Association meetings: 5 challenges and how to overcome them
Association meetings serve as a cornerstone for community engagement, decision-making, and the community's overall well-being. They allow residents and board members to come together, review and discuss pertinent matters, and map the community's future. Association meetings, however, can present challenges that, if not addressed, can hinder the association's effectiveness and residents' satisfaction. Recognizing and resolving these challenges is not just essential; it's a crucial responsibility of your board.
Keep reading to learn how to handle 5 association meeting challenges as they arise.
Challenge #1. A lack of meeting engagement
A common challenge many community associations face is a lack of resident engagement. Resident engagement and participation in association meetings is critical. Resident perspectives, input and insights into a community’s needs result in more well-rounded decisions. Moreover, residents feel more confident about board decisions when they are involved in the decision-making process.
Creating an agenda that includes issues relevant to residents' concerns and sharing it with them before the meeting is one way to address a lack of engagement. More residents might participate if issues that affect their daily lives were addressed. Your board may also consider dedicating a portion of each meeting to an open forum discussion where residents can express their opinions and ask questions. This opportunity may help them better understand the value of their participation and the impact their input can have on an association's decisions.
Challenge #2. Meetings that lack control
Lack of control during an association meeting can lead to disorderly, unfocused, and unproductive discussions. This is usually due to insufficient moderation, preparation or organization. Meetings can quickly devolve into chaos if they aren't properly planned, sometimes leading to participants getting angry, interrupting each other, and drifting off topic. Ultimately, this undermines the meeting's efficiency, focus, and productivity, diverting attention from essential agenda items.
To help ensure your meetings stay on track:
- Create a well-structured agenda outlining the specific topics to be covered.
- Ensure each agenda item has a strict time limit and establish clear expectations. If residents raise off-topic concerns during the meeting, acknowledge their concerns while reiterating the need to focus on the current agenda item.
- If the resident has an issue that requires in-depth discussion, suggest addressing it after the meeting.
A solid property management company can provide your board with direction to help keep your meetings on track.
“Your agenda serves as the blueprint for your meetings by providing a clear roadmap for everyone to follow,” said Ryan Alcock, vice president at FirstService Residential. “It sets expectations, outlining actionable items which aid with maintaining meeting control.”
Looking for more tips to help keep your meetings on track? Read: 7 Steps to a Successful HOA Annual Meeting
Challenge #3. Poor attendance
Attendance at meetings is crucial to community decision-making. Therefore, recognizing the underlying reasons behind poor attendance is essential to address these challenges effectively. Low or poor attendance can occur for many reasons, including a lack of interest, limited awareness, or an inconvenient meeting time or location. This lack of attendance can lead a small subset of residents to make decisions that do not accurately reflect the needs of the community as a whole.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Ask yourself, does the invitation include enough information about the topics to be discussed? Are you sharing the meeting details enough in advance to give residents ample time to plan their attendance? Informing residents well before the meeting and including as much detail as possible will enable them to mark their calendars, allocate time, and prepare to attend and participate. Residents lead busy lives, and communicating as much information as possible in advance allows them to plan their schedules accordingly. You might also consider the following participation-boosting measures:
- Central location: Select a meeting location that's convenient and accessible for most residents, minimizing travel barriers.
- Flexible meeting times: Consider varying meeting times to accommodate residents' schedules. Offering both daytime and evening meetings can increase participation.
- Incentives and recognition: Consider providing incentives for residents who consistently attend meetings, such as small rewards or recognition. This can foster appreciation and motivation.
- Virtual participation: Embrace technology by offering online meeting options. Virtual participation can attract residents who might struggle to attend in person. Florida law allows association members to attend board meetings virtually.
“When a substantial portion of the community attends and participates, a more diverse range of voices and opinions can be heard,” said Danny Ellis, president at FirstService Residential. “This fosters a more equitable and inclusive decision-making process.”
Do you have a plan to help make your board meetings run smoothly and efficiently? Read: Board Meetings: 5 Rules to Live By
Challenge #4. Long and Unproductive Meetings
Lengthy and unproductive meetings can hinder progress, dampen resident enthusiasm, and undermine the association's effectiveness. Residents may also lose interest if a meeting runs too long, and may be discouraged from attending again in the future. As a result, valuable input may be missed.
As previously highlighted, simple practices can help ensure your association meetings remain organized and effective:
- Time limits: Set time limits for each agenda item and stick to them rigorously. Encourage presenters to be succinct; use a timer to ensure discussions remain on track.
- Prioritize topics: Arrange agenda items in order of importance, addressing critical matters first to ensure essential decisions are made within a reasonable timeframe.
- Preparation: Provide meeting materials, including reports and documents, in advance. This allows residents to review the information beforehand, streamlining discussions.
Challenge #5. A lack of transparency
Transparency within your association can go a long way to building residents’ trust. In contrast, a lack of transparency may invite confusion and dissent. This includes, for example, limited question-and-answer opportunities during a meeting or a vague meeting agenda lacking details, which may leave residents feeling left in the dark and uninformed.
Openness and transparency in meetings are integral to fostering a trusting relationship between a condo or community association and its residents. Open communication, clear agendas and interactive Q&A sessions can help overcome a lack of transparency. This assures residents that decisions are made openly and with their best interests in mind, enhancing their confidence in the community’s association.
Your condo or community association's meetings are key to your success. They forge connections between residents and board members, enabling the exploration of essential topics and shaping the community's trajectory. However, just as with any complex process, challenges can arise at these meetings that, if neglected, can impede the association's success.
By acknowledging and proactively tackling and embracing strategies to manage meeting challenges, your board demonstrates a commitment to effective governance.