There are few HOA rituals as universal as the Annual Meeting. This meeting, held once a year, sets the groundwork for how the entire community runs. At the annual meeting, the board holds elections, sets the budget, and takes association member questions about the direction of the HOA. It’s important to be prepared as you go into the meeting because so much rides on it. This week, we’re discussing annual HOA meetings, how to plan for one, and how to make sure it runs without a hitch.
1. Set your agenda
There is a lot at stake with the annual meeting. Here, you and your neighbors will determine the direction of your community and its leadership for the entire coming year. Therefore, it’s important that everyone in attendance knows what is happening and why. The best way to make sure this happens is by publishing a clear agenda and sticking to it. While the exact items will vary from association to association, it is common to at least include time for:
- Reports from the board of directors
- Upcoming projects
- Ballot items
- Board nominees
- A time to vote
- Q&A (member comments)
Great associations plan and agree to the agenda to well in advance of the meeting. That way everyone attending will know what to expect and have ample time to gather any documents or other materials they may need. Some associations will start planning 6-12 months in advance of the meeting, but that’s probably overkill for most HOAs. Cedar recommends finalizing your agenda at a minimum of 30 days before the meeting.
2. Know when you meet
It should go without saying that the annual meeting needs to have a date. Luckily, finding that date is usually already done for you. In most community associations, the date of the annual meeting is enshrined in the governing documents. If it’s not given as a specific date, it will be specified as “The first Tuesday of April” or something similar. Because so much happens at this meeting, it’s important to have as much of the community involved as possible. Having the date determined well ahead of time lets you plan around it and get the word out early to maximize attendance.
3. Understand quorum and proxies
Regardless of the rest of your agenda, the election of the board of directors is central to the annual meeting. Big decisions like this require quorum. Don’t be scared off by the fancy latin name, though. Quorum is simply the minimum number of votes required for a vote to “count.” This amount can usually be found in your association’s governing documents as a percentage of total eligible votes. Typically, this is 10% for general meetings like the annual meeting and 50% for board meetings. Business can’t be conducted and the meeting must be rescheduled if quorum isn’t present.
Luckily, you don’t need to have all these eligible voters physically present at the meeting. To achieve this, many associations use proxies. A proxy is a document that allows one association member to vote on behalf of another. It is important that this document is set up properly to avoid any confusion or legal challenges. It’s a good idea to work with a lawyer or your association management company’s legal advisors to set them up properly.
4. Get out the vote
Even if your community uses proxies, you should do everything you can to get your members to attend the meeting in person. In-person attendees are able to be more active participants, asking questions, and hearing the discussion being had first-hand.
The best way to boost attendance is to let members know about the meeting early. That way, they can block off that time on their calendar before anything else comes up. Often, the notice period will be specified by your community’s governing documents. If not, we recommend sending notice 60 to 30 days ahead of the meeting via email blast or paper mailers. If your community has a regular newsletter, the date should also be prominently displayed in each issue, especially as the date approaches. You can also get out notice through social media posts to groups on Facebook, NextDoor and others. And if all else fails, promising food or some attractive community event is a great way to entice people to come out.
5. Lean on your community manager
Communities working with an association management company like Cedar Management Group have a major resource in their community manager. The community manager is paid to take a lot of administrative burden off of the board. In planning an annual meeting, they can review meeting agendas and give advice on what should and should not be included. They can also handle much of the communications with homeowners through scheduled email and physical reminders. For medium-to-large communities, a good community manager goes a long way toward getting annual meetings run smoothly.