You are not alone.
Every community association struggles with filling empty board seats. And why not? In today’s society, we are busier and more connected than ever before. More and more things are clamoring to take up our attention and limited free time. Mix that with the fact that a board seat is an unpaid volunteer position, and it’s no wonder HOAs and Condo Associations are struggling to keep board seats filled.
But the fact is that you need them. Your community association cannot run without governance, and the Board is the governing body. An HOA without a full Board is ineffective at best, nonfunctional at worst. So, what can you do to fill those empty seats? Here is a strategy that we have seen successful at filling vacancies on the Board:
The Information Campaign
“Keep your neighbors informed and aware that the board is performing an important and necessary service on their behalf.”
Pop quiz: How many of your community members truly understand what the board of directors do?
If your community is like many other Utah Condos and HOAs, the answer is very few. How can you expect to get community members help unless they understand the role the board plays in the first place?
One of the Board’s most important responsibilities is to communicate with community members. Presumably, you are already publishing a regular newsletter or website with meeting notices, updates on new amendments, proposed budgets and reserve study notices. That’s required by law. But there’s a lot more a board can do to keep the association and the role of the board ‘front of mind’ for members.
Consider publishing regular articles about the Board in your community newsletter or website. These articles will remind community members throughout the year of the duties the board performs for the community. The idea is to keep your neighbors informed and aware that the board is performing an important and necessary service on their behalf. When good news outweighs the bad, members are more open and accepting, and are more willing to become a part of the community’s governance instead of being opposed to it.
Before you Start, Check Your Docs!
By law, the Bylaws or the Declaration for every Utah Homeowners Association must include:
“the number of board members; the title of each of the association’s officers; the manner and method of officer election by the board or, if the declaration requires, by the lot owners; the board member’s and officer’s: qualifications, powers and duties, and terms of office; the method for removing a board member or officer; and the method for filling a board member or officer vacancy.” [57-8a-216(2)]
So, before you do anything, make sure you read and follow the rules set out in your Bylaws on methods for filling vacancies on the Board.
Note also that the State of Utah allows the sitting Board of Directors to elect new officers if the Association’s Declaration does not specify that lot owners vote in new officers. So you might save a whole heap of effort simply by reviewing your governing documents! The strategy outlined here works either way.
Be sure to check with your community association attorney if you are concerned that any of your recruitment plans may conflict with your governing documents.
Form a Committee
An Election Committee ensures that election notices go out correctly and on time, and that the election itself is conducted fairly under the rules. The election committee is generally responsible for counting the votes on election day. The Board may also appoint a Nominating Committee to recruit potential board candidates.
Unless your board has enough volunteers to cover both a Nominating Committee and an Election Committee, you can combine the two into one by including a recruitment role into the Board’s instructions at the formation of the Election Committee.
The Role of a Recruiter
“The best candidates are generally not the ones that will seek you out for the honor of being on the board. You’ll need to go to them.”
For your recruiter, choose your most outgoing volunteer, who is ‘plugged-in’, or involved in the community’s social scene. Their function is to help identify and talk up the community members who the Board believes could be a good fit for the new board seats.
Please note, running for the Board is completely voluntary, so the recruiter cannot force a member to become a candidate, nor can they prevent any member who wishes from becoming a candidate. But if you need to identify and encourage members to become candidates, a recruiter is a great way to go about it.
Call for Candidates
As you get nearer to the election date, it’s time to start letting community members know that there will be vacancies on the board. In your regular communication channels, let members know which seats you are seeking to fill, and any requirements they may need to be aware of (including meeting regularity and times). Your election committee can put all this together, along with the usual ‘call for candidates’ notices required by your governing documents.
If your community is particularly active, these notices may be enough to bring potential candidates straight to you. However, since you are reading this article, you probably don’t have candidates knocking down your door, and a passive announcement isn’t going to be enough to get new board members right off the bat. This is where the social skills of your recruiter come into play.
The best candidates are generally not the ones that will seek you out for the honor of being on the board. You’ll need to go to them. Compile a list of those community members who have volunteered in the past, have attended board meetings, or have indicated an interest for requesting email notification of board meeting schedules. Check with your community manager too, for a list of members who regularly contact them. These are the people in your community who are engaged and may just need a little push to become active on the board. This is who your recruiters should approach.
Don’t discount the complainers! Surprisingly, those one might consider a ‘squeaky wheel’ are often a great choice to run for the board, since they are already personally involved with the community. Better to have them become part of the solution than part of the problem!
Making the Ask
“Potential candidates may shy away from running for the Board simply because they are not confident that they will be able to do the job, or that it will fit into their lives.”
When your recruiter approaches potential candidates, it’s better to be direct. Appeal to their specific knowledge or skills, instead of a general request. For example, “Sandy, I noticed how organized you are. That kind of skill would be a great fit for the Secretary position on the Board of Directors. They could really use your help. Have you ever considered running for the board?”
Make it Easy on Potential Candidates
Potential candidates may shy away from running for the Board simply because they are not confident that they will be able to do the job, or that it will fit into their lives.
It’s a good idea to have some information on your website for potential board members to make it as easy as possible for them to declare their nomination. Provide answers to common questions potential board members will have, such as expected monthly time commitments, available training, and what resources will be provided. If there are forms for them to fill in for the nomination, or if they are required to meet certain qualifications or provide a bio, etc., be sure to let them know that as well.
Next Up, Election Night!
If all has gone according to plan, you should have a full slate of volunteers ready to run for the board on election night. Make sure you have their names on the ballots as well as a write-in slot if your governing docs allow for floor nominations. And congratulations on your new, fully seated Board of Directors!
We hope that you find the above strategy to be successful for your community this election season. Keeping your board filled with dedicated and engaged volunteers is just one aspect to running a successful association. If you’re interested in being more strategic about how your association is run, consider HOA Strategies as your partner for Utah-based community association management. Get a free strategic evaluation for your community association today!