- Joe Wise
Are Your Meetings Keeping Minutes but Wasting Hours
Board meetings are integral to the function of an HOA. They provide an opportunity for directors to discuss governance issues by determining policies and priorities for the association. By following appropriate procedure, accepting homeowner input, and distributing minutes, meetings are influential in maintaining an involved and informed community. Unfortunately, these sessions can often “go off the rails” when not navigated correctly. Poorly planned and executed meetings are inefficient at best and have potential to negate the good intentions of the volunteers who conduct them. There are many factors that determine an unsuccessful meeting, some of which are:
Starting (or ending) late
Relying on a vague or incomplete agenda
Following “rabbit trails” and other distractions
Over-discussing an issue without ever actually taking action
Holding a potentially volatile homeowner forum
Just one of these factors is enough to discourage someone from pursuing board involvement and can damage community morale. The good news is that board meetings aren’t all destined for failure and frustration. With thorough planning, appropriate meeting conduct, and consistent follow-up, your board meetings can accomplish efficient action for the betterment of your association.
1. Meeting Prep
Determine your meeting schedule far in advance (many associations decide on meeting dates a year in advance). Choose a location that encourages productivity such as the community clubhouse, a hotel conference room, or a local church. Avoid distracting environments like restaurants or someone’s home. Notify homeowners of the dates, times, and location by posting on the community website, distributing a letter, or sending out an email notification. It’s important that owners know when board meetings take place so they can submit written requests in advance that can be included in the agenda.
Provide structure for homeowner contribution. Some states require associations by law to include a homeowner forum at board meetings but encouraging homeowner correspondence prior to the meeting (or even offering a sign-up sheet before the meeting starts) gives your neighbors a chance give forethought to their questions or concerns instead of sharing comments off the top of the head. When your board is aware of an issue in advance, you will be prepared to conduct any necessary research and formulate a better response.
Build an effective agenda. The agenda is pivotal to promoting meeting efficiency. Consider using a timed agenda that allocates time for each item (ex. Approve previous meeting minutes—5 minutes, Review tree project proposals—15 minutes, etc.) Give yourselves reliable structure and include an adjournment time, especially if your board is prone to wandering discussion. A time agenda can help alert members that the meeting has gone of course. Distribute the agenda and supplemental materials to all directors a week in advance of the meeting to allow everyone time to mentally prepare.
2. Meeting Conduct
Follow parliamentary procedure. Require directors to make a motion to open or close discussions and ask for a vote. This systematic method reduces cyclical conversation and encourages action rather than rambling.
Stick to the plan. Rely on the structure of your agenda to move discussion forward. Treat the agenda like a roadmap for conducting business efficiently. If a discussion item arises that isn’t on the agenda, make a note of it and include it in the next meeting instead of derailing your present conversation. This process allows time for further research and keeps dialogue within your set time limits.
3. Meeting Follow-up
Keep proper minutes. Don’t rely on your memory to interpret haphazard notes. Your association secretary should provide an appropriate record of each meeting’s proceedings and share them with the community upon board approval. Minutes should include pertinent information about motions and votes instead of play-by-play reiterations of the meeting’s dialogue. Meeting minutes should be a record of action the board has taken not everything that was said in the meeting.
Turn action items into work orders. Convert discussion into action by quickly implementing board decisions. Communicate with vendors and inform homeowners while your momentum is strong.
Your community relies on the board to function effectively. Balance the needs of both your community and board members by streamlining board meetings to create effective action in your community leadership.
If conducting meetings and other association duties are daunting to your Board, consider hiring a reputable management firm. Wise Property Solutions, AAMC® is an accredited HOA management firm that provides management plans, practical expertise, and professional guidance to East Tennessee communities in Knoxville and the Tri-Cities.