Do either of these scenarios apply to your association?
“We do our best, but it’s SO hard to attract and retain great volunteers and committee members.”
“Our community is actively involved, but our volunteers and committees just don’t feel empowered or purposeful.”
A healthy and effective Arizona homeowners association is not only able to identify great volunteers and committee members, but will empower them to drive positive change in the community. But how do you get there?
Here are 8 proven tips to find great volunteers, develop purposeful committees and maximize resident involvement.
No one will sign up to be a volunteer or committee member if they don’t know about it. When your HOA needs volunteers for an event or members for a new committee, publicize it. Work with your Arizona community management company to create a communication strategy that fits your community’s vision. For example, you may want to post a request on your social media accounts or make an announcement at your next event. And when public requests fall short, nothing beats word-of-mouth or leveraging existing homeowner relationships (see tip #2).
Residents are more likely to get involved if they know your board personally. And this also works in your favor. If you know that a certain resident has a background in finance, ask them to volunteer for your budget committee. To jump-start resident relationships, you may want to host a “get-to-know-you” event. This kind of event helps strengthen your association’s reputation and provides an opportunity to get to know residents and potential volunteers. Your management company should help you brainstorm, organize and plan these gatherings.
When recruiting volunteers, look for people who have specialized knowledge and will put the community’s best interests ahead of their own personal interests.
On the flipside, don’t discount the disruptors. The most passionate or outspoken residents can be a great asset to your community when given purpose and responsibilities. Kim Rubly, vice president of FirstService Residential in Tucson said, “It’s great to have a diverse mix of people serving as volunteers or on committees – and that includes ‘outspoken residents.’ By educating these individuals and helping them understand the decision-making process, you can redirect any negative energy they may have.”
Don’t create a committee or volunteer task just to have one. Work with your manager and Arizona management company to ensure that your committees and volunteers have a purpose, responsibilities and timelines. Residents who don’t see themselves as part of the big picture may get burned out.
Make sure that volunteer tasks or committee responsibilities are aligned with your association’s vision. For example, if you’ve identified great landscaping and environmental design as a key component of your association vision, make sure that your landscape or maintenance committee is aware of that end-goal. Their tasks should tie into that vision and help propel it forward.
In the case of committees, a charter is absolutely critical for a well-functioning and purposeful group. It sets expectations and goals for committee members, so that the group is aligned and working on initiatives that will have a positive impact on your community.
The committee charter includes items like identifying the number of members, setting a schedule for meetings and outlining roles and responsibilities. When a committee doesn’t have these guidelines, the group can easily go off the rails or struggle with competing agendas.
The relationship between HOA board and volunteers and committees should be a two-way street. On one hand, committees and volunteers play a critical role in providing guidance and feedback to the board. Rubly said, “Having committees and volunteers involved can help take the board member out of the ‘hot seat’ in terms of making recommendations and suggestions.” In the case of committees, they often present their findings to the board in a formal board meeting. You should also have a written record of committee activities and meetings (including the minutes).
On the other hand, your board and association manager should offer ongoing guidance and direction to support committee members and volunteers. These individuals may be brand new to volunteering, and they may need advice on their roles and responsibilities (see tip #5).
Remember: They’re not being paid to do this. Just like your position on the board, volunteers and committee members are giving up their time to enhance the community and resident experience. That’s why it’s especially important to recognize their service, either formally or casually.
You can say thank you to a volunteer you come across while walking your dog, or you may formally recognize a committee member at a meeting. Every contribution counts, and it’s important to continually encourage and thank them for their work. Not only will this keep morale high with current volunteers, but it will strengthen your association’s reputation as one that genuinely cares about its residents.
As your association evolves and volunteers come and go, make sure that you’re frequently reviewing your community’s needs. For example, you may find that a committee served a short-term benefit by advising on a capital improvement that is now completed. Or, there may be a conflict of interest that has created issues for a group of volunteers. In both cases, it’s important to evaluate your volunteer needs and adapt accordingly. At a minimum, you should evaluate your needs on an annual basis.