There was a time not so long ago that association meetings were fairly routine. We knew how to bring people together...
There was a time not so long ago that association meetings were fairly routine. We knew how to bring people together, conduct business, and collect ballots or proxies. Then the pandemic arrived. While association business needs are much the same, getting things done is different. People must meet without actually getting together. Virtual meetings have become common, bringing with them new questions and challenges.
Virtual meetings were not even imagined when many association governing documents were drafted. For now, most Washington associations are allowed by Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-51 to hold meetings this way. It’s considered the safest and smartest way to gather. Each association should check with their legal counsel to see what, if anything, they need to do to allow virtual meetings to continue once the pandemic is over and the proclamation expires.
Meeting this way is not all bad. There is no need to locate or rent a meeting space or provide refreshments. Guest speakers are more likely to be available.
And many associations are finding virtual meetings bring greater attendance and participation. People who live offsite, are out of town, or were previously unable to attend for other reasons can now simply click a link or dial up a connection to join a meeting from just about anywhere.
To ensure maximum participation, make the process as understandable as possible. People are more likely to feel included in their community if they are comfortable joining in and don’t get frustrated once they’re there.
Ballots, Voting, and Proxies
Without a sign-in sheet, paper proxies or paper ballots, administering association business can seem daunting – especially for larger associations.
Voting During the Meeting
As with any meeting, there is more than one way to call for and record votes. Your association’s options may depend on your governing documents or whether the Governor’s Proclamation applies.
This works best for those matters requiring a “yes”/”no” vote- approval of minutes, adoption of a routine resolution, etc. By asking for “aye” and “nay” votes, the outcome will most likely be obvious. If it’s not obvious, a visual vote such as a show of” thumbs up” may do it. Finally, unless it is requested the vote be secret, a quick roll call of those in attendance while noting their votes may be needed.
Smaller associations have found that submitting votes by email during the meeting works well. If everyone attending the meeting is agreeable and able to send their vote to a designated person during the meeting, the votes can be tallied in real-time and announced before the end of the meeting. For larger associations, providing owners with a designated amount of time following the meeting to email 14 Community Associations Journal | January/February 2021 their votes works best. This allows ample time to receive and count the votes; the results can then be communicated to the community.
Depending on the meeting platform being used, owners can submit their vote by “chatting” privately to a designated person. Some platforms allow for polling or online voting to take place during the meeting. Be prepared to accept a vote from someone using their phone – maybe by text.
Send written ballots ahead of the meeting, to be returned by a specified date.
Owner Questions and Comments
A successful virtual meeting will allow owners to be recognized to ask questions and offer comments. Be sure attendees know how to do this. Explain what features are available to them in the meeting platform. This may include using the “raise hand” function or “chatting” the question to a designated person. Attendees can also be asked to submit their questions ahead of time so they can be addressed during the meeting.
Hosting a Successful Meeting
Most associations say they will not go back to the old way of holding in-person meetings exclusively. Both boards and owners appreciate the benefits proven by virtual association, board, or committee meetings. This includes increased owner participation, more efficient processes for conducting business and greater flexibility in scheduling meetings and inviting others to attend. By holding meetings that are more accessible, making it easier for owners to attend and observe, associations end up with a better-informed ownership that feels more included in the process of how decisions are made for their community.