7 Steps to a Successful HOA Annual Meeting
Annual meetings are vital to the successful governance of any homeowners association (HOA), whether you sit on the board of a condominium or community association. They provide you with an opportunity to share information about the budget, the state of the community and projects planned for the upcoming year. The annual meeting also provides the board with an opportunity to elect new board members.
As a board member, you want what will likely be your most important meeting of the year to run smoothly and be effective and productive. A well-run meeting will make it easier for you to achieve the association’s goals. Follow the 7 steps below to help you stay on track to a successful meeting.
Follow Your Advance Notification Requirements
In advance of an annual meeting, board members must notify homeowners in accordance with their community's notification requirements. Annual homeowners’ association meeting notices usually include the meeting date, time, location, and agenda, though specific requirements can vary from state to state. For example, in Georgia, most HOAs must provide at least a 21-day notice for meetings, but always refer to your association's governing documents or your property management company and your association's attorney for specific requirements.
Know Your Governing Documents
Understanding your association's governing documents is essential to understanding your community's needs. Your governing documents serve as a guideline for your community and provide insight into the rights and responsibilities of its members.
"Your homeowner association's governing documents protect the interests of all residents,” said Jeff Musselman, vice president at FirstService Residential. “To maintain and protect their community’s integrity and property values, board members should always be aware of what's included in them.”
Understanding the governing documents will make it easier for you to answer homeowners' questions that could arise during the meeting. If you need help understanding them, your professional property management company and association counsel can help.
Compile Your List of Attendees
Who should you invite to the HOA annual meeting? Whether your association is a single-family home, a townhouse, condo or a high-rise community, you should invite all association members. Association meetings are typically open to owners or their authorized representatives by proxy. Your governing documents will outline who you should invite, how the notice should be delivered and who is allowed to attend.
Decide Where to Host the Meeting
Choosing a convenient location and time will increase the likelihood that homeowners will attend your meeting. Clubhouses, social and meeting rooms are all excellent locations for your annual meeting.
Understand the Process for Nominating and Voting for Board Members
An important part of annual meetings is elections, and you want the process to go smoothly. Are you familiar with how the election process works? Election requirements, criteria for calling for candidates, and timeframes will be outlined in your governing documents. The following are some general guidelines for participation – note that they may vary from state to state.
Guidelines for Participation
A binding election requires a quorum of homeowners to attend the annual meeting, either in person or by proxy. If a quorum is not met, the board cannot take any official action of electing officers or adopting new policies. To maximize participation and ensure you can obtain a quorum, you should provide ample meeting notice (per your community’s governing documents and local statutes). If your community faces challenges reaching a quorum each year, consider forming a committee to focus on boosting participation.
Most associations allow for proxy submissions. With a proxy, homeowners don't need to be present to vote. The use of electronic voting has increased over the years and is also a convenient way to cast your vote. Voting is done from your phone or your home computer, making it easy for homeowners to participate in the election process. Your association's professional management company can help you research a voting system that meets your needs.
Develop Your Agenda
A well-prepared agenda is essential to keeping your annual meeting on track. Your agenda should include all topics that need to be discussed. To get started, outline key topics such as your annual budget, major projects, and any business that requires a vote. Lean into your property management company if you need guidance on developing your agenda.
“We provide the board with all the necessary resources they need to make informed decisions and conduct their association meetings effectively,” said Katharine Effron, vice president at FirstService Residential. “For example, if we’re discussing changing community landscaping services moving forward, we’ll prepare a board information packet containing the community’s most recent contract, a bid analysis and bids from three vendors. This will help board members make informed decisions and easily present to their association members.”
A typical annual meeting agenda might include the following:
• Approval of the previous year’s meeting minutes
• A budget presentation
• Board member elections
• A presentation on the community’s financial health and any capital projects
• An address of homeowners concerns
In Georgia, agendas must be included in the annual meeting notice. This gives members a chance to review it and prepare for any questions. Therefore, plan extra time into your overall meeting schedule to allow for questions and comments on every agenda item.
Take Proper Minutes
Effective minutes play a vital role in your annual meeting. They serve as a written record of the meeting and can be referenced should questions or issues arise in the future. Minutes can also help to hold board members accountable for their actions, ensuring that meetings are conducted fairly and transparently. For these reasons, taking effective meeting minutes is essential. As with all board meeting minutes, they should explain the recommendations and actions taken by the leadership team and how they benefit the community.
Newly elected boards should use past meeting minutes as a source of information. “The most successful board members engage the community – they ask for feedback from time to time – either in person or through a survey – about ways to improve the community. The meeting minutes are a great resource to help them understand the history of association matters,” said Effron.
As a board member, you know the importance of planning in advance to ensure your operation runs smoothly. Properly preparing for your annual meeting ahead of time will give you peace of mind that you are on track to running a productive and successful meeting.
If you need help planning your annual meeting, contact FirstService Residential.