Is it my imagination or are people getting less patient, more critical, more demanding, and less understanding? It seems over the last few years boards have been criticized and admonished more, while being appreciated and understood less. No wonder it’s becoming more and more difficult to fill board vacancies. After all, why would someone volunteer to be abused?
What does this trend mean for community associations? It means one of two things: 1) the incumbent directors are getting sick of being on the board and are on the verge of resigning, or 2) the same directors are running the community year after year because the community cannot get any “new blood” on the board. Neither one of these options is good for a community.
Believe it or not, there have been some communities who have successfully recruited volunteers to serve on their boards using some out-of-the-box methods. Below are some methods utilized by these creative communities that have worked. Have you tried any of these?
• Offer compensation for serving on the board
Compensating your volunteer directors is just another way of making them feel appreciated for the time and effort they give to the community and is certainly an impetus for many folks to do things they would not otherwise do. Compensation is not prohibited by Colorado law, but make sure your governing documents don’t prohibit it. Also, if initiating a compensation plan, be aware that negative political consequences may result based on an appearance or perception of impropriety to the owners. To counter this perception, provide notice of the compensation plan to all owners well in advance of implementation and explain why the plan was created.
• Send a “scary” letter soliciting volunteers
Oftentimes, owners are not aware of the possible consequences that may result if there are no volunteers for the board. For example, owners may not be aware that nobody will be around to make decisions on behalf of the association, to retain vendors, to sign checks, etc. If these items are not addressed, the community’s physical appearance and financial health will be severely damaged and will negatively impact the values of homes in the community. Worst case scenario is that the association becomes bankrupt and falls into the hands of a receiver who will be collecting assessments and making all decisions for the community, while having no financial, or other, interest in the community itself. Oftentimes, making owners aware of the possible consequences (and don’t sugarcoat it!) yields results. Some associations have even had these letters written by legal counsel to make more of an impact.
• Host a wine and cheese (or beer and brats) party
Although this may seem trite, board members and managers have been pleasantly surprised in the past by the turnout and success of these events. Talking to owners in a non-adversarial and relaxed setting allows you to explain the benefits and rewards of being a board member in a social and non-threatening environment. Plus, wine (or beer) can certainly assist folks in relaxing and being more open-minded.
• Threaten to raise assessments
Although this may be the least favorite tactic, it can also be extremely successful for obtaining volunteers. Even though the response you receive may be negative, it will result in more attendance at board meetings and may inspire folks to run for the board to have more say in what happens in the community. However, be careful when it comes to raising assessments and ensure you are complying with all the requirements in your governing documents and can demonstrate a reason for the increase.
• Knock on doors
If all else fails, try knocking doors in the community and discussing this very important issue with each owner directly. Perhaps a one-on-one discussion will spark some interest.
• Honor past board members and recognize their contributions
Nobody wants to volunteer for a thankless job. If the association regularly recognizes and honors past directors, this may encourage volunteers to step up and serve on the board. Such recognition is also likely to encourage current and prior board members to solicit owners to run for the board.
For more information about getting volunteers for the board, please contact a Altitude Community Law attorney at 303.432.9999.