Retention Intervention: Grow your Groups!

Each winter, we watch our residents disappear in to their homes, where they hibernate all winter long, with little or no contact to the outside world.  Then in the spring, they come out and if  they see their shadows, we have 6 more weeks of winter.

Wait.  That's groundhogs.

But our residents are a lot like that if you don't count the whole 6 weeks more of winter thing.  They close off in the grey blah of the winter months, and as they hermit themselves away, we miss golden opportunities for resident retention.

As I've stated before, you don't have to have a lot of money to do resident retention, since the most important factor is the level of service that we put forth as property management professionals.  But if you've already got the Ritz Carlton service going, why not max your retention score by going above and beyond to brighten up your residents days in the gloomy months of grey skies? (You can tell I'm in Seattle.  We have grey skies for three months of the year up here, minimum.)

Resident groups are always a popular idea, IF you pick the right things to build your groups on.  If you're working in a university district, quilting is probably not going to be a popular topic, but Scrapbooking might.  You can find local stores, especially in this economy,  who would be willing to either reduce their prices on supplies or even donate some to your community.  And, as an avid scrapbooker myself, I'll tell you right now that odds are in your favor that your residents already have a lot of supplies themselves.

Another great U-District group option is offering space two or three nights a week for resident study groups where people can meet and socialize while they do homework.  The best part about this is that when you've got a good study group, people want to join, and this might include people who are not your residents.  NOT YET your residents.  Put out some coffee and packets of hot cocoa, and watch the chairs and tables fill up in your function space. 

This idea is equally well implemented in communities where you have a lot of school aged children as an after school study group one or two days a week.  How great would it be to contact your local high school's sponsor of the National Honor Society and ask them if they have any kids who would want to volunteer as tutors?!  NHS kids have to have a certain number of volunteer hours and tutoring is right up their alley.  Plus, you get to provide a valuable service to the parents in your community at low to no cost, which will go over big since, out on the west coast at least, good tutors can run upwards of $75 an hour.

At a senior community, knitting circles are always a popular draw.  It's a chance to gather and gab with others and a chance for people to teach each other and pass on knowledge.  Cross-Stitch is another popular circle to start since patterns can be recycled and reused several times, reducing the overall cost.  Some businesses like Daniel Smith Artist Supplies will occasionally partner with communities that want to offer time to art groups where residents can learn drawing, painting and other art forms.

Hosting a professionals networking night could be both a lot of fun and very rewarding for your residents, not to mention it's a great opportunity for them to meet their neighbors.

Monthly Movie Nights
might be a great way to get use out of that on site media room. You could hold a "Date Nite" move or a "Sunday Afternoon Matinée" for the kids in your community.  Setting a movie schedule by the current new releases is a great idea or asking for suggestions from your residents works really well, too.  Once you have established your movie routine, you can start holding Movie Marathons with series like Lord of the Rings, Superman, Batman, Star Wars, Harry Potter, The wonderful world of Disney, Star Trek,  etc. on your weekends.  It looks great to new future residents to see amenities getting use and it's a great treat for your current residents, plus the cost of popcorn isn't too high that it will blow out your budget!  Plus IMDB gives you a great resource to make sure that the movies you're showing are appropriate to your audience.

Go from low cost to NO cost with a Bi-weekly Book Club! You can involve your local libraries in the process, and if I know anything about librarians (and having been raised by one, I DO) they will be excited to facilitate to the best they can.  In King county we have a phenomenal library system where you can order your books on line and have them sent to the branch nearest to you.  For novels, there would most likely be enough in the system for your group to check out and read every two weeks.  Also, according to recent trends reports, reading is on the rise in the American public, if for no other reason than the fact that it's free!

What about holding a weekly Game Night?  You can acquire cheaper games from your local thrift stores like the Salvation Army or Goodwill, or you can invite your residents to bring their own games.  There are several great games you can play with just a few decks of cards, which is of minimal cost to your community. Skip-Bo, Uno, and Rook are great card games to add to your collection as well.  An at-home version Pictionary is easy enough to create for a cost of one large pad of news print, markers and some scraps of paper.  If you have the funds to buy some games for your community, don't pass up the following:
Cranium WOW
Catch Phrase
Apples to Apples
These are all fantastic party games to have in your cabinet and they encourage people to get excited and involved.  It's hard to sit by and not get sucked in to a game of Outburst or Catch Phrase, and Cranium is absolutely irresistible!

If you're looking for more ideas, check out for some great inspiration, and even some existing local groups.  Do you host groups for your residents?  How successful has it been for your communities?

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