Annual meetings are a very important—and required—event for all homeowners’ associations (HOAs). It’s the time to elect new board members, review the budget, and discuss the general state of the community. Nonetheless, despite the value of the event, meeting a quorum has always been a challenge for board members. With communities feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and facing the limitations of national, state, and local legislation, establishing a quorum can be even more difficult. Read on to learn more about annual meetings, the role of a quorum, and tips for increasing attendance.
What Happens at an Annual Meeting?
Mandated by the association's governing documents, annual homeowners' meetings have legal and functional purposes: to elect new board members, vote on assessment issues, approve budgets, amend documents, and much more. It’s also an opportunity to showcase the association’s value and update the membership on important capital projects. Yet, to vote on the critical measures that affect the community and make progress on proposed plans, a quorum must first be met.
What is a Quorum?
A quorum is the minimum number of homeowners required to hold a meeting for the association. This number varies by community but should be outlined in your governing documents. Having a proper quorum is crucial anytime an HOA board wants to conduct official business, change rules, or vote on new board officers—the tasks at hand during an annual meeting. Quorum legalizes the meeting, and failure to meet quorum means that the event is not an official community meeting.
Tips for Meeting Quorum
Without meeting the quorum threshold, you can’t hold board member elections or vote on official issues, forcing the board to reschedule. Getting people to reconvene at a later date is not only more difficult, but also more costly. Here are some tips to keep that from happening.
1. Be accommodating.
As many areas still grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, decisions made regarding any gathering of residents for official business must include the risk of liability. Complicating this decision-making process is that conditions vary by locality and by the amenities in your community. As the pandemic continues, Associa recommends that boards host a virtual annual meeting. Without compromising the health and safety of residents, associations may still conduct official business while ensuring homeowners feel comfortable attending. Send detailed instructions on how to log into the meeting with topics to be discussed to promote involvement.
2. Set an agenda.
Let homeowners know what to expect at the annual meeting by sending out an agenda beforehand. If the beginning of the meeting is dedicated to board member activities, communicate that in the agenda. Make the agenda detailed and interesting—if people see topics that interest them, they’ll be more likely to come. The agenda keeps everyone aware, organized, and on track.
3. Create an engaged Elections Committee.
An Elections Committee is a mandatory committee specified in the declaration or bylaws. It plays an integral part in ensuring that qualified and willing candidates are available for election to vacant board positions. But their hard word doesn’t stop there. Committee members who are comfortable communicating the structure, roles, and duties of the board are more effective in reaching out to homeowners, educating them about the importance of voting, and establishing a plan to meet quorum. Part of the community’s basic framework, this committee allows board members to focus on fulfilling their duties more efficiently.
4. Ask homeowners who are unable to attend to assign a proxy.
Even though your annual meeting may be virtual this year, the date and time might not fit everyone’s schedule. Ask homeowners who can’t attend to complete and return a proxy form. A proxy is an authorization that allows one person to appoint another (the proxy holder) to vote on their behalf. Proxies can always be rescinded if the member attends the meeting, but their proxy can be used to establish a quorum if they don’t make it.
5. Create a virtual communications plan.
One of the biggest benefits of going virtual is the capability to reach more people from the comfort of your home. Create a plan to post meeting notices wherever they’re most likely to be seen in a digital landscape, such as in a homeowner’s email inbox, the association’s website, and the community app. Include notices in the e-newsletter and on the association’s social media channels too.
6. Send reminder emails.
As early as governing documents allow, send a reminder email to all homeowners with a meeting notice and proxy form attached. Do the same at 15 and 10 days out. If a quorum has yet to be reached three days prior, send a fourth email.
7. Pick up the phone.
Don’t rely on digital communication alone. Use this opportunity to chat with your neighbors on the phone. If someone hasn’t responded to the digital messages, give them a call. Phoning a homeowner is a great way to reconnect or meet a new friend—all while reminding them about the annual meeting and encouraging them to attend.
8. Offer incentives.
An effective way to attract homeowners and keep them engaged during the annual meeting is to offer incentives to stay until the end. Raffle off prizes or host an interactive game at the close of the meeting to increase participation and promote togetherness. Gift ideas include anything from local business gift cards to association logo swag, like coffee mugs and tote bags.
9. Have a guest speaker.
Invite an interesting person to speak at the meeting. Possibilities range from government officials and elected representatives to attorneys, general contractors, and engineers who can focus on current association issues.
How to Host a Successful Virtual Meeting
To establish a quorum, you must continue to be flexible in this uncertain environment. To maintain smooth operations, many boards are relying on telephonic and web-based meetings. Read our article, “Five Tips for Hosting an Effective Virtual Meeting,” to learn how to get the most out of your virtual session.