11 community-building event ideas for property managers (+ 7 tips for success!)

Jason Van Steenwyk
Jason Van Steenwyk | 7 min. read

Published on August 15, 2017

Every profession has its Holy Grail. For football players, it’s a Super Bowl ring. For insurance salespeople, it’s ‘Top of the Table’ status in the Million Dollar Round Table.

In the property management business, the Holy Grail is the elusive ‘sense of community’ among residents, which—theoretically, anyway—creates bonds between residents and the property itself. That sense of community gets leases renewed and encourages referrals from current residents.

One key way to develop a sense of community among residents is to organize a series of resident activities for them to participate in. In addition to building a community among your residents, one benefit of on-site resident activities is that it gives staff a chance to see which residents are worth retaining and which are better off getting politely non-renewed. If you witness property damage, drunkenness, bullying, or other negative or unruly behavior at apartment evens—which hopefully won’t happen!—that can tell you something about your residents that you might not have found out otherwise. 

Here are 11 ideas for community-boosting resident activities, as well as our best tips for success.

11 Resident Activities for Strengthening Your Community

#1: Community Appreciation Barbecues

This is one of the most tried and true, ever-popular resident activities. Host a potluck barbecue. Staff can man the grill and provide tables, chairs, paper plates, cups, and enough hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone. Encourage residents to bring side dishes and desserts. Keep the kids occupied with pool activities, a bounce house, or organized games and contests.

#2: Cook-Offs

Jamestown Apartments in Newport News, VA has sponsored a chili cook-off among residents for the last two summers. Residents of Southwind at Crowley, a nursing facility in Louisiana, participates in a town-wide gumbo cook-off league. You can have any kind of cook-off as long as you’ve got the grill/stove space for it. If you have a community kitchen and a bit of ingenuity, the sky’s the limit.

For the best results, post the winners’ names and photos in the community area each year. Anything that gets teams plotting about how they can win next year bodes well for lease renewals.

Make sure that you have teams sign up in advance. If you’re providing basic ingredients and stovetops, you don’t want to be surprised when more teams show up to cook than you can handle.

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#3: Sports Tournaments

Form teams and challenge nearby residential communities to a competition. New Territory, a community of 4606 homes near Sugar Land, Texas, is big enough to have its own intramural softball, dodgeball, cricket, soccer, and basketball leagues.

#4: Luaus

In addition to the chili cook-off, Jamestown Apartments also sponsored a Hawaiian-themed pool party for residents last May.

#5: Art Nights

Consider partnering with a local artist, gallery, or art supply vendor to put together an art night or a series of classes for residents. For example, Sunland Village, a 55+ community in Mesa, Arizona, has an arts and crafts league.

#6: Art Exhibits

Reach out to local art supply stores, schools, and galleries and host an art show in your clubhouse for local artists. Think through how the art will be displayed—you may need to bring in booth materials, but the artists may provide their own. When everything is set up, have a wine and cheese reception in the common area. This method works well with upscale communities whose residents have the means to buy original works of art—thereby attracting better artists. However, you’ll be surprised how much participation you can get from young people, too.

Have a section set aside for kids, or have a sidewalk chalk drawing event outside for them during the day!

#7: Craft Nights

Invite your creative-minded residents to an evening of crafting. This could involve anything from painting mugs to crocheting to classes—anything hands-on and appropriate for a wide range of ages.

#8: Resident Trade Shows

The chances are good that you have a number of independent contractors and small business owners in your community. Hold a residents-only trade show. This provides an opportunity for local business owners and creatives to shop and form new connections. Mountain View Apartments of Asheville, NC did precisely this last year in their clubhouse—on the same day that they sponsored their own chili cook-off!

#9: Story Times

A classic activity for young children. A well-executed children’s book reading can foster an appreciation for reading. Combine storytime with age-appropriate craft-making for a little more oomph. Here’s a great example based around Eric Carle’s classic children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. 

#10: Kite-Making & Flying Competitions

Kites are easy to make and fun to fly. Have a kite-making contest for the kids. Provide some basic materials and string, and then have a kite-flying day at the closest suitable clearing. (This works best on a moderately windy day!)

#11: Raft Competitions

Given equal amounts of cardboard, twine, duct tape, and empty 2-liter soda bottles, who can build the best boat and row it across the pool? The kids will surprise you with their ingenuity. And for the really little kids: Here’s how they can get in on the fun, too!

From chili cook-offs to craft nights, try these 11 community-building event ideas on the #BuildiumBlog! Click To Tweet

Hosting Resident Activities: Tips for Success

  • Begin publicizing the event with signage right before the first of the month, when lots of people will be dropping off rent checks at your office.
  • Begin publicizing 90 days out. Some resident activities, like the raft-building contest, may take some time and effort to get enough materials donated or recovered from the recycling area.
  • Publicize in multiple forms, from inserts and mailers to door hangers and A-frame signs in common areas. In addition, leverage social media platforms such as Facebook, which is taking on critical importance. In fact, a community communications plan that doesn’t include Facebook promotions and event invites is like going on a hike with one boot off. The plan to promote should be as detailed as the plan to execute, and it should involve multiple platforms to reach all demographics.
  • Offer incentives to boost participation. Poplar Ridge Apartments in Fort Wayne, IN boosts participation by entering all participants in a drawing to win a desirable prize, such as a big screen TV. The more resident events that someone participates in, the greater their chances of winning.
  • Find a way to encourage residents to bring guests, and have a way to capture their contact information and market to them. When they sign in, have them put down when their lease is up and what they might be looking for in the next year. If you put together a successful resident event that builds warm memories for the community, and you’re organized about marketing to them at the right time (about 4 months before their lease expires), you’ll get your share.
  • Encourage residents to participate in event planning. In fact, the more that they do and the less that your staff has to, the better—both from a community standpoint and from a liability standpoint. Ideally, you want your staff to facilitate resident activities that are driven by residents—with residents, not your staff, making key decisions. It takes a bit of time, effort, and deft people skills to get to this point, however.
  • Don’t think of resident activities as the magic bullet to resident retention. It’s nice, but it’s just one tool in what should be a big tool box.
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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.

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