The following is part one of a two-part article recently published in the January 2012 edition of WSCAI Washington Communities’ Journal:
There are two words that often instill pangs of fear in the bellies of many condominium and homeowner association board members: annual meeting. Just mention of the event conjures doubts of reaching quorum, fears of homeowners running amok, and failings at filling open board positions. Yet, instead of dreading the annual meeting, through proper planning and a few “tricks of the trade,” every community association can coordinate and run a highly successful and effective annual meeting.
Plan the Event.
The first step in the process is proper planning. The annual meeting should not be perceived as merely a business meeting, but also as a social event and opportunity for every homeowner in the association to attend, socialize and get to know one another. Sandi MacCalla, CMCA and Director of Master Planned Communities for CDC Management Services in Seattle, stresses the importance of advanced and comprehensive planning. She recommends the meeting be well organized and even scripted. It is not uncommon to start the planning several months in advance. The meeting should be efficient, concise and informative. First and foremost, it is a business meeting. But just because the core of the meeting is all business, it should not limit an association from having fun. The association can incorporate a social event, such as a barbecue, potluck, chili cook-off or other friendly community competition to immediately precede or follow the meeting. Some associations have had success sponsoring community arts and crafts, wine tasting, sports (e.g., indoor volleyball) or other activities such as Bingo. The age, demographics and general make-up of the community will dictate the type of social event most likely to succeed in increasing homeowner participation and attendance.
Since most annual meetings occur in the first quarter of the calendar year, proper planning must take into account the inclement weather Washington State community associations are likely to encounter in January, February or March. Finding a proper indoor venue is vital.
Ms. MacCalla suggests that another component of successful event planning includes accommodation of families with children. Rather than expect parents to arrange childcare independently, an association can arrange community childcare. This effort can be accomplished at no additional cost through solicitation of older sibling sitters or other adult childcare providers who may live within the community. Local daycare centers also can provide sitters, exchanging free childcare services in exchange for promotion or advertising within the association. Childcare can be co-located at the site of the meeting, either in an adjacent meeting room or nearby facility.
Integrate the Broader Community
Though an association annual meeting should be limited to governance and business of the association, the broader event can include the wider community beyond the walls of the development. Inviting a local political figure or business leader to speak either before or after the annual meeting may create a “buzz” for the event and increase homeowner attendance.
Associations may choose to invite local businesses to attend and offer promotional specials to the homeowners. Including businesses emphasizes inclusiveness and support not only to the association development or condominium, but also to the broader community to which the association is located. As with inviting a political or business leader, local businesses can create a “buzz” or incentive for homeowners to attend the annual meeting.
Lastly, a board should consider inviting renters to the event. Renters are important members of a common interest community. Except in rare circumstances, renters ordinarily do not vote as part of the business meeting; however, they uniformly can participate in the social aspect of the event and often add to the fun.
Stay tuned for Part II of this article to be posted in a few days. Happy New Year!
If you are a new board member of a community association in Oregon or Washington and have a legal question about annual meetings or any other board