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 California homeowners association will not only find great volunteers and committee members, but will empower them to drive positive change in the community. How can your association make this happen?
Here are 8 tips to help you identify great volunteers, develop purposeful committees and maximize resident involvement in your community.
Does your HOA need volunteers for an event or members for a new committee? Let residents know about it. Ask your association manager and California community management firm for tips on how to develop a creative communication strategy that fits your association’s vision. For example, make an announcement at your next community movie night or post a request on your social media accounts. And when public requests fall short, leverage existing resident relationships and ask your friends for help (see tip #2).
What’s one of the most successful ways to fill a need for a volunteer or committee member? Get to know residents and personally ask them for help. Residents are more likely to get involved when they know you and your board. This tactic works in your favor as well. For instance, if you know that a certain resident has worked in accounting, ask them to volunteer for your budget committee. If you’re new to the community or haven’t established many relationships, host a “get-to-know-you” event, where you can meet potential volunteers. Partner with your association manager to brainstorm, organize and plan these gatherings.
When identifying volunteers, look for individuals who are passionate about the community and have skillsets aligned with what you are trying to accomplish (e.g., someone with a marketing background may be the perfect fit for your communications committee).
On the other hand, don’t overlook outspoken residents. Shauna Gatlin, regional director of FirstService Residential in Santa Clarita 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.” The most passionate and “disruptive” people can be a great asset to your association, as long as they are given purpose and responsibilities.
Volunteers who aren’t given real responsibilities or purpose will likely get burned out. Work with your manager and California association management company to provide committees and volunteers with a purpose, tasks and timelines.
Make sure that volunteer and committee responsibilities are aligned with your association’s vision. For instance, if great landscaping is a key part of your association vision, make sure that your landscape or maintenance committee is aware of that goal. Their tasks should help propel your vision forward.
When it comes to committees, a charter is essential for an effective and purposeful group. A committee charter helps set goals and expectations for committee members, so that the group is aligned and working on initiatives that will positively affect your community.
What should be included in a committee charter? For starters, it should outline the ideal number of members, provide a general schedule for meetings and include 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 is a two-way street. On one hand, your board and community manager should provide guidance and direction to volunteers and committee members. Some individuals may be new to volunteering, and they may need advice on their roles and responsibilities (see tip #5).
Similarly, committees and volunteers provide critical guidance and feedback to the board, which can help make the decision process easier for board members. Gatlin 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. They should also provide a written record of their committee activities and meetings (including the minutes).
Volunteers and committee members are giving up their valuable time to improve the community and resident experience. In light of that, your board and community management company should take every opportunity to acknowledge and thank them.
What are some ways that you can show your gratitude? Say thank you to a volunteer you come across while walking your dog or recognize a committee member’s great work at your next meeting. No matter how you express your appreciation, it’s important to continually encourage and thank volunteers 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 reviewing your community’s needs regularly (at a minimum, this should be done on an annual basis). 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, work with your California management company to evaluate your volunteer needs and adapt.