Homeowner and condominium associations flourish when residents actively contribute to their community. While not everyone is inclined to join the board, committees offer a valuable avenue for participation. By taking on tasks like communication, event planning, or project management, effective committees can significantly reduce the workload of board members.

"Committees can be a game-changer for resident involvement," says Anthony Gragnano, vice president at FirstService Residential, "but their success depends on thoughtful planning, strong leadership, and open communication within the committee. Successful boards make the most of their committees.”

Let's delve into the fundamentals of establishing and managing committees to maximize community engagement.

Select committee structures and functions

Within HOAs, committees typically fall into three categories:

  • Standing committees: These are permanent fixtures in the association, tackling ongoing responsibilities that are essential for smooth operation. Common examples include committees focused on budget and finance, security, maintenance, architectural review, safety, communication, enforcement, and landscaping.
  • Ad hoc or special committees: These committees are formed to address specific or time-limited needs. They might handle seasonal landscaping projects, government relations during legislative sessions, or resident concerns like a new parking plan. For holiday celebrations or major events, consider creating dedicated committees to distribute the workload and allow members to focus on their interests. You could also establish seasonal event committees to provide members with shorter terms of service. Define the committee's lifespan based on project duration or a set timeframe.
  • Executive committees: Comprising board members, these committees can be either standing or ad hoc. They might focus on specific budget aspects or governance issues.

While some committees, such as the executive committee, may have decision-making authority on behalf of the board, others mainly serve in an advisory capacity. Special event committees, for instance, are more action-oriented, handling event planning and execution. Capital improvement project committees might also have a hands-on approach. Your association's governing documents will outline the permissible types of committees and their respective powers.

Choose the right members

The success of any committee depends on its members. When selecting individuals, consider the following qualities:

  • Availability: Ensure that potential members have the time and dedication required for committee work. Avoid overcommitment by clarifying expectations.
  • Community-focused: Ideal candidates understand that the association's collective needs outweigh personal preferences so they can stay balanced and objective.
  • Passionate and enthusiastic: Look for individuals who genuinely care about specific community issues.
  • Knowledgeable: In certain cases, relevant skills or experience are crucial. A CPA would be an asset to a budget and finance committee, while engineers or architects would excel on a capital improvement projects committee. However, event planning committee members may not need professional expertise.

To prevent stalemates, committees should have an odd number of members. Aim for 3 to 9 members for optimal effectiveness. Committees should be large enough that the work is shared fairly but not so large that decisions are impossible to make. For large projects, consider a smaller core committee for decision-making, supported by subcommittees for logistics such as catering, decorating, invitations, communication, and more.

Select an effective chairperson

The chairperson is instrumental in shaping the committee's direction and effectiveness. In addition to possessing the qualities of a good committee member, they should exhibit strong leadership capabilities. An ideal chairperson encourages open dialogue, cultivates a collaborative environment, and values everyone's time. They excel at conducting efficient meetings, setting clear agendas, and maintaining focus during discussions. Furthermore, they ensure that the board remains informed about the committee's activities and plans.

While board members can and sometimes should serve as committee chairs, such as the treasurer leading the budget committee, it's crucial to ensure that board members don't become overburdened by additional responsibilities. Balancing their roles is key to maintaining the overall well-being of the association.

Set your committee up for success

As a board member, you can significantly contribute to the success of committees through the following actions:

  • Optimize meeting schedules: Prioritize finding meeting times that accommodate all committee members. Explore virtual options like Zoom for greater convenience for members, and consider recording meetings and utilizing tools to generate summaries and action items, ensuring efficient information sharing and task tracking within the association. A variety of online tools can record and transcribe meeting, even generating task lists, to help keep everyone on track.
  • Establish clear objectives: Provide committees with a well-defined scope of work and measurable goals. Avoid overwhelming them with excessive tasks and establish realistic timelines. If the workload seems excessive, explore creating subcommittees to effectively manage responsibilities.
  • Provide essential support and resources: Equip committee members with the necessary tools, information, and guidance to successfully carry out their duties. Success is built on a strong foundation. If you have a community member with valuable expertise but limited availability, consider involving them in an advisory capacity for occasional guidance or as a resource for answering questions.

Prioritize communication

A successful committee relies on transparent and effective communication. Establish clear communication channels both within the committee and between the committee and the board. Ensure meeting notes are accessible to all members and encourage everyone to review reports before submission to the board. Utilize available tools to streamline this process and enhance collaboration. The board should provide specific feedback to the committee, ensuring that expectations are well-understood and that suggestions align with the association's best interests and the board's overall goals. This feedback loop is essential for maintaining a productive and collaborative relationship between the board and committees.

Say thank you

For many volunteers serving on your association's committees, the satisfaction of contributing to their community is a reward. However, a genuine expression of appreciation, particularly from a board member, can amplify their positive experience. Your consistent guidance and support have been instrumental in their journey, and a heartfelt thank you from you not only validates their efforts but also motivates them to remain engaged. Recognizing their valuable contributions of time and skills is a powerful way to inspire continued involvement.

Use you existing communication channels, including your newsletter, social media and community website, to thank committee members and other volunteers. Consider profiling committees so the entire community knows what’s going on behind the scenes and who’s dedicating time to make it a better place for everyone to live.

By implementing these strategies, you can cultivate committees that are invaluable assets to your HOA or condo association. These committees will foster a sense of community, encourage active participation, and ultimately contribute to a vibrant and thriving living environment. Remember, the foundation of successful committees is built on collaboration, respect, and a shared dedication to the well-being of the community.

To explore how a professional property management company like FirstService Residential can help your association boost engagement and harness the power of effective committees, reach out to us today.

Wednesday June 19, 2024