04 Nov Homeowner’s Association Annual Meeting Checklist: Be Prepared and Ready to Host the Most Successful One Yet.
Each year (HOA), homeowners and mixed-use community associations need to plan for their annual meetings. It’s well, a big deal. Usually, it’s the most attended meeting of the year and one with a packed agenda covering past, present, and future initiatives. Because of the high attendance, the importance of the matters to review, and the attendees’ anticipated involvement, preparation is paramount. A defined agenda is necessary to keep everything on track and in accordance with expectations.
The meeting’s overarching goals are relatively straightforward; to address all major topics affecting the community and residents and to elect member(s) to serve on the board. Throughout the year, there are regular board meetings that cover the day-to-day operational matters, but the annual meeting should recap the year and set the tone for the year ahead. Think of the annual meeting as more “macro” in nature versus the weekly or monthly meetings, which are more “micro.”
To help the organizers responsible, we’ve devised an Annual Meeting Checklist that can help navigate what to do, how, and when to ensure a successful meeting.
Prep and plan early.
The preparation for the meeting will begin in advance. Start brainstorming and outlining the meeting, so nothing is left to chance. Refer to the prior year’s agenda or the governing documents as a resource. Ensure notices are prepared for distribution per governing documents and state statutes. Residents will be expecting to take up several considerations, such as reviewing the approved budget for the coming year and electing board members whose chairs will be vacant. As most HOA committee chairs will tell you, any event is only as good as the logistics that go into it.
Choose the right day, time, and place.
To ensure a good turnout, it’s imperative that the right venue be chosen, along with a convenient time for people to attend. Make sure a time and day are chosen that align with your documents and encourage attendance, such as later in the week after regular working hours. The location needs to fit the anticipated number of people comfortably. It could also act as an incentive if a more popular venue is used (the right food and beverage always help tip the scales). There also needs to be enough tables and chairs, plus other functional means of presenting such as a projector, wi-fi, screens, and enough privacy to carry on undisrupted.
This step in the process will be a bit trickier during Covid as people will need extra room to social distance, so take that into account when choosing a space. If the meeting is going to be virtual due to safety precautions, try to accommodate residents who are not very computer savvy or may need assistance logging in and joining the meeting. However, one benefit to a virtual meeting is that the meeting can be recorded and shared with residents via email or even posted on the community.
Get the word out.
To encourage attendance, begin promoting the meeting months ahead of time. Ensure that all communication being sent complies with statutory and declaration requirements. You’ll need adequate time to solicit candidates, collect proxies, and distribute ballots.
Reach out directly to residents with emails or mailers. Make sure to place flyers in the common spaces, post regular updates on the association and/or community social media channels, and your website if there is one. If there’s a Property Manager, Property Management Team, and/or other staff, have them advocate and push the message out as often as possible. The key is to promote often and in many places and have everyone on “board” with the same message.
Additionally, make sure invites are sent out to anyone who needs to be present that works with the community. This list could include accountants, attorneys, builders, developers, and speakers who need to address specific issues. Working with the right property management company that provides many of these services often makes this part easier.
To help enhance the message and help motivate residents, consider including a raffle or some other prizes to be given at the end of the meeting. Choose something like a budget-friendly gift card to a local restaurant or a complimentary amenity reservation.
Make it informally formal.
An informal meet and greet before the start of the meeting, making board members more accessible to residents, may also be a good idea. This could be the first meeting for new residents or residents looking to fill a seat on the board. Removing the formality at the start helps take the edge off and creates a more congenial atmosphere and open communication lines, allowing everyone to ease into the more serious topics covered in the meeting. This meet and greet is a great time to connect with HOA committee heads, property managers, and other association members or residents who do not interact regularly. If you’re going virtual, you will want to discuss how you can still provide this feeling without the in-person opportunity to gather. Review the significant updates and changes before the meeting
Do not spring huge changes or hot button issues on residents. The reaction will not likely be a good one. Include these ahead of time with the annual meeting announcements. This preparation does several things; allows people time to digest and get used to the idea(s), allows (for) providing feedback or questions, and helps better manage expectations going in. The annual meetings are sometimes delicate affairs with heightened tensions. Any news that could be taken poorly, such as an increase in dues, for example, needs to be communicated prior.
Have a clear agenda.
Having a well thought out agenda and sticking to it is imperative for a successful meeting. Whoever volunteers, or is chosen, to chair the meeting should have ample time to put some remarks together and have a script to work from if needed. Have all hands on deck to help with signing people in, recording minutes, and assisting the attendees. The homeowner’s association needs to strictly treat this as a business meeting with essential items to tackle and agree upon.
While the exact items will vary from (homeowner’s) association to association, here is a sample agenda and rough outline for the meeting:
● Bring the meeting to order and review the agenda
● Overview of prior meeting’s minutes
● Review milestones and achievements by the board and community
● Reports from the board of directors (including financials), committee members, and other professionals that work with or in the community
● Upcoming projects
● Board nominees
● Time to vote
● Tabulation of votes cast
● Announce and congratulate new board members
● Question and answer (member comments)
There are going to be positives and negatives during the meeting. Some items on the docket will be more contentious than others. Try and design the agenda so that the more difficult things are placed between positive ones. Review the accomplishments over the past year early in the meeting to set the tone and reinforce the hard work property managers, and the HOA put into maintaining and managing the community. Never start or end on a negative note. While this may be more difficult given the issues we’ve all faced in 2020, everyone needs to know that positive things are happening.
Also, make sure to understand and review the process for quorum and proxies. Check on the required quorum needed for annual meetings (number of votes necessary), which is different from board meetings. Also, determine if a proxy is allowed and the type allowed. Instructions on the use of the proxy should be detailed. During a time like Covid, proxies will almost certainly be used more so than other years. Consult with an attorney or your property management team if needed to ensure the proxy is set up and used correctly to avoid any mishaps.
The big day is here.
It’s time to see all the planning and preparation come to fruition. Get there early to make sure everything is in order. Arrange the tables so that the board, manager, and any committee members are seated in front and that you are adequately spaced for social distancing. Make sure all the technology is working, including microphones, computers, projectors, etc.
Specify a time for questions and answers
There will be questions that arise. Set ample time at the end to field questions from the attendees. Questions may or may not be within the framework laid out for the meeting. Try and not go off on any tangents. If there is an off-topic question (or if someone chooses to depart from the pre-approved topics and divulge in matters of opinion), kindly redirect the conversation and offer an alternative time to discuss it. Provide a survey for residents to fill out at the end for feedback. Adding a suggestion box can defer subjects that don’t directly inform the annual meeting and is an easy way to collect comments.
Lastly, let everyone know there will be follow up communications sent out with a breakdown of what was covered, new announcements, and any action items stemming from the meeting.
The annual meeting is significant for choosing the direction and initiatives of the coming year. Do not underestimate the amount of planning and preparation necessary to host a successful meeting. The meeting outcomes will have real implications moving forward; the election of new board members, new projects being undertaken, amendments that were taken up, and more. However, it’s also a chance for residents to meet and catch up with one another, find common ground, and become excited about what the HOA has in store for the community. Even though this is a formal process with explicit outcomes, the underlying goal remains the same: to make the community a better place for all residents.
To discuss your annual meeting with us or to see how we can help your high-rise community or homeowner’s association, get in touch today.