If you’re a community manager you may not be thinking about successful annual meetings during the summer but soon after the pools are shut down for the season, the irrigation systems are winterized and you have projected out the budget for the coming year, it is likely that you will be off and running through Annual Meeting Season. So, while you are working on your other projects for the summer, let’s do some pre-planning for your successful annual meetings.
There is a lot of work that goes into getting ready for annual meetings from preparing and mailing out the notice, perhaps arranging for a speaker, preparing a presentation for the homeowners, making a special room arrangement, etc., etc. I know from my perspective that I don’t want to do all the behind the scenes work only to get to the meeting and wait around to see if enough homeowners attend the meeting or even have homeowners or board members go knock on doors to see if another homeowner will sign a proxy. Wouldn’t it be a lot better if you go into your annual meetings with quorum already established?
Quorum established before the annual meeting you ask…yes, it can be done. Not in all instances of course, but with a change in how proxies are provided, it may give you that extra boost to more successful meetings and how nice it is to walk into a meeting knowing that you have quorum to conduct your meeting.
General proxy or directed proxy? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. What has been done in the past? Has it been successful? If it hasn’t been successful, change up what has been done to create new interest.
Directed Proxies—It seems that while homeowners may not want to take the time to attend a meeting, they still want to participate in the process. If that’s true for some of your communities, a directed proxy will ensure that the homeowner is allowed more of a voice than your general proxy. Their opinion will count and they are not giving their “vote” to someone they don’t know. Is your community voting on more than approving the minutes at the meeting? Is the number of Board members being reduced or expanded, is there a bylaw amendment or any other issue that is out of the norm for an annual meeting. This would be a good time to use the directed proxy. While the issues may be important to the homeowners, they may not be able to attend the meeting and providing a directed proxy may be just what the homeowner needs to take the couple of minutes to fill in the proxy and return it.
General Proxies—If you are lucky enough to know that you will always have a quorum with homeowners attending a meeting, a general proxy which allows for the president or secretary or another board member, or a homeowner, to vote on someone else’s behalf, may be all that you need. If there is nothing unusual coming up at the meeting, a general proxy certainly will work.
Getting Proxies Returned—That quorum you would like to have before you walk into your meeting won’t happen if you can’t get homeowners to send back the proxies. While it is nice if proxies can be returned via email and fax, review your governing documents to ensure how proxies are to be returned. There are some documents that still do require the original signature and accepted only by snail mail. If you aren’t sure, check with your legal counsel.
Homeowners want to be heard, they want their vote counted. Our job is to make it as convenient as possible for them. You may want to consider providing a postage paid envelope for the homeowner to return their proxies. It may cost the association a few dollars to include the return envelope and pay for the postage but weigh that against the cost of having to send out a second mailing to re-notice the annual meeting. Even better, proxies can be done on a postcard. The postcard stands out in the meeting notice, if you include the return postage it is less than a regular envelope to mail and other than completing the proxy, all the homeowner has to do is drop it in the mail.
For associations that are larger and providing the return postage is a sizable expense, check with the post office as to prepaid return mail options. While more costly on a per piece basis, you are only paying for the proxies returned so the cost savings may be in not having to re-notice your meeting for a second time.
Yes, annual meeting season is probably a few months off but give some thought now as to how you can improve your chances to have a successful meeting. If you have other tips or suggestions on using proxies, let us know. We are all in this together and our goal is to see successful communities.