One of the responsibilities of an HOA board is to hold an annual meeting. The meeting itself is important, but the preparations that come before it are just as critical. The planning stage is when you define agendas and send out notices. While these actions may sound trivial, they are far from it. If you don’t plan HOA meetings effectively, you run the risk of barreling towards a chaotic assembly.
Annual meetings are typically busy. Board elections, voting on projects for the coming year, and a general discussion usually takes place during this time. With such a full plate, you can see how many things can go wrong. As such, preparation becomes all the more integral.
Efficiently Plan HOA Meetings Using These Pointers
When it comes to planning HOA meetings, it’s important to stay organized. Here are some things you can do to ensure a successful HOA annual meeting:
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 do so. Most communities choose to hold their meetings 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
Another way to improve annual HOA meetings is to begin preparations early. For some associations, this 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.
3. Create an Agenda
Once the date of the meeting is set, it is time to create an agenda. Annual HOA meetings usually consist of a medley of topics to go over, so it is crucial to have it all in writing. This is done to avoid confusion or losing track of your subject. Homeowners must know what to expect when they attend the meeting, so notify them of the agenda as well.
Agendas are critical in that they give you a set list of important topics that must be addressed. Once you land on a final agenda, make sure to stick to it to avoid drawing out the meeting or branching off to other topics.
Not all agendas are made the same. However, in general, you should make sure your agenda includes time for the following:
- Reports from the board of directors, including a report on the association’s current financial condition
- Upcoming projects
- Ballot items
- Board nominees
- A time to vote
- Q&A (member comments)
Also, be sure to 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.
4. 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 a quorum. Quorum is an often misunderstood concept. Despite its fancy Latin name, however, it is relatively simple. A 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 voters.
Unless your community’s bylaws say otherwise, a 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 a quorum, the 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 votes 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.
5. Get the Word Out
Another way to guarantee a 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 an email blast to all community members 60 days and 30 days ahead of the meeting. However, you must still 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.
6. Consider Installing a Suggestion Box
Suggestion boxes may seem passé to some, but it is a completely legitimate way to have community members voice out their opinions. Some homeowners may be too shy or too afraid to shed light on an issue. Others may feel like their complaint is too shallow and not worth the extra minutes. As a board member, you must encourage communication and make others feel their voices matter.
If nothing else, a suggestion box is also a neat way of solving a time issue. Sometimes meetings can go on for hours on end, with homeowners springing surprise topics or complaints that can drag well into the wee hours. People get antsy or impatient. After all, they do have lives outside the association. To save time and avoid going off-topic, ask them to write their concerns down and put them into the suggestion box instead.
However, it is equally vital to go through these suggestions. A suggestion box should not be an empty solution. As a board member, you must listen to the community’s concerns. Make sure you read every single suggestion, no matter how absurd. You need not grant everyone’s wishes. However, you may be surprised to learn of an issue that had not even crossed your mind.
7. Work with Your Manager
Communities working with an association management company 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.
Community managers 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.
Say Goodbye to Inefficient HOA Meetings
While the board will hold many meetings throughout, the annual meeting sets the tone for the whole year. Since so much goes on at these meetings, it is important to enter them prepared.
As a board member, it is part of your job to make sure these meetings go without a hitch. Plan HOA meetings early, with both a date and agenda set ahead of time. Notify homeowners promptly and regularly of all necessary information. By following these tips, you can look forward to a successful HOA annual meeting.
However, if you feel you are not equipped to carry out these tasks, you can always seek professional help from an HOA management company. In that case, give us a call.