The annual membership meeting of a homeowners association is a mandatory requirement of the governing documents (CC&R’s and By-Laws) of every community. Legally speaking, the annual meeting is usually centered around election of new board members, and voting on assessments if any. Though the board of directors sometimes dreads the event, it is one of the only times the homeowner members actually have a chance to interact with the board, its management company and the rest of the members.
Related: How to hold better board meetings
Your individual governing documents will dictate how much notice must be given to the membership; also be sure to include the planned agenda and approximate length of the meeting. This gives the members a chance to allot enough time (hire babysitters, etc.) and to also brush up on any issues to be discussed and/or decided upon.
Reminder notices should also be sent out (postcards are the most cost efficient), as well as posted throughout the community (mail rooms, elevator areas, etc.). It is important to make every effort to encourage members to attend, or to at least sign a proxy so that a quorum is established. Sometimes an incentive might come in handy, such as having a raffle or discount coupons to local businesses distributed at the meeting.
In general, the board nominees will be very active in encouraging attendance because without a quorum they cannot be elected. Sometimes nominees or board members may also get involved in collecting proxies themselves. It’s best to send your proxies in to the management company in order to avoid any conflicts of interest. If plans change, and you can attend after all, just rescind your proxy at the sign-in table.
Mix and Mingle
Board members should introduce themselves to members as they arrive, rather than staying off to one side and huddling together. Again, you want to create an inviting atmosphere, one in which members will feel valuable and encouraged to participate. If members feel alienated from the board, they will take a “them against us” position – never leading to a good place when a consensus is needed for the best interests of the community.
Consider a 15-20 minute meet-and-greet prior to starting the formal meeting – this also allows time for late arrivals who might otherwise be a distraction. Depending on the location of the meeting, and the anticipated attendance, a light snack and bottled water and coffee might be offered as well.
Introduce the board and property manager, welcome the members, and outline the goals of the meeting. As you move through the agenda, explain each issue and what it means to them. If written reports are used, make sure the attendees have access to them as well. Projector screens can be very effective for making your point, and to break up longer presentations and discussions. Make sure motions and their results are stated in a manner that everyone can understand and hear. Keep the meeting on point but also allow a bit of leniency in hearing out the members. Give a few minutes to see if the other members to they step up to help control an outburst – you don’t want it to appear that the board is not allowing dissension.
Most meetings will follow Robert’s Rules of Order, but this doesn’t have to be done so strictly as to get in the way of an open and clearly understood agenda. Using terms most people are unfamiliar with isn’t the way to run an annual meeting. Take this opportunity to show the best side of the HOA board and the management company, and the ways in which they have worked together over the past year. Be sure to share background information; for example: why a committee was created, what the findings were which preceded a board decision, along with any measurable results. Close with the goals for the coming year, congratulate the newly elected board, and thank the members for their participation.