A properly-run meeting is a vital component of any Homeowners' Association (HOA)—whether it is a Board Meeting, an Annual General Meeting (AGM), a Special General Meeting (SGM) or a Member Meeting.
Why are these meetings so important? Well, you have a list of HOA-related issues that must be tackled, board members who are prone to burnout, and homeowners that are more likely to attend a meeting which actually accomplishes its intended purpose.
If you simply call a meeting without going through the proper motions, not only will nothing on your agenda get accomplished, but you'll hemorrhage volunteers and lose the attention of the homeowners who you need to pass bylaws and carry out tasks.
How do you ensure that your meetings are successful? Read on to learn the secrets behind effective homeowners' association meetings.
Plan the Meeting's Agenda
Creating an agenda is one of the first things you should do before you hold any HOA meeting. Not only will it allow invitees to come to the meeting prepared to discuss the issues at hand, but it will also give you control over the meeting.
AGM's are meeting held annually that invites the community to attend. An improperly presented agenda can end up in a free-for-all discussion and it's unlikely that you'll get the lid back on that can of worms anytime soon. Invitees for specific meetings (i.e. Board Meetings, Committee Meetings, AGM’s, SPM’s) should receive a detailed copy of your agenda in accordance with the notice requirement detailed in your Bylaws, allowing invitees to come to the meeting ready to talk about the action items listed on it.
In addition to setting the tone for the meeting, passing out the agenda in advance will also foster a sense of transparency. If everyone knows what you plan to discuss in advance, no one should be surprised when new rules, processes or by-laws are enacted.
Another bonus of the agenda is the time it saves. When everyone arrives prepared to discuss what's on the agenda, the meeting moves a lot faster. No meeting should take more than a couple of hours (two hours should be the longest for AGM’s/SGM’s; Board and Committee meetings should be done in 1-1.5 hours at best if Agenda and corresponding material is provided in advance). If someone has an issue that they want to discuss, but isn't an emergency, the best move is to table it until the next meeting. Make a note to add it to the next meeting's agenda, and address the issue then, when everyone's had time to prepare their response to it.
Wondering what your agenda should include? Take a peek.
- Title your Agenda— keep it simple, like, "Forest Green HOA (Board of Directors Meeting; Committee Meeting, AGM, etc.) Meeting July 2017." Put the exact date and time as well as the location in the header, too.
- Outline the Meeting's Objective(s)— This should be short and sweet, too. Try to restrict yourself to a sentence or two, such as, "Objective: Discuss the budget for 2017-2018, including common area and swimming pool maintenance as well as snow removal."
- Schedule the Meeting's Main Elements—In addition to spelling out the issues you plan to tackle during the meeting, this section gives you the chance to allot time to each issue. Whether you label it with the time it begins and ends ("Snow removal: 7:00pm to 7:30pm") or the amount of time you intend for the discussion to take ("Snow removal: 30 minutes"), you need to pick one option and carry it throughout the agenda.
- Allot Time for a Q&A Session at the End of the Meeting— Keep this time short, or your whole meeting will be derailed at the very end. Also, be sure that the questions are pertinent to the issues discussed throughout the meeting, not new business.
Advertise the Meeting Early and Often
There are many ways to advertise your association's meetings to ensure good participation.
Leaflets and going door-to-door can be expensive and time consuming in large communities. Bylaws dictate AGM’s/SGM’s are typically mailed out 21 days in advance. Some communities place signs at entry features advising the community of the date, also, placing a notice on community/HOA bulletin Boards. Most often, Board and Committee Meetings administrators communicate through email and the entire HOA are not typically invited to those meetings.
You may even consider arranging for childcare (a couple of responsible neighborhood teenagers, perhaps) so no one has an excuse to miss the meeting. The logistics of childcare provider, payment and space would need to be arranged and approved by the Board.
If you're ready to leap into the 21st century, post the meeting information and the agenda on your neighborhood's social media platforms, including Facebook or Twitter. Send an email a month in advance, and reminders a week, then three days before the meeting. Add your neighborhood to Nextdoor, the social platform created specifically for neighbors to communicate with each other. You can make the agenda available via download there, too. Create a website for your neighborhood, and publish a calendar detailing the dates of the HOA's meetings for the year, so everyone will have plenty of notice. The options for connection are endless, so pick a few that you feel might be most effective for your particular demographic.
Keeping the Meeting On Track
The last thing you want is for your meeting to have great attendance, but no order. You can wave your agenda at the crowd, but if they don't understand how your meetings are conducted, it can quickly devolve into chaos.
If you're planning a particularly large meeting, you'll want to keep things as formal as possible. This might seem unnecessary– after all, you're neighbors, right?— but if everyone wants the chance to speak, there must be order. Some HOAs adopt parliamentary procedure to ensure that the meeting is constructive and doesn't go way over the allotted amount of time. Robert’s Rules of Order is often used for large community meetings such as AGM’s/SGM’s.
The Chair should be able to control the meeting within timeframes allowed as per the Agenda. The Chair should be someone strong, who stays on topic, and is able to control the meeting—especially for large meetings. Board and Committee Meetings are generally easier.
A large meeting may go something like this:
Chair calls the meeting to order and welcome everyone. Sets expectations of timeline; i.e. the formal part of the meeting will take 20 minutes, then there will be a short presentation by Vendor XYZ followed by a Q&A session). Announces expectation that the meeting should tale about an hour to hour and a half.
Chair announces housekeeping issues; i.e. cell phones should be off, location of the washrooms, and if there will be refreshments available during the meeting or after the meeting and when the timeline for when/where the meeting minutes will be published.
Chair announces after the meeting adjourns that people are welcome to stay for networking, meeting their neighbors, etc.
After the HOA Meeting
The first thing that should be done once the meeting has concluded is to publish the meeting's minutes. Whether you put them on your neighborhood's website or notify neighbors via email that they're available upon request, it's important that everyone in the neighborhood has access to the minutes as soon as possible. Any homeowner who couldn't make it to the meeting should have the option of catching up on the discussion that occurred.
From there, you need to set up breakout meetings for the various committees that help your HOA function properly.
Ready to tackle your HOA meeting? Allow Ivrnet to assist your homeowners' association in becoming a streamlined and well-organized entity by facilitating property management, organization membership, dues payments, communication, and much more. Contact us today for more information.