It seems like every day I have a conversation with at least one customer about whether or not they should post some type of information online – such as their neighborhood’s financial reports, bylaws, or meeting minutes. My answer is always absolutely yes, 100% without a doubt.
I’m always puzzled as to why this is even a hesitation, but I’m now convinced, given the breadth of the concern, that many, if not most people feel fear about sharing information on the web.
Here are some of the better “reasons” for NOT sharing information. (The quotes are paraphrased.)
- “If we publish our financial reports, our vendors will see what we pay and offer us less competitive rates.” Well, maybe. First, let me explain that if you use eNeighbors, only residents have access to your neighborhood website. So, unless your vendors are also residents, you don’t have to worry about this. However, why would you assume that the rates would be less competitive? You might find that they are more competitive and try to undercut your current rates. At the end of the day, you have to negotiate your rates, or allow your property manager to get you the best rate. This has nothing to do with what you’re currently paying. It has everything to do with what you’re willing to pay and what they’re willing to sell it for.
- “We have a resident that is filing a lawsuit against us and we don’t want him to have this information”. Sorry, but you can’t hold the information back from him anyway. You are making it a little harder on him to access it, but if he’s filing a lawsuit, it won’t really matter. One thing to consider: If you had made this type of information available in the first place, would there be a lawsuit at all? Boards that share information and operate transparently instill trust with their residents.
Here are my reasons for sharing information:
- Sharing information online instills trust with residents
- Sharing information online holds board members accountable
- Sharing information online provides a repository of historical knowledge for future boards to reference
- Sharing information online is convenient for board members, property managers, realtors, renters, and residents
- Sharing information online leads to unexpected results that will improve your community
As a board member you don’t really have a right to hold back information. Most of the information is publicly available (such as your HOA bylaws) and it is certainly the right of due’s paying members to have access to it.
And finally, I’ll leave you with a video of Sir Tim Berners-Lee (father of the Internet) and his perspective on sharing data. He’s way beyond sharing documents, he wants your raw data now.