Happy Birthday to your Association! The annual meeting can be a chance for the current board to shine on the past year’s performance, promote the plans of the community, and answer the myriad of questions that come with being a board member. This is usually the meeting with the most residents in attendance. A statement prepared by the board president giving an overview of the past year can set the stage of welcoming community members to the annual meeting. Annual meetings can become contentious as well, so the board and manager should be prepared to explain all procedures in advance. This meeting can change the way business continues within the community.
Planning your communities’ annual meetings shouldn’t be so stressful and mind-boggling if conversations begin at earlier meetings. Discuss with your board members at open meetings the subject of whose term is up and who plans to run again. This starter conversation allows the manager to begin the preparation of the annual meeting and light a candle under new members into running. Reviewing board obligations may ease the minds of potential candidates and encourage them to run for the board.
Before preparing your meeting notice, review the bylaws to determine the terms of the positions up for election. Start a folder and on the inside flap make notes that are easily understood for the next annual meeting. Review required quorum for annual meetings which, as you should know, is not the same as quorum for board meetings. This information should be highlighted in your notice so owners understand the importance of returning their proxies and/or attending the meeting. Determine whether or not a proxy vote is allowed and the type of proxy allowed. Different types of proxies include: quorum only proxies, ballot proxies, designated proxies. Determine if only secret ballots are allowed which must be mailed in as opposed to being hand solicited and carried into the meeting. If you are unsure, you should check with the association’s attorney, who may also prepare the association’s proxy for them. Your meeting notice should contain the day, date and time and include the purpose of the meeting. Clear instructions on the use of the proxy, a candidate form for those wanting to be on the meeting ballot, and possibly an agenda if the association declarations calls for it should also be included.
To prepare for your meeting in advance start accumulating your gifts. A good tool to have is a checklist and box available which holds a reminder notice of what should be brought to the meeting including an owner list for signing in, plenty of pens, a calculator for tallying owner percentages, or a laptop with a spread sheet formatted to tally owner percentages (much easier) and copies of the ballots (at least enough to cover the number anticipated in attendance). It is also a good idea to have copies of the agenda and annual meeting minutes from the previous year available for residents in attendance so they can feel like part of the meeting. You can then use the box/file for ballots being turned in.
Treat your annual meeting like a party, with a cheese, sausage & cracker tray, fruit bowl or cakes and cookies for guests. This information should be included in your invitation to entice owners to attend. If you know your community will have a lot of guests in attendance, it is a good idea to bring a party guest – AKA – a co-worker, or request a volunteer owner to help sign residents in and count proxies. Logging in RSVP’s (proxies) on the sign in sheet in advance will save time especially in communities where it might be a blow out celebration!
Once you have determined that quorum is met for the meeting it is a good time to go over board member responsibilities and talk a little about the time involved in the service. Try not to scare away potential candidates with horrid owner stories, just give a brief summary of planned projects the board will be looking in to.
Welcome residents in attendance with requests for nominations from the floor. Be sure to ask each candidate to stand and introduce themselves and accept their nomination as well as discuss why they want to be a board member. Don’t forget to close the nominations. After all nominees have been added to the ballot, ask those candidates who turned candidate forms in advance to introduce themselves in the same manner. Provide election instructions including how many votes each owner is allowed, and whether it will be cumulative (casting all votes for one candidate) or non-cumulative voting (one vote for each number of votes available). Remind residents that only one owner from each address may cast the votes for their unit.
Always call for volunteers to count the ballots and proxies, so residents are part of the process. Pick at least two (and more for larger gatherings) from opposite sides of the room if possible, to appease the conspiracy theorists. These are the same individuals that probably peek thru the blindfold on Pin the Tail on the Donkey! As manager, you should also be prepared to oversee the tally process or use your helper if you brought one. If votes are cast through owner percentages, you will be able to tally the percentage of votes right on your computer spreadsheet if needed. While we can always hope for smooth annual meetings, some communities request oversight by their attorneys and sometimes even their accountants. The more that come to the party, the less likely someone will contest the results.
Remember, all ballots and proxies must be counted regardless of how many people are running for the board. In some instances the number of candidates equals the number of positions, however; the length or term of the positions may be staggered. The candidate with the least number of votes would have the shortest term available. Retaining these ballots and proxies is required for a minimum of one year and owners can request review of the material.
While ballots are being counted residents can be invited to share in all the sweet treats prepared by store or contributed by residents. This gives residents a chance to meet their neighbors and stretch their limbs and may soften any contentious behavior between members.
After all ballots have been tallied (twice if necessary) it’s time to announce the successful candidates, who will bring new experiences and ideas to the community, and if necessary, thank the former board members for their contributions. To prepare your new board members, provide a gift of their own binder complete with a copy of the ‘Board Members Oath’ which you can obtain from CAI’s website. Your binder can include copies of past minutes, the current budget, a current financial report, a copy of the Declarations, Bylaws, Rules, and Regulations, Condominium Property Act and/or Common Interest Community Association Act, and anything else you may have specific to forecasted activity within the community. A greener way to do this is to provide a USB drive with all the documents. This way your new members will have the tools needed to be the best board members they can be. One final item, don’t forget to plan your follow up meeting to determine board positions if necessary, and if they are not determined at the annual meeting as well.
Sharon Gomez, Foster/Premier Property Management