO support, identifying stakeholders, and setting planning goals.
• Scanning organizational values, philosophy, and culture.
• (Re)defining the organization’s mission statement.
• Identifying new futures and new venture opportunities.
• Auditing threats, opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses.
• Identifying critical gaps between where the organization is and its future.
• Selecting strategies to expand or retrench as a means to close performance gaps.
• Implementing the strategies to acquire or divest.
• Monitoring actions, updating conditions, and restarting the cycle.
Model 3: ICMA Strategic Development
This model is the least relevant to community planning as it focuses very narrowly on the
special issue of economic development. It makes a strong case for inventorying existing
capacities and capabilities. It also contains several good elements that would stimulate asso-
ciation planning groups’ thinking on consensus building. ICMA Strategic Development is
described in Economic Development: A Strategic Approach for Local Governments, a 68-page leaders
guide and student workbook for an International City/County Management Association
(ICMA) course on local economic development.
ICMA Strategic Development includes:
• Augmenting existing planning structure with stakeholders.
• Conducting an environmental scan of community conditions.
• Identifying and evaluating the community resources.
• Identifying and rating different community business activities.
• Identifying and rating different community development agencies and programs.
• Conducting an inventory of congruent and divergent values and visions in the
• Imagining and describing multiple visions of different community economic sectors.
• Developing visions into goals and establishing objectives to reach the goals.
• Describing who, what, when, how, and where resources are needed.
• Monitoring, reporting, updating, and reallocating efforts as targets are hit.
• Restarting the process again by recruiting a new group and conducting scans.
benefits of the long-range plan
(from “A Roadmap to the Future, The Importance of Long-Range Planning” by Bernard Steiner,
Common Ground, January/February 1986.)
• Stimulates thinking to make better use of the association’s resources.
• Assigns responsibility and schedules work.
• Coordinates and unifies efforts.
• Facilitates control and evaluation of the association’s activities (accountability).
• Creates awareness of obstacles to overcome.
• Identifies opportunities.
• Avoids the trap of linear thinking.
• Facilitates progressive advancement of the association’s goals.
S T R A T E G I C P L A N N I N G
Applying Strategies in Community Associations
In 1999, the Radisson Community, located in Baldwinsville, New York, and comprised
of more than 2,100 residential units, developed a strategic plan which was derived from
the NPO workbook, material used in the City of Syracuse by the former mayor, and the
research and planning experiences of the community’s executive director, a planner by
previous training. Parts of Applied Strategic Planning and ICMA Strategic Development
were also used to guide discussion and give structure to the process.
More specifically, Radisson’s strategic plan involved the following steps:
• Recruiting core leadership and augmenting with representatives from different groups.
• Educating, motivating, and empowering the group.
• Setting planning objectives, and expanding involvement.
• Understanding the state of the association and how and why it came to be.
• Imagining and understanding multiple visions of the future.
• Identifying current and likely changes and opportunities.
• Identifying things that the community does well and reinforcing its hallmarks and
• Describing a path to the visions of the future using strengths and opportunities.
• Bundling strategies into groups around organizational strengths and leaders.
• Describing the plan to all association members and soliciting comments on multiple
• Restating the popularized plan, seeking broad-based consensus for it, and soliciting
more feedback and involvement.
• Assigning plan parts within the organization, and soliciting operating plans, budg-
ets, and schedules.
• Prioritizing goals—allocating and planning resource utilization.
• Monitoring accomplishments and soliciting and reaffirming consensus on remain-
• Restarting the vision making process with a new group of interested members—
Strategic Planning in Your Community
If your association is not equipped to evaluate the aforementioned models and develop
a strategic plan, the next section contains a simple breakdown of strategic planning and
what you can do to set and reach goals for your community.
S E C T I O N T H R E E
Components of Strategic
Strategic planning’s three main components are plan development, plan execution, and
plan review. Many of the functional areas within these components are similar in that all
three require a team concept that is based on: ensuring the member’s roles are defined, edu-
cating team members about the process, and using quality communication when interacting.
Plan development is the first component of strategic planning. During this stage, the fol-
lowing steps should be completed.
1. Assess the association’s history and significant accomplishments. Develop a history of
the association. List important milestones that brought the association to where it is
today. In order to help visualize how the association has changed over the years,
include items where impact occurred in the association’s operations, such as: hiring
additional staff, upgrade computer hardware/software, changing processes significant-
ly, raising dues, building additional facilities, rebuilding/renovating existing facilities,
etc., by dates and quantities/dollars, as appropriate.
2. Assess the association’s current status. Determine the association’s current status by
looking at such things as the state of the facilities, infrastructure of the operations, the
financial statements, the demographics of the population, and so forth.
3. Evaluate the association’s current governance structure. Review the operations to
determine how responsibilities are assigned, defining communications and authori-
ties. Examine policies, procedures, and desk guides available to determine the chain
of command within the association’s staff, within the board, and for oversight and
communications between the staff or property management company and the board
of directors. Critical is the point of contact for the staff or management company and
the board, to preclude misunderstandings, duplications of effort, things falling
through the cracks, etc.
a. Determine the board’s responsibilities versus that of the staff or management
company’s responsibilities. An example of a delineation of responsibilities
between the staff or management company and the board is covered in Policy
Governance, which simply stated, assigns the board’s function as that of policy
making, the “what is” of the subject/issue, while the staff’s or management com-
pany’s function is that of carrying out the policies, the “how to” of the
subject/issue. See Best Practices Report #2: Governance for a detailed description of
4. Develop mission and vision statements. The vision statement is the image or state
to which the association aspires. It emphasizes the dream of where the association
will be at a specific time. The mission statement is the organization’s purpose stated
in a memorable phrase. In short, an association’s mission statement describes the
S T R A T E G I C P L A N N I N G
sample mission statement
To provide services to our community and to our member property owners as defined
by the KICA Board in response to member preferences. Of particular emphasis are
efforts to build a stronger Sense of Community, efforts to resist crowding, and efforts to
maintain our environment. This will be done in a manner that provides for the preserva-
tion of values, for the maintenance of common facilities and services, and for a vehicle
for the administration and enforcement of covenants and restrictions.
—From Kiawah Island Community Association’s Long Range Plan Report, August 14, 2000
business it’s in. It should be geared toward fulfilling the association’s purpose and
what it is intended to do with some specifics contained in the governing docu-
ments. Mission and vision statements should not be a list of goals.
5. Determine operating values. Also called guiding principles, these values state the
association’s intentions and expectations. They are used to judge the association’s
policies and actions, as well as individual conduct. Associations should include val-
ues such as: the importance of customers and customer service; commitment to
quality and innovation; importance of honesty; integrity and ethical behavior; cor-
porate citizenship; respect for the employee and duty the association has to its
employees; and importance of safety and protecting the environment, etc.
6. Perform a needs assessment. Determine the needs of the association by analyzing
the present state of the community, addressing any critical issues, and identifying
the association’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
a. Determination of key result areas. Define five to ten areas in which the associa-
tion must be successful in order to accomplish its mission, based on customer
i. Determine customer expectations. Determine the customer [members, sup-
pliers, and employees] expectations of the association as stakeholders. Group
the expectations into five to ten key results areas.
7. Determine critical issues. List the critical issues faced by the association that must
be addressed for the association to achieve its mission and vision, based on an
assessment of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
a. Assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT)
i. Strengths. List the organizational attributes that promote the association’s
ability to meet its mission and vision.
ii. Weaknesses. List those organizational attributes that hamper the association’s
ability to meet its mission and vision. Some examples include inadequate tech-
nology or use of technology, lack core competency training, poor service, and
iii. Opportunities. List those factors, internal and external, that would enable the
association to meet its mission and vision. Some examples include technolog-
ical advances in needed areas, consolidating functions, etc.
sample vision statement
The Vision of the Kiawah Island Community Association is that it will take the lead in:
• providing a sense of community and enriched quality of life for its members,
• encouraging members to be good stewards in meeting their responsibilities to each
other, to the greater community that surrounds us and to the preservation of the natu-
ral qualities that enrich our island existence,
• offering every opportunity for its members to enjoy personal growth while respecting
their heritage as a community and as individuals,
• ensuring that wellness, both in the maintenance of our good health and in the fun
and joy experienced in life on Kiawah, is protected and nourished,
• contributing positively to members’ investment in Kiawah, particularly in preserving
property values, and
• above all, guaranteeing that pursuit of excellence in all the Association does is its
—From Kiawah Island Community Association’s Long Range Plan Report, August 14, 2000
iv. Threats. List those factors, internal or external, that would hamper the asso-
ciation from meeting its mission and vision. Some examples include high rate
of foreclosures, drawn out worker strike, change in developer focus, etc.
8. Define the roles of key players. Who will be the key people responsible for each
aspect of the strategic plan? Answer questions such as: What level of control will
the board have? Is the manager going to be a proactive leader or an administrator?
Are the homeowners going to be active as committee members or are they going
to be less involved? Role definition is extremely important so that efforts are not
duplicated—or neglected overall. One way to establish a team and define specific
roles is to adopt a model similar to a city council and city manager form of gov-
ernment. The city council (board of directors) sets policies, votes on contracts and
bids, and is the on-site eyes and ears (oversight) of the community. The city man-
ager (management) should be the professionally educated, proactive, paid leader
who manages the day-to-day operations, brings issues and solution options to the
table, and then implements the board’s decisions. The citizens (homeowners)
should attend meetings, serve on committees, and elect competent individuals to
the board of directors. This concept of team roles goes much deeper than this dis-
cussion allows, especially in the areas of compliance, budgeting, and homeowner
9. Educate and communicate the plan. Without education and communication, team
members can neither perform their roles nor effectively interact with each other.
Make sure that every player has the necessary documents and basic knowledge to
perform effectively. Further ensure that each of the players communicate with each
other—provide updates as necessary and always ask for others’ input. Better to
catch a potential problem earlier rather than later. In the event that there is a
change in management, association boards should also be sure to communicate
their strategic plans to the new manager, and revise it, if necessary. Also, if the