- Joe Wise
Preparing for a Productive Annual Meeting
Updated: Mar 31
Annual meeting season is quickly approaching—are you ready?
The mantra “Always be prepared” is especially critical in environments that could quickly devolve into chaos. Have your homeowners association’s annual meetings become a forum where the most critical homeowners regale your neighbors with an endless list of complaints? Annual meetings serve a specific purpose—primarily to receive financial reports and elect board members—but are often derailed to become an unproductive and stressful exercise. What can your board of directors do to plan for a peaceful, productive annual meeting? Consider the following “Dos” and “Don’ts” of homeowners association meeting preparation:
Advertise: Legally, the homeowners association is required to give notice of an annual meeting according to its governing documents. If your HOA has historically struggled to reach a quorum, try additional modes of communication to encourage attendance like hanging flyers, posting in a neighborhood Facebook group, or sending out an email blast. Encourage homeowners to submit proxies if they’re unable to attend.
Set expectations: From the initial communication, make it clear that annual meetings are intended for conducting business in preparation for a new fiscal year, not for lobbing a year’s worth of complaints. Offer alternative avenues of homeowner communication by encouraging correspondence and board meeting attendance throughout the year so board directed communication doesn’t peak at the annual meeting.
Prepare a focused agenda: Remember the primary purpose of an HOA annual meeting—to receive financial reports and elect board members. While homeowner input is important, gathering the majority of a community in a shared space is not an environment conducive to decision making. If your members must vote on an amendment to the governing documents or a special assessment, present the situation in a clear, concise manor to ensure homeowners understand what they’re deliberating and voting on without the distraction of a potentially heated discussion.
Foster a positive atmosphere: Meeting productivity doesn’t have to be totally dry. Start the meeting on a positive note by sharing HOA accomplishments and developments on any capital improvement projects you may be undertaking. Encourage a sense of pride in the community by highlighting the progress of the past year.
Complain: This may seem obvious, but a positive community outlook starts with you as a leader. Maybe your board is frustrated with a lack of homeowner involvement in the association or with a contracted vendor—communicate your goals for the HOA without placing blame on another party. According to these Los Angeles property managers homeowners often look to board members’ attitudes to ascertain the state of the association. Try maintaining a balance of realism and optimism when giving a community update.
Follow Rabbit Trails: Even a well-planned meeting can have some attempts at derailment. If a homeowner (or board member) starts taking the agenda off track, respectfully remind them of the limited scope of an annual meeting and offer another time or place to hear their concern (perhaps ask for a written request the board can review at their next meeting).
Make false promises: In an effort to keep an annual meeting peaceful, you may be tempted to try smoothing over a homeowner interjection by promising a solution to their concern. Ideally, there won’t be a forum environment where a homeowner can divert discussion but if it does happen, be careful not to appease the complainer by offering something the board has not had sufficient opportunity to research and consider. Remind homeowners of your board’s correspondence process and stick to it.
Annual HOA meetings may seem daunting, but it’s important to acknowledge the potential misuse of a meeting in order to plan for it. Preparation begets confidence—plan thoroughly, communicate clearly, and assume control from the beginning. Remember that this time doesn’t have to be annually dreaded and maintain a big picture view to keep meetings moving in the right direction.
From offering notice and gathering proxies to booking a venue and facilitating the sign-in process, annual meetings require knowledgeable conduct of leadership and governance. Consider hiring a reputable management firm that understands these requirements. Wise Property Solutions, AAMC® is an accredited HOA management firm that provides management plans, practical expertise, and professional guidance to East Tennessee HOA’s in Knoxville and the Tri-Cities.