Advanced preparation, effective presentation, and meeting participation are the keys to success.
If your community is like most HOAs and community associations, you’ll be holding your annual meeting in the 4th quarter. This is often the only time each year that the entire neighborhood comes together. Especially if you’re new to the process, planning and executing this annual community business meeting can be quite intimidating. Here’s some help.
In addition to helping hundreds of community associations with audit and tax preparation support, I also served as Treasurer and President of my own community HOA. I know exactly how you’re feeling, but over the years I’ve learned how to plan and execute an annual meeting that is informative, productive, and efficient.
Making the most out of your annual community meeting
Most likely your covenants (or state law) cover at least some basic guidelines on timing and notification. Let’s assume you’re aware of those requirements and focus on the meeting itself. Here are my top 10 tips:
- Build a checklist. This includes a timeline of what needs to happen between today and your meeting, as well as the materials (laptop, agenda, resident name list, pens, etc.) that you need to bring to the annual meeting.
- Communicate early and often. In addition to covenant-required communication, get the word out through your newsletter, email, and even sign boards if needed. Explain the agenda and details as if all neighbors are new to this process.
- Identify new board members. If your board will have vacancies next year, don’t wait for the official notice to start recruiting replacements. Start making calls today to those who you think are the best fit and build your new board.
- Clearly identify potential hot spots. Assume that assessments, dues increases, and major expenditures will be a big deal for some residents. Take the lead, identify the issues, and start educating before the meeting. It may help limit dissention later.
- Get the proxies. If residents can’t attend, ensure they know to return proxies to the property manager, board secretary, or other resident. The last thing you want is the hassle of missing quorum (minimum voting attendance) and having to reschedule the meeting.
- Focus on the critical business processes. This includes check-in and voting. Make sure that you have plenty of qualified individuals (board members, property management team, trained volunteers, etc.) to help residents check-in, present proxies, and vote. This also sets a positive, professional tone for the meeting.
- Involve other residents. Having only one person speak is boring. In our neighborhood, committees present their own annual updates, which breaks up the meeting and gives more people a chance to brag. Don’t forget to recognize volunteers in front of their neighbors.
- Cover the financials. Although residents have most likely received the budget in advance, assume this is the first time they will review it. Present major current and future highlights, including larger or new budget line items and variances. Make sure you cover reserve fund status as well.
- Utilize your experts. Invite your management company, lawyer, accountant, and others who can help answer questions that may arise from the attending residents. It helps instill confidence when a qualified expert answers a tough question.
- Use visual aids. Listening is boring, and it can be tough for your audience to follow along. Use PowerPoint or similar software to help communicate budget, trends, and pictures of all the fun neighborhood events this past year.
The annual HOA meeting is a business meeting, but it can still be fun
Unless you have only one home in your neighborhood, there will most likely be some disagreement among residents. That’s a good thing, as it shows your neighbors’ passion for their community. Keep things organized and efficient, but don’t forget to have a little fun while you’re talking about all the great things you’ve accomplished over the last year. You deserve it.
If your neighbors forget to mention this – THANK YOU for serving your neighborhood as a board or committee volunteer!
Neal Bach, CPA