Last modified on October 3rd, 2023
By Brittany Benz
For an association manager, the end of the year is always a hectic and busy time. Not only do you have to carry out all of your daily tasks, serve homeowners, and meet with the board, but you also have to prepare annual reports, deliver statements, and budget for the next fiscal year. These responsibilities can be cumbersome and time-consuming, especially when done manually through a paper-based system, which can lead to mistakes and extra costs.
Instead of forging ahead with last year’s process, you can use the repetitive nature of your end-of-year duties to your advantage and create a standardized workflow. When everything is clearly laid out step-by-step, it’s easier to streamline your operations to automate certain tasks, eliminate error-prone activities, and build efficiencies to improve the entire process. Read on to find out five ways you can streamline your end-of-year duties and set your association management business up for success in 2024. Be sure to check out the extended tip list at the end of the article for more insights!
1.) Increase financial transparency with detailed reports
Few things are more important than informing your boards about the past, present, and future financial health of their community association, especially if you’re experiencing increased costs because of inflation. Whether they came in over, at, or under budget dictates their fiscal strategy for the upcoming year. Offering them visibility into association financials with multiple concise reports, such as budget comparatives, fund balance and income statements, profit and loss for the reserve, and customizable board of directors packets, can help clear up any misconceptions and streamline their planning and decision-making processes.
To get a clear picture of your associations’ financial health, it’s best to use association management software with a robust accounting foundation. Look for a system that has real-time data, expansive bank integrations, customized reporting, and automated budgeting tools built into the software, all of which make it easier to maintain accurate records and understand your finances. It’s also important that the software offers the highest level of security, as you’ll be storing personal information and financial data about your homeowners and board members.
For specific reports, such as budget comparatives, you can also provide month-to-date and year-to-date actual figures versus budgeted ones and comparisons between certain periods of time for review. These options consolidate critical data for board members, which simplifies evaluation while assisting them in planning for specific months where they may need to budget additional funds.
Having a single system of record for all of your finances also enables you to uncover insights in real-time to share with your boards, further proving the value your management brings and empowering the board to make better-informed decisions for the year ahead.
2.) Streamline year-end communications
The financial year ends in December, which means a lot of time is spent communicating with board members, vendors, and homeowners. But what if you could get some of that time back by streamlining your communications?
By re-examining how often you send messages and which channels you use, you can make a big difference in reducing your overall correspondence time. Rather than calling each board member individually, mobile communication tools like texting and emailing can allow you to share important information, such as budget comparative reports, en masse. For documents that are required to be sent via postal mail, you can avoid wasting time manually compiling annual letters by using software with a fully integrated end-to-end mailing service to send bulk or individual mail automatically.
Additionally, you can leverage a digital association calendar to schedule and invite board members and homeowners to annual meetings and community events so everyone stays in the loop.
3.) Simplify assessment update notifications
As the end of the year approaches, it’s also time to update assessments. Instead of using a complex, paper-based system to make these changes, simplify the process by using a digital solution.
This way, as soon as you need to make a change, such as an increase in association dues, you can do it online and automatically notify homeowners with customized letters. By going digital, you can save time and money and reduce errors caused by manual data entry, plus you can give homeowners an easy way to keep their accounts up to date.
4.) Use AI to speed up invoice processing
Manually scanning and entering all of your end-of-year invoices by hand can take hours — if not weeks — of your team’s time. You can increase efficiency exponentially by leveraging AI to speed up the invoice processing process. For instance, AppFolio Smart Bill Entry uses AI technology to automatically process invoices easily and quickly, allowing your team to spend less time on manual entry and more time on the work they need to focus on. Smart Bill Entry reads PDF invoices, identifies key information, and automatically enters that information into AppFolio. Instead of manually transcribing every field of every bill, all you have to do is review and approve.
5.) Find ways to save
If your community associations have been impacted by inflation, then it’s even more critical to identify ways to save money for your communities. Luckily, there are some easy ways you can cut back on spending. Start by calculating how much going paperless can save on mail, board packets, and supply costs. Next, analyze your previous spending to spot potential excess operational costs or fees. Lastly, review and/or renegotiate vendor contracts, pricing, terms, and fees, and ensure adequate insurance coverage to mitigate future unexpected expenses.
Getting through all of your end-of-year duties doesn’t have to be a stressful, manual process with hours of data collection. By switching to a single solution with built-in, automated accounting features, you can prepare customized and detailed reports, automatically send letters and process invoices, and ensure boards are always informed about the financial health of their association. And when it’s time to communicate updates and share important annual documents, mobile communication tools can keep your board members and homeowners in the loop. If you’d like to learn more about how you can simplify your accounting processes, take a look at this guide.