Required and crucial to the success of a community, board meetings are where most homeowners’ association (HOA) business is conducted. During these meetings, board members review operations, make plans, and address resident questions. Holding productive meetings is the key to board members fulfilling their roles; however, they don’t always go as planned. Read on to discover five common issues at HOA board meetings and how to resolve them.
Problem: Low Attendance
Most residents care about their community and want to attend meetings. But, like you, may have other commitments that keep them from showing up. Inadequate attendance can invalidate meetings and cause a disconnect in the community. Here’s how to pack the room and meet the quorum.
Solution #1: Give ample notice.
The more notice residents receive about an upcoming meeting, the better their chances of being there. Typically, residents should be notified of board meetings seven to 30 days in advance, and 30-day notices should be given for annual meetings. Consider scheduling your meetings about one year in advance and promoting them early and often by:
- Including reminders in your association’s newsletter
- Reaching out to residents directly via email or phone call
- Setting meeting notifications on your community’s app
- Delivering fliers to residents
Solution #2: Offer a virtual option.
It’s also a good idea to leverage technology to make meetings more efficient and accessible. If governing documents and laws permit, you may want to live-stream your meetings so more people can attend or revamp your in-person voting requirements so residents can vote online.
Problem: Off-Topic Conversation
Getting off-topic or dwelling on a specific subject can lead to board member burnout, poor decision-making, and decreased meeting attendance. Here’s how you can stay on track and keep people engaged.
Solution #1: Create, stick to, and distribute an agenda.
A well-prepared agenda can make or break your meeting—differentiating what will be a worthwhile get-together versus a long, drawn-out affair. An agenda sets the pace of a meeting, offers a schedule of discussion topics, and helps keep everyone on-task. A typical agenda includes:
- Meeting Name
- Date, Time, Location
- Homeowner’s Open Forum
- Call to Order
- Roll Call
- Approval of Last Meeting’s Minutes
- Officer Reports
- Action Items
- Committee Reports
- Old Business
- New Business
Distributing the meeting agenda to all board members in advance gives them ample time to plan and organize their thoughts. Your governing documents may also require you to share the agenda with residents before the meeting.
Solution #2: Follow parliamentary procedures.
A set of rules that guide conduct at a formal meeting, parliamentary procedures allow for a more orderly and expeditious meeting. Robert’s Rules of Order is the most well-known and documented manual of parliamentary procedures, and it’s guided by three primary tenets:
- Meetings should be conducted in a consistent, orderly, and respectful manner.
- Meetings should be time-efficient and productive, with one task completed before moving on to the next.
- Voting should be democratic, reflecting the preferences of the majority while still protecting the rights of the minority. Every person in attendance should have an equal opportunity to express their perspective.
There are varying degrees of formality; however, following parliamentary procedures helps keep meetings on course and prevents members from talking out of turn. Check your governing documents or consult a professional for your association’s rules regarding parliamentary procedures.
Problem: Limited Participation
While a board of directors makes decisions for the community, resident input confirms those decisions reflect their wishes. Here’s how you can facilitate participation and make residents feel heard, included, and welcomed at meetings.
Solution #1: Give residents time to speak.
Include time for public comment or open discussion in your agenda and remind residents that they'll have an opportunity to speak in your meeting notices. Make sure that everyone who wishes to address the board can do so—and hear them out with an open mind. When people feel acknowledged, they recognize their value and want to participate.
Solution #2: Present everything clearly.
Attendees won’t always understand HOA-related language, and that can discourage participation. Avoid overusing jargon and try to present in a simple and clear manner. An inclusive atmosphere at your board meeting drives participation and spurs long-term involvement.
Problem: Long Meetings
When meetings aren’t timely and conversations get sidetracked, it can be frustrating for everyone. Here’s how to keep your meeting under one hour.
Solution #1: Come prepared.
Because boards don’t meet often, members must come prepared and ready to make the most of their time together. Before the meeting, board members should review the agenda, financials, contracts, proposals, and any other documents. Showing up prepared to intelligently discuss and act on the agenda establishes trust and shows residents you’re courteous of their time and able to make informed decisions efficiently.
Solution #2: Assign times for agenda items.
You can also use a timed agenda to control meeting length. To do this, note the actual start time next to each agenda item and then provide an estimate of how much time the discussion should take. Make the president or an appointed timekeeper responsible for ensuring the conversation stays within the allotted timeframe. They should also re-focus the discussion if it’s outside of scope.
Problem: Heated Debates
Conflicts can arise and derail meetings, and it’s up to board members to diffuse situations as much as possible and bring the community together instead of apart. Here’s how to maintain a harmonious meeting environment.
Solution #1: Practice professionalism.
All board members must commit to professional and respectful behavior and speech at the meeting. Negative and disrespectful responses do nothing to calm an unruly situation. When it gets tense, board members should:
- Show empathy. When talking to a resident, put yourself in their shoes. Take a step back from your own emotions and beliefs and try to see an issue from their perspective before acting.
- Actively listen. When a resident is speaking, listen carefully and never interrupt. Ask questions when appropriate, use similar plain language when responding, and have a reasonable understanding of the issue before moving on.
- Remain calm. Focus on staying positive. Remaining calm will establish trust between both parties and make finding a resolution easier.
Solution #2: Take a break.
If things begin to get out of hand, declare a break in the meeting. This may work to get your original, well-planned approach back on track and restore the positive tone of the meeting. Suggest a refreshment break and reconvene when everyone is clear-headed. Or propose tabling the topic and setting up a meeting to discuss the specific issue at a later date.
Transform Your Community Meetings
While vital to community operations, meetings often lack proper planning, structure, and attendance. We created our latest ebook, “A Board Member’s Guide to Running Better Meetings,” to change that and help board members prepare, plan, and run better board meetings. Download it now!