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Community-building events for the holidays & beyond

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Looking for ways to foster a spirit of community and goodwill within your developments? The holidays give property managers and community boards a chance to shine.

Sure, we’ve all seen the typical decoration ideas and Secret Santa events at run-of-the-mill properties. But how can you kick things up a notch?

We’ve gathered some of the best community building events from around the property management industry, running the gamut from simple to ambitious. Let us know how they work out for you!

Rooftop Holiday Party

Do you have a clean and serviceable rooftop? (If not, can you make it clean and serviceable before the holidays?) If the weather is good, and your roof can handle the added weight, rooftops make an excellent spot for social events.

To generate excitement, you can also have a drawing—for example, you could raffle off a Christmas tree.

Pictures with Santa

The shopping mall vendors make bank getting parents to pay for photos of their adorable children posing with Santa. But what do you need a mall for? Get yourself a Santa, contract with a local photographer, and you can provide this service for your residents with children of all ages at a fraction of the cost. Or, skip the photographer altogether: You provide the Santa, and parents can take their own pictures. This is a great activity to plan in conjunction with your holiday party.

Hay Rides

One NYC community managed by Legum and Norman puts together a 45-minute hay ride for children every Christmas—complete with a real horse-drawn carriage. “This has become a community tradition that sells out every year,” says Beth Brittingham, a veteran community manager.


Most good-sized communities are bound to have a handful of jazz, classical, or other musicians that would be happy to put on an hour or two of Christmas-themed music for your residents.

Tree-Trimming Party

Invite all of your residents’ families into your clubhouse to decorate a community tree. Provide all of the supplies that kids will need to make their own Christmas decorations.

Silent Auction

Silent auctions and raffles are an excellent addition to any community building event. Not only can they raise money for a great cause, they are also the perfect excuse for community managers to connect with local businesses, from restaurants and stores to entertainers. Merchants can donate prizes in exchange for a table promoting their businesses. Restaurants can set up sampling tables. Art auctions can do well in affluent communities. Gift cards for local restaurants, shops, or services can make a terrific prize for neighborhoods of all kinds.

Burns Supper

Want to wait until the holiday craziness is over? The Villages of Royal Palm in Port Orange, Florida put on an annual Robert Burns dinner—a celebration of the life and work of the great Scottish poet. It’s a semi-formal but rollicking and lighthearted event, traditionally celebrated in January or February around the bard’s birthday. Kilts and tartans are encouraged, as is the consumption of scotch—and a generous portion of haggis!

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With a bit of planning, you can host a fantastic event that builds community bonds and rich memories. More information on the 200-year-old tradition is available here and here.

Thinking Bigger

BayCrossing Homeowners Association hosts an annual holiday gala. You could hold one in your clubhouse or rent a space in a local community center. The sky’s the limit: Depending on the interests of your tenants, you can have a formal, black-tie gala; a lighthearted, themed party; a Dickensian Christmas dinner; or anything in-between.

Sweeten the event with a silent auction for a local charity. Get local merchants involved to ensure that you have a great selection of prizes and auction items.

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Avoiding Legal Disputes

Keep state laws in mind when planning community building events. For example, Florida law prohibits condominium associations from throwing parties funded by general association dues (the Villages of Royal Palm in Port Orange funds their Burns Supper by selling tickets). Homeowners associations have more flexibility in funding, as long as the documents allow for it.

You may also want to restrict decorations to secular rather than religious symbols. In County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Christmas tree is not a religious symbol by itself—nor is a menorah when displayed in the context of a broader holiday scene.

Whatever you choose to do, community building events are the perfect way to foster relationships between property management staff, board members, activities committee members, and residents. Above all else—have fun!

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Jason Van Steenwyk

Jason is a freelance writer and editor, as well as an avid fiddler. His articles have been published in a number of real estate publications including Wealth and Retirement Planner and Bankrate.com. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his cat, Sasha, and an unknown number of musical instruments.