Committees of volunteers can be a great way to involve residents in association decision making. Make sure they’re really working for the community
While HOAs and condo associations are run by their boards, it’s nearly impossible for board members to do each and every task that keeps the association on track.
Volunteer committees within the association are a great way for residents to help their communities, represent the interests of homeowners and bridge gaps in decision making. And, committees allow many more residents to get involved.
Committees are often created when issues arise during board meetings that need more time and attention than the board can give them. Committees may also be created for upcoming events or other association happenings, or they may be standing committees for items like the budget.
Because these committees often serve a crucial role in the organization, it’s important to check in on their effectiveness. Here are tips to making sure volunteer committees are really working for your association.
1. Follow the governing documents
Some governing documents require standing committees in many states, including those for architectural control, landscaping needs, and budgets. Ensure that these committees both exist and are active. It can be easy to overlook standing committees, so make sure their role is not forgotten.
2. Encourage professionalism
A committee in any organization, business or otherwise, won’t effective without clarity. Association committees, while they’re comprised of volunteers who may not have all the time in the world to devote to them, must be treated like professional obligations by those involved. Otherwise, people’s personal priorities and emotions will get in the way of efficiency and effectiveness.
One strategy to encourage professionalism is to require committees to provide a clear set of goals from each meeting. A list of goals keeps committees on track, on the same page, and focused on what’s important. They’ll be more focused on the committee’s purpose rather than small details from each meeting or email exchange.
3. The board should provide clear goals
In addition to goals set by the committee itself, the board should give each committee a clear set of goals from the beginning. The board needs to make the purpose clear and the goals specific, in addition to providing success measurement tools.
These goals will help the committee stay focused on their intended purpose, not on other issues members may be inclined to address.
4. Structuring the committee
Each committee should have a structure, meaning there should be a chair or someone to run meetings, and a designated person, such as a secretary, to take notes and follow up on what was discussed. Committee chairs will generally set meeting agendas, keep meetings running according to the agenda, ensure that goals are followed and created, and ensure that the purpose of the committee is being upheld.
Some responsibilities can be delegated to other committee members if necessary, but the important part is knowing who is responsible for what.
5. Include the right people
It can be a huge mistake to include “problem” residents on a committee, especially if it covers issues over which they’ve been fighting with the board. Someone who is overly passionate about a problem may only see their personal wants and needs, not the needs of the community.
It’s a good idea to include people who haven’t been involved in disputes and who can keep a level head when discussing how to handle the issues at hand. There should also be a range of voices within the committees, so treat the group like you would a workgroup, focusing on diversity and bringing together those with differing experiences and backgrounds.
When community residents have specific areas of expertise, it can be a huge help to ask them to join committees that relate to their training. For example, it’s worth asking resident accountants to join committees that help with budgets and lawyers to join committees related to legal issues or disputes. Take advantage of the wide range of skills your association residents can bring to the table.
6. Set a time frame when necessary
Not all committees will be standing committees. For temporary committees, create a time frame that aligns with the goals of the committee and make sure members know that their time will be up at a certain point. Time limits help committees stay on task and keep their priorities straight while reminding them that what they’re doing is for the good of the whole community and not just their own timelines.
Committees can be an effective way to get things done in your association, as well as give more residents a voice about key issues impacting the community. Just make sure they’re running properly and making a difference.
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