Committees Are Where It’s At

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Many board members and managers say that committees are the lifeblood of associations. More importantly, in a well organized association, committees are where it’s at. Community members often consider the board as the “best” place to be involved. However in a well-run community, important issues are first worked through and refined by committees and the board merely puts on the final stamp of approval and (with the assistance of management) makes it happen.

How do you find committee members when filling board positions is such a challenge? It begins with the personal awareness of each homeowner. Whether you’re currently able to participate or not, everyone can encourage someone to use their talents and skills to the betterment of all. As an owner, neighbor and person of talent yourself, watch for opportunities to tap the shoulder of someone in your community and invite him or her to help out by accompanying you to the next meeting.
The most powerful way to get volunteers is to ask someone to participate and then follow up. The second best way to get volunteers to participate is by clearly communicating the community’s needs. Simply making the statement at a board meeting that volunteers are needed for the parking committee is generally going to fall short of the mark. Potential members need to know some basic information:

  1. What is the purpose, or charter, of the committee
  2. What’s involved in being on the committee
  3. How much time will it take
  4. What’s expected of them
  5. When will it end (is it a standing or ad hoc position)
  6. Will our reports be taken seriously by the board

Board involvement in committee development is key. This is where the infrastructure of the association gets strengthened and membership becomes engaged. According to most association’s bylaws, the committees are appointed by, and report to the board. In order to for committees to function effectively, the board must determine the following:
Why do we need committees?
Help the board conduct the business of the association by:

  • Gathering information
  • Making policy recommendations
  • Recommending solutions to ongoing problems or challenges
  • Representing the opinions of the community at large

Additional benefits for the association:

  • More involvement of individuals in the community
  • Residents (including renters) can bring forth special talents for the greater good.
  • Committees can serve as a training ground for those interested in going further; e.g., serving on the board of directors.
  • Allows residents to get to know each other on a more personal level – live, work & play together.

There are two types of committees to consider:

  • Standing Committees (ongoing)
  • Ad Hoc Committees (seasonal and specific focus)

Within each committee, organizational structure is needed to facilitate efficiency and value.
Committee Chair Person.  Characteristics to consider:

  • Leadership skills – a facilitator
  • Organization skills – orderly
  • Motivational – encourages others to participate

Establish the Committee Members.  Characteristics to look for:

  • Honesty
  • Flexibility
  • Dependability

Next, the board should develop the designated purpose of the committees. A few of the more common committees in homeowner associations are listed below:

  • Communications – can also have sub-committees:
  • Covenants/Governance/Hearings – Assists with the governing process of the association.
  • Finance – can be comprised of sub-committees:
    -Finance – reviews monthly financials
    -Budget — helps develop the annual budget
    -Reserves – tracks and helps administer the Reserve Study recommendations
    -Investments – develops and recommends the association’s investment policy and reserves
  • Landscape/Maintenance – Oversees the “look and feel” and sustainability of the community landscape
  • Nominations – Develops the criteria and the slate of board candidates annually.
  • Social – The “glue” of every community; helps make an association a community of friends.

Once committees are appointed, then what? The members of the committee meet to put the organizational structure in place, select a chair and a secretary (timekeepers and parliamentarians are optional).
Chair Duties:

  • Facilitate members getting to know each other
  • Set agendas to be sent out ahead of meetings (via email/web site)
  • Preside over meetings
  • Open and close meetings
  • Establish ground rules of meetings
  • Attend monthly board meetings to report on key activities of the committee and receive direction from the board.

Secretary Duties:

  • Take minutes of all meetings
  • Publish minutes within one week of meeting
  • The minutes trigger action items that committee members have committed to accomplish.
  • Informs the community on the work that is being done.

Other Committee Requirements:

  • Establish a meeting schedule
  • Determine what the board’s mandate is for the committee
  • Set goals and timetables to accomplish the work of the committee
  • Delegate functions to individual members to oversee
  • Celebrate your victories! Committees can get very focused on tasks or working their way through issues. Celebrations keep members motivated and engaged.

Keep the lifeblood flowing
People thrive on encouragement, acknowledgement and sincere appreciation. Volunteers want to know that they’re making a difference and their contribution is appreciated. The annual meeting is a great time to acknowledge all volunteers.
Tapping into local talent when you see it and keeping the community apprised of the needs of the association greatly assists with keeping a continuing source of volunteer leaders. Consider identifying someone with good social talents and an encouraging spirit to be appointed a volunteer coordinator.
Committees Rock!
Committees require teamwork. Teamwork works every time. Every committee member brings an important piece of the puzzle. Committees are the most effective place to have a voice or opinion heard and to have the biggest impact on the success of your community.