Condo Association Committees can be a powerful force within a condo association. As associations are volunteer entities, they are only as strong (or weak) as the level of owner engagement. Boards typically have their hands full with things like major projects, Special Assessments and hearings. When you add in jobs, kids, and school, this leaves most boards with little bandwidth. This is where a productive condo association committee is a lifesaver.
Unfortunately, committees and boards can clash at times. Committees can lose perspective, and boards can give poor guidance. This results in a relationship that isn’t productive or positive. At the end of the day, the board trumps the committee, so it is important for there to be clear guidelines for a positive relationship. Follow these tips for a productive condo association committee and watch your engagement soar.
Work with your Board to Create a Short List for New Projects
First and foremost, a productive condo association committee needs to identify what projects the board wants them to work on. This can be driven by a wide variety of factors, including budget, time commitment, and personalities of all involved. The best way to tackle this is a three-step process:
- Get high-level parameters from the board, such as budget, types of projects (i.e., a board might say “no landscaping” to a facilities committee), and timelines (i.e., no projects that take more than a year).
- Brainstorm among the committee and come up with a short ranked-order list of projects with rough budgets and timelines. Aim for three to five projects. Here are some example projects that can be done at low cost.
- Meet with the board to obtain approval for the short list.
This process could be done ad-hoc, or you could do it on a regular cycle every year. It helps to calibrate expectations on both sides.
Set Expectations with Committee Members
The next step is to make sure your committee members understand what they will and won’t do. Some eager members of the social committee might join thinking they’ll be planning a gala ball for the association when the reality is a potluck dinner event. If you’ve followed the previous process, you should have a good idea of what your committee is going to be doing for the next year. Make sure new and existing members understand this. Hopefully they’ll take ownership of the projects via the brainstorming process. However, you may lose a few along the way who have grander ideas. This is to be expected. Members who can’t operate within reality will not contribute to a productive condo association committee.
Focus on One New Project at a Time
Now that you’ve got your list of projects and your committee knows its job, the key is to focus on one new project at a time. While you may have a short list, the reality is that you’re a volunteer body and staying focused is your top priority. In general, here is the breakdown of how you should spend your committee’s time:
- Executing on your top-priority new project (60%)
- Maintaining existing projects, if applicable (30%)
- Researching future priorities (10%)
Make sure you divide up the work in a way that keeps everyone engaged but is focused on moving the ball forward on one new project at a time. Make sure that while you are looking at new projects, you are also maintaining old ones if applicable. This applies to efforts like maintaining your community’s website content or producing a quarterly newsletter.
One of the biggest obstacles that hinders a productive condo association committee is when everyone decides to do their own thing. While it is a volunteer effort and you can’t compel people, the reality is that one project that is 100 percent complete is better than two projects at 50%. You want to build a track record of getting something done in the community.
Repeat the Cycle
Once you successfully complete a cycle of idea selection, getting members engaged, and completing a project, the results are self-reinforcing. If a committee can complete one meaningful project per year, things add up quickly. For example, imagine a facilities or landscaping committee that is able to complete one small (less than $10,000) beautification project a year. Within five years, that gives you five distinct things to point to and say, “The committee did this to make the association better.” That’s a huge accomplishment for any community association. Focus on establishing a productive condo association committee and you’ll help lead a better condo life.
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