How wonderful is it when owners want to volunteer? I am frequently amazed by the dedication of people who just want to give back. Many have led rich lives with interesting professions such as doctors, lawyers, entertainers, artists, world travelers, teachers and homemakers. Their experience and expertise lends to the diversity of perspective on boards and committees. Their contributions are welcome, and needed. No community manager should feel threatened or diminished by active, vibrant committees. They can help with the heavy lifting (e.g., research, surveys, site visits, meetings, set-up and clean-up).
We can add value by helping the board define the purpose of the committee. The purpose of a committee is to advise the board on any number of issues affecting the community. Ultimately, the board makes the decision, but they can be informed by a committee. Of course, there are some committees such as a grievance, or an architectural control committee that are typically identified in the association’s governing documents. These committees should already understand their purpose as they are well defined, including how many members are allowed on the committee, and the committee structure. You may wish to suggest that all committees create a mission statement for board approval as a working template. This template will help the committee stay in their lane. The mission statement will help prevent “mission creep” of one committee overstepping their boundaries by working on another committee’s area of responsibility. Mission creep occurs when the committee begins to adopt tasks and responsibilities outside of the parameters outlined in either their mission statement(s) or the defined purpose for an approved ad-hoc committee. It is also important to outline their duties, responsibilities, and the board’s expectations for their recommendation(s). Although the committee members are resident volunteers, they are charged with real responsibility, and are held accountable for their tasks and duties. Committee volunteers do take their responsibility very seriously.
Ad hoc committees should also have a clearly defined purpose, a commencement date, and a termination date. For example, the Library Decorating Committee may be formed for the sole purpose of redecorating the library. Once the project is complete, the committee is disbanded. Standing committees should have a clear purpose, a mission statement, agendas, minutes and a committee chairperson. The agendas and minutes will be official records of the association.
Managers can help the board avoid a committee’s confusion and disappointment by making it clear to the committee volunteers that if the board votes against their recommendation, it is not a reflection on them personally; rather it may be issue of timing, budget constraints, a more urgent need taking precedence, or a poor fit for the community. Committee members can be emotionally invested in the outcome of their proposal(s) so it is really important to manage their expectations. Make sure they are adequately recognized and thanked for their time and efforts. They are an asset to the community, and an important part of your success at your community.
Endeavor to persevere.
Tanoa Lynne Poirier is the Managing Principal at Poirier Enterprises Inc., specializing in the management of community associations, commercial and investment properties, and individual residences in South Florida.
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