Communication and decision-making are two of the most important topics for homeowners associations. Communication makes sure that all homeowners are able to stay up-to-date with what's going on in their community. Decisions create the framework for the home values, lifestyle, and capital investments for everyone living there.
To build a neighborhood where residents feel like they belong and visitors feel safe, it's important for all homeowners to feel engaged and informed about what's happening in the neighborhood. As a homeowner, you are probably aware of many issues important to your home like maintaining landscaping, life safety systems, and even the rules governing design elements. Communicating effectively and making good decisions are crucial for homeowners association board members.
Know your communication objectives, be timely and consistent with communications
As an HOA board member, one of your most important jobs is to communicate effectively with other board members and with homeowners. Communicating effectively will save you time, potential conflict, and money for your HOA. Communicate internally for efficiency and mutual understanding. Use good practices to make sure your communications are easy to read and understand. Avoid jargon and keep it short, simple, and understandable. Keep an open mind on just about everything while considering all points of view before the HOA makes decisions.
Keep your audience in mind
When you’re communicating with your HOA board members, make sure that you’re speaking to them appropriately. You’ll want to keep track of their specific interests, concerns, opinions, and knowledge levels so that you can tailor your message appropriately for each person. The more prepared you are ahead of time, the better off you’ll be when it comes time for discussion.
Utilize multiple channels of communication
Board members should communicate with one another in a variety of ways, including email and conference calls. In addition, they should also communicate with their fellow board members in person, as well as by phone or text message. This allows them to exchange information more easily than if they were limited to only one method of communication.
Have a record of how decisions were made and what was agreed on
Be sure to keep a record of what was discussed and agreed on when making decisions. This will help you avoid confusion later on when someone acts like they don't remember what happened during that meeting. Also, it will help protect you if someone tries to change their vote after the fact because they didn't like the outcome of the decision.
Respect all input equally
Don't discount or ignore input from other board members, even if they don't agree with your point of view. When it comes to communication, all opinions count equally. Be respectful in your interactions with other board members and owners. Even if someone disagrees with your point of view, they deserve to be treated with respect and professionalism at all times.
Establish guidelines for keeping the board informed and responsive to all owners' concerns
The best way to avoid problems is to establish clear policies regarding how often you'll meet with your neighbors and how you'll communicate with them prior to any decision-making processes that may affect them. You'll also want to make sure that everyone knows what those policies are and how they work before they move in. This will help ensure that everyone understands what the rules are from the beginning — and that they're fair for all involved parties.
Set realistic expectations and keep members updated on progress
The best way to set realistic expectations is by being honest about what you can accomplish and what decisions you'll have to make. It's important to keep your members informed throughout the year so they know what's coming up, what has already happened, and how those decisions will affect them (positively or negatively). You should also provide updates on new developments in the community.
Make sure all board members are on the same page
Before making any major decisions, it’s important to be in agreement with other board members. Your board members should understand how their vote will impact homeowners and what their roles are within the organization. If there are any questions or concerns about an issue, address them during a meeting so that everyone is on the same page before voting.
Transparency is key
Be open and honest about what's going on in your neighborhood, even if it's not good news. If there is an issue, let people know what it is, how it will affect them, and when they can expect it to be resolved. Transparency builds trust between the board members and residents of the community.
Cooperate with a management company
A professional management company can help you maintain quality control over the HOA as well as provide advice on how to handle any problems that arise. If you're an HOA board member, it's important to cooperate with the management company, which has more experience in dealing with complex issues. Consult them before starting any new project or undertaking any major change.
By adhering to best practices, you will become a more effective HOA board member. Best practices mean more than just meeting the bare minimum of the law. A board member who strives to operate within best practices is one who communicates with all members of the association on matters that are important, knows how to make well-informed decisions and shares those decisions in a timely manner that encourages input from the membership.
While the best way to reach HOA members likely varies, the underlying principle of communication is the same for all boards: be transparent, respect member privacy, and stay responsive. By keeping these tips in mind, and following any existing guidelines set forth by your association, your board won't have any trouble reaching out to both existing and future members and effectively grow your association.