HOAs and condo associations thrive when their members actively participate in shaping their living environment. Not everyone has the time or interest in joining the board, and that’s where committees can come into play. Effective committees also help lighten the load for board members by assisting with planning and execution of myriad tasks like association newsletter communication, event planning or a capital improvement project.

“Committees are a powerful tool to harness resident engagement, but their success hinges on careful planning, strong leadership and clear communication among the committee members,” explains Anthony Gragnano, vice president at FirstService Residential. “The most successful boards I work with make the most of their committees.”

Read on to learn how to set up and manage committees to leverage association engagement for maximum impact.

Types of committees and their roles

There are three main types of committees in condominium associations and HOAs:

  • Standing committees: These permanent committees handle ongoing tasks and issues crucial to the association's operation. Examples include budget and finance, security, maintenance, architectural review, safety, communication, enforcement and landscaping committees.
  • Ad hoc or special committees: These temporary committees address specific or short-term issues. They might focus on seasonal landscaping needs, government relations during a legislative session or resident relations for a specific issue like a new parking plan. Your association might want a special committee for each major holiday celebration or special event you plan to help spread the work among members and let people work on the celebrations that interest them most. You could also take a seasonal approach to event committees to allow people to serve for a short time before getting a break. Establish how long the committee will last, whether for the duration of a project or a specific length of time.
  • Executive committees: Made up of board members, executive committees might be standing or ad hoc, perhaps dedicated to specific aspects of the budget or governance.

Some committees in your community will largely function in an advisory capacity, providing recommendations to the board. However, some, like the executive committee, might be granted authority to act on behalf of the board in certain matters. Special event committees, for example, are more tactical and task oriented, handling events from planning to execution. The same might be true of a capital improvement project committee – the members are more hands-on. Your association's bylaws and governing documents will detail the permissible types of committees and their powers.

Selecting the right committee members

The success of a committee hinges on having the right members. Ideal committee members are:

  • Available: They have the time and commitment to dedicate to committee work. Make sure association members aren’t over committing when they decide to join.
  • Community-oriented: They understand that the needs of the association as a whole take precedence over individual preferences, so they can remain reasonable and objective.
  • Passionate and enthusiastic: They care deeply about specific issues affecting your community.
  • Knowledgeable: In some cases, it’s important that committee members possess skills or experience relevant to the committee's focus. For instance, a CPA would be a valuable asset to a budget and finance committee. An engineer, general contractor or architect would be ideal on a capital improvement projects committee. On the other hand, event planning committee members might not need to be professional party planners.

Committees should always have an odd number of members so that you can avoid tie votes. The most effective committees have 3 to 9 members. Make sure you have enough people to equitably share the work without the committee becoming so large that no one can come to agreement. For large events, you might want a smaller core committee to make decisions and then subcommittees to execute logistics like catering or food, decorating, managing invitations, communication, etc.

Choosing an effective chairperson

The chairperson plays a crucial role in guiding the committee's activities. They should possess all the qualities of a good committee member, plus strong leadership skills. The ideal chairperson leads through dialogue, fosters a collaborative atmosphere and respects everyone's time. They are adept at running efficient meetings, setting agendas and keeping discussions on track. They’ll also make sure that the board is kept in the loop on all committee activities and plans.

Board members can serve as committee chairs, and that’s advisable in some cases; the treasurer could serve as the chair of the budget committee, for example. Just make sure that your board members aren’t taking on too much by also serving as committee chairs.

Setting your committee up for success

You and your fellow board members can take several steps to ensure that committees are able to work effectively:

  • Schedule convenient meetings: Find meeting times that work for all committee members. Consider remote options like Zoom if it makes meetings easier, keeping in mind that Florida’s Sunshine Laws apply to board and committee meetings. Records of meetings are considered public and can be obtained by public information requests. You even have options to record the meetings and generate key takeaways and action items with some platforms or outside recording tools, making it easy to share information with the association and stay on track of who is doing what.
  • Define clear objectives: Provide the committee with a well-defined scope of work and measurable goals. Don't overload them with tasks and set realistic timelines. If the objectives seem like too much for the committee to handle, consider adding subcommittees to manage the workload.
  • Offer support and resources: Ensure committee members have the necessary tools, information and guidance to fulfill their responsibilities. No one can succeed without the right foundation. If you have an association member with the needed expertise but who doesn’t have time to serve on a committee, see if they can participate in an advisory capacity to provide occasional guidance or answer questions when needed.

Prioritizing communication

Open and effective communication is essential for a successful committee. Establish clear channels for communication within the committee and between the committee and the board. Meeting notes should be shared with all members, and all members should review reports before submitting them to the board. Again, a number of tools can help make this much easier on everyone involved including AI notetakers and transcription platforms like Fathom AI and Otter.ai. The board should provide specific feedback to the committee, so that their expectations are clear and suggestions with the association's best interests and the board’s goals.

Saying thank you

To many on your association board committees, the satisfaction of a job well done is its own reward. But expressing your appreciation can significantly enhance their experience, especially when it comes from a board member. You've been a constant source of guidance and inspiration throughout their journey, and a heartfelt thank you from you makes them feel valued and encourages their continued participation. Thank them in a newsletter, on social media or on the community website. Consider committee profiles and kudos through those same channels.  Gratitude is a powerful motivator for these volunteers, who have generously given their time and talents to your organization.

By following these guidelines, you can create committees that are valuable assets to your HOA or condo association, fostering community engagement and contributing to a thriving living environment. Remember, effective committees are built on a foundation of collaboration, respect and a shared commitment to the well-being of the community.

To learn more about how a professional property management company can help drive association engagement and leverage great committees, contact FirstService Residential today.

Wednesday June 19, 2024