At Platinum Realty Group, we have many years of experience working with HOA boards and community associations. We know that for many members, board meetings can be frustrating, especially as you try to keep them productive and engaging. If the meeting is not well-managed, it can also be a breeding ground for disputes, grievances, and arguments.
An experienced HOA management company can be your greatest asset when you’re trying to improve your agenda, your action items, and your communication strategies. We know that most HOA boards are comprised of volunteer members who care about their communities. Respect your time and the time of your fellow board members by making sure your meetings are time well spent.
Here are some of the things you can do to ensure your Boston HOA board is running an efficient and productive meeting.
Create an Agenda – and Stick to It
Any time you gather a bunch of people together, you run the risk of doing more socializing than business. Don’t let your board meetings turn into a meet and greet or a happy hour. There’s a purpose to this gathering, and if people want to engage in chatter and catching up, invite them to arrive a little early or stay a little late for their side conversations and non-HOA business.
During the actual board meeting, everyone in attendance will be required to stay on task.
An agenda will be critical.
To stay on topic and eliminate distractions, establish a clear and detailed agenda in advance. Send it out to all board members ahead of the meeting time. Share it with homeowners in the community as well. This will let everyone know what will be up for discussion during the meeting. More importantly, it will let them know what will NOT be up for discussion during the meeting. Your agenda will ensure that the board addresses all of the relevant issues during the meeting. It will serve as a guardrail that can push the discussion back on course if things get off track.
Your HOA board meeting needs an agenda. If you’ve just been keeping it relaxed and informal, you’re probably wasting more time than you realize. Don’t come up with the agenda once you’re all gathered, either. Have the agenda ready ahead of time and distribute it to board members so everyone will know what to expect from the meeting.
A good board meeting agenda will have specific points of discussion. Your governing documents may have requirements about what’s discussed and voted on during particular meetings throughout the year, so check on that before putting together your agenda. Remember that you don’t need a three-page agenda with a dozen sub-points. Keep it simple. Focus on what you want to solve and address in this one particular meeting, and draft a concise agenda.
Put times in the agenda as well. This will keep each topic focused, and you can avoid getting into longer debates or discussions that take up the entire meeting or drive you off track.
Set up a “Parking Lot” during the meeting. This is a place that you can list all the concerns, questions, or discussion topics that come up but are not part of the written agenda. When you place them in the “Parking Lot” they are acknowledged but they are also not taking up the meeting’s valuable time. Assign someone to follow up on the issue or issues after the meeting.
Manage Homeowner Crowd Control
Homeowners should feel welcome and be invited when the board meetings occur. Many HOA boards report that they’d like to drive up attendance at their annual meetings. A well-attended board meeting usually reflects a community that’s engaged and willing to participate. That’s a worthy goal. When you have more residents engaged in the activities of the board, you’re also more likely to recruit volunteers and future board members. That’s great news for current board members who might begin to feel burnt out and it’s also great news for the community as a whole, which needs to be governed by interested homeowners.
While opening your doors to the entire community is a great idea and likely required by your bylaws, you don’t want to make every meeting a free-for-all. Limit the time and scope of what your homeowners are invited to discuss during the board meeting.
Everyone deserves a voice, but the meeting agenda should be respected. Reserve some time in the agenda at the beginning or the end of the meeting for homeowners to introduce an order of business or make a statement about existing policy. There’s no need to allow homeowners to share their opinions on everything and anything during your board meeting.
A good strategy is to have community participants submit their questions or comments in advance. Then, the board will know what to expect and how to respond. You’ll be able to limit the amount of time that’s spent on items that may be off-topic for each particular board meeting.
Avoid Conflict and Unproductive Disputes
Debate is healthy. You shouldn’t expect your board members to agree on everything that you’ll bring to the table at your meetings. However, you don’t want to invite disrespect, yelling, or unproductive conflict that only escalates.
Measure the mood and the energy of your HOA board before, during, and after the meeting. Things can quickly take a turn without any of the typical warning signs showing up. There are bound to be divisive issues once in a while and you shouldn’t hide from them, but don’t make these meetings uncomfortable for everyone in attendance as it likely will not be productive.
This is another area where a Boston property management company with extensive HOA experience can help. You have the benefit of a neutral third party in the room. We are experts when it comes to helping with negotiation. If there is disagreement or a dispute that looks like it’s quickly going to blow up, we can step in and offer the recommendations that you need to bring everyone back to the table in a peaceful and less combative way. We don’t have to take sides; our goal is to keep your meetings productive and the work of your board moving forward.
Positive HOA board meetings are always going to have better results than those with fighting and grandstanding.
We’ve also found that in many HOA boards, there are some members who do most of the talking and others who defer to those alpha members pretty routinely. No single board member should control the entire discussion or drive the agenda of every meeting.
One way to avoid this is to dedicate a property manager or another unbiased person who can be the designated mediator during a meeting. This person will ensure that everyone is heard and that no one person dominates the entire meeting.
Adjourn the Meeting with an Action List
As you near the end of the meeting, most of your HOA board members and homeowner participants will likely be ready to adjourn and go home. These meetings can be exhausting, especially when there’s a lot to discuss. However, you can’t end the meeting without making a list of what comes next.
Everyone in the community should be working towards common goals. A written reminder of those goals will ensure that the work continues until the next board meeting. Outline action items and establish timelines and deadlines for accomplishing these items in every board meeting. This will help to keep the board meetings productive and less volatile.
The board president or secretary can summarize the meeting at the end. At this point, you’ll want to go over the list of any action items for each attendee. Maybe committees need to be set up to pursue specific actions or maybe one individual in particular will be assigned a task and a deadline.
Including these action items in the meeting ensures that there’s no confusion about who is responsible for what. This will keep everyone accountable and clear on expectations and responsibilities. Spend a few minutes to confirm that everyone agrees what was discussed and decided. Confirming with everyone while you’re all together is more effective than having emails fly back and forth between meetings.
Take Good Meeting Minutes
Finally, an effective HOA board meeting needs to be transparent and well-documented. You need minutes of the meeting and your bylaws likely require them.
Put someone in charge of meeting minutes. Typically, this is the board secretary, but it can be anyone in attendance. Be sure to have those minutes distributed as soon as possible after the meeting so board members have a chance to review them and raise any changes or concerns.
These are just a few of the things we do with our HOA boards to keep their meetings organized and consistent. We know organizing and running meetings isn’t always your favorite task as an HOA board member. However, professional Boston HOA management can ease the stress and make these meetings more productive and even more pleasant. If you’d like some help, we’d love to talk to you. Contact us at Platinum Realty Group.