Homeowner Leader Q&A - Legal Experts Answer Your Questions!
1) We have requirements for a five member Board of Directors. Two members resigned recently and one is not engaged and does not contribute to the Board. We have trouble getting any type of community engagement and we're not getting any volunteers to join the Board. What should we do? Is it legal to have a three member Board even though our bylaws call for five?
Yes, its legal to have a three member board, as the Board still has a quorum. However, the Board should canvas the community for additional Board members, which may be appointed by the remaining Board to fill the remainder of the terms of the members who resigned. The Board may also consider amending the number of Board members, if this may be done without a vote of the members. Any action taken during the period of time when the Board was not fully constituted should be ratified by the Board once it is fully constituted.
2) I've been told that communication is the key to operating a successful HOA. Our Board of Directors understands this but we're a little lost in how to best communicate given that people rarely read emails that are actually important and they bypass anything sent in the mail or physically posted. In a world of over communication how do Boards best communicate effectively and responsibly?
Communication is key – in our personal and professional relationships, with our neighbors and communities, in everything we do. So, how can our Boards effectively communicate in order to build strong community and encourage engagement and activism? As you stated in your question, people rarely read emails and they also bypass anything sent in the mail and/or physically posted within the community. Don’t forget about the number of people that don’t have easy web access and/or don’t use email (they do exist!!). And you can’t always rely on those owners who do attend meetings to pass along important information. So what’s left? How does a Board communicate with its membership most effectively? And also important, how will your board gauge the success of its communication?
The following is a list of common types of communication within a community and your Board may need to implement a few strategies to accomplish its goal of effective communication.
Community Newsletter – A newsletter, while it can be a lot of work, can be an effective tool in getting information distributed to your membership. It can be sent via regular mail and/or electronic mail. Again, the issue is getting people to read the information, but if you talk it up in meetings and with neighbors, and include relevant and engaging information for your community, in time, hopefully you will see more active members in your community (or at least showing up to meetings).
Website – If your community doesn’t already have a website, consider creating one. And if your community does have a website, review it and make sure that it is easy to navigate, provides relevant information about the community to owners (governing documents, meeting minutes, etc.). Ask for feedback about the community through the website (online engagement which could lead to engagement at meetings and within your community). While there may be owners that shy away from use of online technology, such as the Internet or e-mail, there is a large percentage of the population that wants an easy place to find all of the information about their community, and a website is a great place to house that type of information!
Social Media – Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Next Door, and Twitter are (and have been) taking over the way that many people communicate (and get their news!). The use of social media (responsibly) can certainly be a tool to build community and engage your members, but there are also risks. As this is a large topic with a lot of information, check out the article titled Social Media: Building Community and Avoiding Pitfalls in our October 2018 issue of Common Interests (which can be found on the website) or talk to your attorney about the pros and cons of your community having a social media presence.
Email Communication – Many of us are already drowning in email communication. Despite the average person receiving over 100 emails per day (!!), email does remain an effective communication tool. Make sure that you are using specific subject lines to grab the reader’s attention and try to keep the emails as short as possible, while still conveying the necessary information. The longer emails are, the less likely they are to be read.
Verbal – There’s a lot to be said for verbal communication. Make sure that your Board is talking to its members, your neighbors. Especially when it comes to big issues in the community, going door-to-door and/or engaging your community members at community events or on your nightly walks, can go a long way.
Talk with your Board and manager about the specific needs and goals for your community. Decide how you will gauge that your community is effectively communicating. Is it a general feeling within the community, are more members attending meetings, are people engaging more at community events? Whatever it is, it may require a combination of the above types of communication. And, you still may not reach some owners. But just asking the question, means that you care about effectively running and building a strong community. Kudos to you!