As a professional Community Association Manager I hear these complaints each and every day from board members:
• I can hear the sound of crickets chirping at board meetings because nobody except me and the other directors attends.
• I haven’t got a clue what might inspire owners to attend meetings and participate.
• I feel overworked and unappreciated – no one ever comes out to say thank you.
• I’m sick and tired of doing all the work myself.
Let me suggest something that may seem counter intuitive to these beleaguered community association directors:
• Homeowners should not have to come to a meeting to get help in resolving an issue.
• If a homeowner needs help, he/she should be able to directly go to the manager (if there is one) or to a director (if the association is self-managed) – and not have to wait for a meeting.
Board meetings should be for board business. However, if that’s the only time and place for a homeowner to go to get from his/her association, the homeowner can easily begin to think of the board as a “royal court” before whom he/she must bow, scrape, and grovel to get anything done, as if the board were doing him/her, the humble homeowner, a favor – unless of course they don’t like this particular homeowner, in which case any request made will automatically be denied. That’s the risk of making homeowners jump through hoops to get anything resolved.
What is the best way to measure a community association board’s success? Is it attendance and participation at board meetings?
Here’s my big secret, and I’m going to give you this one for free: it all begins with intention and a planning session. In the planning session ask yourselves honestly:
• How can we make living in our community more enjoyable?
• How can we as a board enhance the beauty to increase the value?
• How can we better maintain what we have to ensure the longest life of our stuff, like play equipment, pools and landscape?
• How can we be kinder and more considerate of all of the owners and residents?”
If you’ll just do that, your life as a board member will be infinitely easier, and enjoyable.
The planning sessions – and board meetings – are not a time to criticize the past, but to bring fresh eyes to existing policies and procedures. Give the ideas and possibilities a try. The enemy of good is the pursuit of perfection – where nothing gets done unless it can be done perfectly. Progress means “we’re not there yet, but we’re working on it!”
And remember the Pareto Principle: 20% of what you do will make 80% of the difference – good or bad. Don’t seat the 100%. Figure out which 20% will get 80% of the results that you want. Do the 20% first and the rest will fall into place.
Consider this: maybe if homeowners don’t show up to your meetings it’s because they think you’re doing a pretty good job and they trust you to take care of business. Consider it a compliment, not a criticism or show of apathy, if all you can hear is the sound of crickets chirping at your next board meeting.
Of course, sometimes you’ll need the input and participation of the owners to get things done, such as returning ballots, changing documents or deciding on adding speed bumps where participation is critical. I guarantee you that if you foster good relationships with your members in every interaction, then when these crunch times come, you’re members are going to respond.
Searching for ways to have positive interactions by creating specific touch points is an old idea that needs to be revisited. At our company we’ve been reviving the Welcome Committee, where an owner will bring a gift such as a plant or cookies to greet each new family to the neighborhood. We’ve also been empowering social committees to have events such as an invitation to a local theater event or a regular date for a coffee at a nearby tea shop. These are old ideas that are helping to bring people together again with great success.
If you’d like to receive sample committee charters or ideas on what your community might benefit from, please contact me. Whether we manage your community or not we are always happy to help Boards and Managers build communities that people love to call home. – Liz