One of the most important things you will do as a member of your association’s board of directors is to hold an HOA annual meeting. While the board will hold many meetings throughout the year, the annual meeting sets the tone for the whole year. At this meeting, the board will hold elections, vote on projects for the coming year and, often, take questions from homeowners on the direction of the HOA. Since so much goes on at these meetings, it’s important to enter them prepared. This article will teach you how to plan an annual meeting, what documents you’ll need and how to keep votes and elections go off without a hitch.
1. Set a date
The best way to ensure a smooth meeting is to have it planned well in advance. Of course that means you need to know when your meeting is actually scheduled. For many HOAs, the date of the annual meeting is mandated in the bylaws. If not a specific date, it might be specified as “the second Saturday of November” or something similar. If your meeting is not mandated in this way, it should be. Attendance is important at these meetings. Have a date set in stone to make sure all community members who want to come, can. Most communities choose to hold their meeting in the Autumn or Spring to avoid Summer vacations and holidays. Additionally, it is a good idea to hold the annual meeting near the end of the fiscal year so that the next year’s budget can be settled at the same time.
2. Start planning early
Once the date of the meeting is set, create an agenda and notify the homeowners. For some associations, this stage of planning can happen as early as 6 to 12 months before the date of the meeting itself. While that might be a bit overkill, we still recommend starting early (60–90 days before) so that you do not have to scramble just before it happens. In any case, you should make sure your agenda includes time for:
- Reports from the board of directors
- Upcoming projects
- Ballot items
- Board nominees
- A time to vote
- Q&A (member comments)
Be sure to also plan out your ballot. While some community associations may choose to hold votes by voice, that can get very hard to manage. Instead, consider using paper or even online ballots. This way, you can match each ballot to the member that cast it, confirm their right to vote, and reduce confusion. Ballots also save time during the meeting. A well-made ballot should allow association members to vote on multiple issues and candidates at a single time. That way, you can vote on everything at once rather than calling for a separate vote for each item.
3. Quorum and proxies
The most important function of the annual meeting is the election of the board of directors. For big decisions like this, you must have quorum. Quorum is an often misunderstood concept. Despite its fancy latin name, however, it is relatively simple. Quorum is simply the minimum number of votes that need to be collected for the vote to “count.” This is usually described as a percentage of the total eligible votes. Unless your community’s bylaws say otherwise, quorum is present when at least 10% of the voting members attend the meeting in person or by proxy (50% in the case of board meetings). Without quorum, business can’t be conducted. The meeting will need to be rescheduled.
One way to avoid missing quorum at important meetings is to allow proxies to be used. A proxy is, simply, a document that gives an association member the authority to vote on behalf of another. Proxies should always include the date and time of the annual meeting as well as spaces to note the member voting by proxy and the name of the member voting on their behalf. Some communities will include their ballots directly on the proxy form.
That way, the voting member can easily fill out the whole form and cast their vote at the same time. Other communities may choose to distribute proxies and ballots separately. However your community does it, it is always worth talking to an attorney or your community manager to make sure your documents are properly set-up.
4. Get the word out
Another way to guarantee quorum is to give community members plenty of time to make plans and make the meeting worth going to. When notifying homeowners about your annual meeting, it’s important to leverage all your resources. We recommend sending out a mailer and email blast to all community members 60 days and 30 days ahead of the meeting, but check your governing documents as they may include a required notice period. Additionally, if you have a community newsletter, you should prominently feature the date of the meeting in each issue, especially as the meeting approaches.
If your community has an active online presence, it is also a good idea to promote meetings through your community website and frequent updates on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and NextDoor as well. Finally, consider planning for food or another community event to be held alongside the annual meeting to encourage a higher turnout.
5. Work With Your Manager
Communities working with an association management company like Elite Management Services have a major resource in their community manager. The community manager is paid to take a lot of administrative burden off of the board. In planning an annual meeting, they review meeting agendas and give advice on what should and should not be included. They can also handle much of the communications with homeowners through scheduled email and physical reminders. For medium-to-large communities, a good community manager goes a long way toward getting annual meetings run smoothly.