All homeowner and community associations are different from one another, as they are comprised of a collaborative group of board members. Just as associations differ so do the special committees that fall under the association. You can have as many different types of experiences with committees as there are kinds of committees themselves.
Yet whether your experiences have been good, or not-so-good, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your next committee is productive, focused and an asset to your association.
It’s true: any committee can be a wildcard. They’re made up of human beings, after all, and that tends to mean a lot of different personalities and perspectives are introduced to the mix. But with the right structure and guidelines, this becomes a benefit instead of a burden, and committees can become an important advisory arm to the Board. The best property management company can play a vital role in helping steer this essential process.
For the most effective committees, just follow these five steps.
1. Determine the type of committee.
Broadly, there are two types of committees: Standing (or permanent) committees and ad hoc (or temporary) committees. Standing committees handle ongoing tasks and responsibilities such as the budget and finance committee, the security committee, the maintenance committee, the grievance committee and the executive committee. Ad hoc committees handle short-range issues and could include the landscaping committee, the government relations committee, the owner/resident relations committee and the housekeeping committee. Your geography may determine which committees you establish, too. For instance, for communities in coastal regions, you may want to create a hurricane committee to handle seasonal preparation and evacuation plans. And remember, your committees will mostly function in advisory capacities, but some of them (like the executive committee) may be given the authority to exercise some of the board’s authority. Your specific bylaws may shed some light on the type of committees you can form and the powers they have, and a property management company can help you determine which ones will be most effective for your homeowner, community or condo association.
2. Choose the right kinds of people.
The most important ingredients in a committee are the people in it. Not everyone is cut out for it. But the flip side of that is some people who don’t think they’re committee material make outstanding members. The truth is, anyone who has the time to serve, is passionate (yet reasonable) about a specific issue affecting their community and has knowledge or skills related to a committee’s purview is a good candidate. For example, a CPA is a great choice for your budget and finance committee, but if she’s running her own firm and working late most nights of the week, she may not be able to commit the time. In many cases, new residents make great committee members because they see things from a different perspective and it is a great way of stitching them into the fabric of the community. No matter who you choose, just remember that a committee should be made up of three to nine members (always use an odd number to avoid tie votes), all of whom should understand the difference between their individual desires and the needs of the association.
3. Choose the chair.
Exercise special care when you choose the chair of your committee. This individual should possess all the qualities you look for in a committee member, but with additional leadership capabilities. Note that you’re looking for a leader of a specific type; rather than the authoritative brand of leader, your ideal candidate will lead through dialog, respect and fostering an air of open collegiality. Most of all, you’ll need someone who is adept at leading a meeting, creating an agenda and holding the committee to it. Part and parcel to this is a person who is respectful of others’ time. Consult with your property management company and they can help you vet your candidates.
4. Make a hard job easier.
Serving on a committee isn’t always easy, but there are some things you, as a board member, can do to set its members up for success. Your property management company can supply you with tried-and-true strategies for maximizing committee effectiveness, but here are a few to consider: First, help the committee establish meeting times that are convenient for everyone. “I can’t make it” is the biggest killer of committees. Further, as a board, create a clear purview and measurable objectives for your committee and don’t overload them with items. Be fair and reasonable and give them specific timelines. Make sure the goals you set are achievable in the time you require, and be concrete in what the committee is meant to achieve for the association and your community.
5. Communication is key.
Talk to a property management company about establishing clear communication channels, both within the committee itself and from committee to board. Within the committee, all meeting notes should be distributed to each member, especially if there is an action required. And once a report is drafted, all committee members should also review it before it is submitted to the board. As a board, always task committees with objectives consistent with the best interests of the association and your community. Be specific in your expectations and your feedback. Clarity is a committee’s best friend.
At their best, committees are effective for associations and rewarding for the individuals who serve on them. The best property management company can guide you through what it takes to make this happen. FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company, can help. To create committees for success, contact FirstService Residential today.